The rapid pace of technological advancements has been hugely impactful for the packaging industry over the past few decades. Packaging is an industry that is often misperceived as a static industry, with little changes over time. This could not be further from reality – packaging, in fact, survives on innovation and change.
In the year ahead, we can expect massive growth in technology in all industries, and packaging will be no exception. While some industries are slowing because of e-commerce, packaging is exploding at unprecedented rates. In order to keep up with the growing need for packaging supplies, we have to grow our capabilities, and this is made possible because of innovation.
Automation is not a new concept for the packaging industry. At Hughes, our automated, and semiautomated, equipment has been helping our clients to improve operations for many years. These automated capabilities are designed to streamline your packaging line and ultimately reduce costs during the fulfillment process.
An emerging trend that will take over more distribution centers this year is cobots, or collaborative robots. These automated machines work side-by-side with humans. What makes them different from the traditional industrial robots is that humans are able to work with them without protective equipment. Cobots are manufactured to reduce injuries and take over operations that are unsafe, or impossible, for humans. Another primary difference is that these cobots are intelligent systems that can be calibrated and programmed to function without manual controls.
Researchers estimate that by 2040 over 95% of purchases will be made online. This has created a necessity for traditionally brick-and-mortar companies to start to move at least a portion of their operations to an online model. Introduce: The omnichannel model, where companies use brick-and-mortar stores for e-commerce order processing.
Essentially, when an e-commerce order is placed, the closest brick-and-mortar location (that is stocked with the items) is alerted and prepares the order for delivery. Also referred to as a ship-from-store model, omnichannel businesses need a streamlined packaging system in the store to ensure that the orders are fulfilled at optimal speed and cost.
At Hughes, we are already prepared for the omnichannel model. Our packaging stations provide a fully-stocked area for in-store packaging of e-commerce orders. We custom tailor these packaging stations to ensure that only the right materials are available, and are easy to access. With e-commerce continuing to rise, the omnichannel model will in turn continue to grow through 2019.
Augmented Reality, or AR, mixes the digital world with reality, to create enhanced experiences. While AR was formerly a concept that primarily existed in gaming and entertainment, it is now a powerful tool to connect with your customers. Packaging is a starting point for many augmented reality experiences that brands can offer.
What does this look like in action? Imagine using a smartphone camera to scan a product; the smartphone then displays important product information, videos and multimedia, shopping opportunities, and more. As this technology becomes more pervasive in our daily lives, customers will expect interactive, digital experiences from their brands of choice.
It’s no secret that our customers have access to as much information about our products as the internet can offer. This has created a mandate for transparency with our customers, to build trust and ensure the long-term customer relationship. What’s the role of packaging in transparency?
Product labeling is key – customers want to easily find the information they need on the package. They are also no longer fooled by doctored product imagery, especially when it comes to food packaging. Where cereal boxes and frozen foods used to get away with using images on the package that were unrepresentative of the actual product, our customers are now too savvy for this.
Another component of transparency is the actual products used for packaging. In food packaging, we’re seeing an increased desire for see-through packaging. Customers want to see the product before taking it home. This has increased the use of clear plastic and glass packaging.
Digital printing experienced massive growth in 2018, creating new ways to market and promote products and stand out on retail shelves. Packaging has transitioned from a plain outer covering, to an engaging, colorful experience. Digital printing technology is what makes it possible to print on just about any type of packaging material – from boxes and cartons to glass and more.
This shift in the importance of the appearance of packaging has put pressure on vendors to create product differentiation and personalized product packaging. Coke was a pioneer for this technology with the Share a Coke campaign inviting other companies to participate in this type of packaging fun – instead of buying a coke for the coke, many consumers were actually buying the packaging. As digital printing continues to grow this year, we can expect that the barrier of entry will be low (lower costs, easier to implement) and more companies will utilize digital printing for packaging.
The bottom line is that all of the changes and growth pockets coming to packaging this year are going to be fueled by innovation and tech advancements. At Hughes, it is important to us to always keep up with the latest technology available and provide innovative solutions. Click here to contact your Hughes packaging consultant today.