In tough times companies are looking inward for new efficiencies and economies of structure with tactics including reorganisations, consolidations, lean manufacturing and sustainability strategies. They are also relying more heavily on performance metrics and looking more stringently at project proposals.
PMMI’s Jorge Izquierdo says: “Continuous improvement and clear returns on investment are paramount. In the end, their goal is profitability, regardless of the economy."
Packaging companies noted ten leading challenges and opportunities shaping the environment:
1. Finding good people
From engineering to operations, companies say it's difficult to recruit and retain employees who have the technologies and workplace attitudes they require. Downsizing and the growing wave of retiring Baby Boomers intensifies the need to find a solution. As a result a lot of companies are investing in training to deliver the packaging leaders of the future.
Lean manufacturing and sustainability are clear ways to manage costs while being good corporate citizens, the report says.
"One of the participants noted that implementing sustainability practices and reducing their carbon footprint is a corporate responsibility as well as good business practice," Izquierdo says. "Sustainability and lean operations also help end users manage costs during production."
3. Get ready for Generation Y
Generation Y or Echo Boomers, as they are known in the US, are people born between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s and now make up more than one-third of the population, and they are coming of age. They demand convenience, product quality and safety and have very different attitudes and behaviors from their parents.
4. Social Media
The battle for consumers' heart and soul reaches online, as social media adds a new ripple to the world of marketing and communications. And as Generation Y comes into its own, it is worth remembering that this is the first generation to grow up on the internet and social media is rapidly becoming their primary medium for making purchasing decisions and engaging with brands. Companies need to use social media for reputation management, market research and as a promotional tool.
Compliance with current or proposed regulations impacts product development, processing, packaging and distribution, and comapnies predict an increasing number of regulations and regulatory complexity at federal, state and local levels. The same will be true in Europe which is perhaps even more fastidious than the US.
6. Efficient reliable operations
Comapnies need machinery to be efficient, reliable and to keep the line going without stoppages that reduce plant performance. In a continuous change environment, packaging companies expect overall, compressed lead times from purchase to delivery; balance between customised designs and in-stock designs, flexibility, speed and ease-of-cleaning; factory acceptance tests to minimise gaps in actual and anticipated performance, efficient, timely installation and start-up procedures; technical support and training.
7. Materials and innovation
Materials innovations are changing packaging and package designs. Lighter weight, fewer materials altogether, changes in costs and consumer behaviors mean packaging machine manufacturers must build machines that can handle new materials and designs.
PMMI noted that corporate actions must be considered within a global strategy. Packaging and packaging operations must be considered within the global marketplace, they noted, adding that "one size fits all" doesn't.
9. Cash is king
Machinery purchases are capital investments, and in a time when resources are tightly held, companies will consider any investments very seriously.
10. Be green
Green products and packaging are moving away from the fringe of mainstream strategy toward becoming a best practice area for packaging companies as consumer understanding comes into play and, in some cases, are willing to pay more for a environmentally-friendlier product.
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