Packing 4.0 : Emerging trend, Sweet/Sour spots & Keys to unlock future

Akin to Industry 4.0 where major changes in Manufacturing (& related Services) were grouped based on Paradigm changes, Packing 4.0 is emerging as the opportunity for the coming decade even if its emergence has not been captured or documented well. Simply put, Packing 4.0 will re-define Packaging (Industry as well as its link to Supply Chain) in four new ways:

Green Packaging: Just two layers : Primary & Secondary : Packing material used is Eco-friendly and Re-usuable/Returnable. IOT ready Technology to provide Asset usage by multiple players on rent thro a common platform.

Foldable Metal Container, for weights > 500 Kg. Size Standardized to optimize Truck dimension, Pack density. Will have Tech Tag for Asset ID, Content ID tag, Lid, Sensor & Lock. Smart Foldable Plastic container with Lid, Sensor & Lock. Will have Tech Tag for Asset that can track Content too. Additional Stand alone IOT Ready tags. ISPM Compliant Nail-less Wood Pallet collar Boxes. Will have Tech Tag for Asset that can track Content too. Top collar as Lid and necessary Sensor/Lock can be added. Standardized Carton boxes with Tag for Box ID/Content ID, Re-sealable tapes & Sensors as needed.

Faster goods & asset Travel: By Minimizing Intermediary activities : Goods packed in above Green Solution will travel faster as many Intermediary stops like check for Grade/Quantity/Weight/Color will be eliminated. Data fed in a Tag at origin will serve to comply travel till destination, including intermediate value adding location. Lowers Transit shrinkages & damages. Faster Packing Asset retrieval & re-use betters yield, lowering cost.

Data on Cloud to travel with Goods: Be it a Invoice, Packing list, Manifest, Safety or Compliance information of Products packed, Data travels with Goods to help speed up transaction as well as react to emergency. Asset data captures usage, leading to dynamic pricing and better end of life support/organized retirement.

Lower Total Cost of Supply Chain :

Cost Avoidance (like Inventory count, Un-attended Inventory, Shelf life)

Value from Productivity gains (Less mundane activities, faster travel)

Monetary Incentives for Green (like Carbon credit)

Traditionally, Packing activities are planned very late in a Product Development cycle & limited engineering goes into Design. While there are many exceptions to the above (where Packing design is an Integral part of Product development), concepts like Reusable packing, Packing for unpacking, Technology to minimize packing intercepts, one time use packing that can be fully retrieved and recycled etc.,. are done at the last stage of product introduction. Decision on these are Cost centric instead of Value centricity. Barring few Organization, Packing related decisions are taken by Transactional Executives, without Strategic consideration like Value engineering, Co-working with competition… KPIs in this area often captures transactional metrics.

I believe Global Packaging Industry trend points to Adoption of Global Best practices like:

-Re-using Packing Asset owned by Company A by Company B at Origin O to transport Goods to Destination D, to be released as per agreed T & C with full visibility of Asset passage.

-Multi Modal Packing from Point of Origin (First mile) to Point of Usage (Last mile) thro Points of Convergence (Long haul)

-Action Centres like Asset Cleaning, Goods diversion, Data Analytics & Emergency responses

-Micro Entrepreneurs who will form a back bone to this new-age Packing 4.0 Eco system.

Many facets of available Technology (like Bar code/ QR Code/ RFID-RTLS, LE Bluetooth Becon) & Emerging technologies (Additive Manufacture/3D Printing, Big Data Apps/ Smart locks/ Internet Independent PUDOs, Face recognized access points…) will play a key role in Integrating Product & Packing Asset data, Delivering true VMI/JIT supplies, Enabling near real time Customer feedback, Inventory on wheels, Drop shipments, Virtual Inventory, Faster response in “Demand to Supply” availability, Product Trace-ability, Pro active Safety information as well as active Products Management to eliminate current perishable wastage (estimated 20-35%). Flexible Packing designs will foster better consumer appetite, Plant based packing material will promote 100% reusability & 3D Printing close to demand will improve Supply Chain Green Quotient

Welcome to the NEW EMERGING Packing 4.0 World. Together we will create a Green Eco system to leave a BETTER WORLD for coming generation while systematically eliminating Packing-linked Wastages/Damages/Delays.

About the Author:

Seshadri Mukundan spent 22 years in high value Corporations incl a Fortune 50 Company in the areas of Manufacturing, Global Trade & disruptive Supply Chain function. Post his Engineering degree, His professional journey took him to Asian Countries & USA. He returned to India with a mission to create 10K jobs in the areas of Knowledge Services. Green & Technology. His supply Chain interest lead to Trading companies in Singapore and India plus FLEXOL Packaging, in which TVS Logistics made a Strategic Investment. He is bullish on the next wave of value supply chain that will take Indian – Asian Produce globally well. Singaporean National & Overseas Citizen of India.