Manufacturers of packaging machinery in the United States have been urged to offer customers more sustainable technologies to improve competitiveness. This follows a government study on the packaging industry that focuses on resource efficiency, conservation of energy, and the relationship between environmental and economic sustainability.
While a number of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) do successfully sell machinery, packaging services and related products based on sustainability, and there is increasing demand for sustainability in the industry, the study found that most manufacturers of consumer packaged goods (CPG) don’t seem to make sustainability a high priority when they procure machinery for packaging. Furthermore, many end-users of packaging machinery haven’t integrated a corporate sustainability vision into their business operations.
One problem is that there are no definitions, standards or certifications for sustainability in packaging and packaging machinery. However, European laws and regulations are shaping the world market, because for some time it has been mandatory to reduce overall volumes of packaging materials.
Another problem is the widespread belief that the amount of energy consumed by packaging machinery is insignificant.
But ultimately, the study found, consumer attitudes are changing, and OEMs must be ready to respond to demands for both machinery and packaging services that will deliver sustainable packaging solutions in a cost-effective manner.
The Study: Packaging Machinery: Sustainability and Competitiveness
The results of the study are published in a freely distributed 56-page booklet published by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Written by Padraic J. Sweeney and titled Packaging Machinery: Sustainability and Competitiveness, it looks at:
- The scope and market characteristics of the US packaging machinery industry, including the materials and types of packaging used.
- The changing business environment that has developed for packaging machinery and packaging services. This includes the attitudes of consumers, role of retailers, both domestic and international regulations, as well as reduction of costs.
- How sustainability in the packaging industry can be a competitive advantage.
- Some of the challenges that must be overcome to be able to implement sustainability, as well as ways that will enable the industry to implement and commercialize sustainable packing solutions.
Interestingly, the study found that even though retailers are not the end-users of packaging machinery, they play a key role, initiating and driving demand for more sustainable packaging within the supply chain.
In turn it found that consumers have a strong influence on retailers and CPG manufacturers with a growing number preferring sustainable products, and with more than half of US consumers buying items they identify as “green.”
Sustainability is a Competitive Advantage
One of the greatest challenges of OEMs is the fact that end-users have been slow to embrace the need for sustainable packaging machinery. But innovative OEMs that have seized the opportunity to incorporate sustainability into core business strategies are making more money. It’s a win-win situation, because by reducing their customers’ packaging-related consumption of water and energy, as well emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, they are not only improving the sustainability of the environment and their own businesses, but those of their customers too.
The study found that the most successful sustainability strategies used were:
- Integration and automation of packaging services and technologies, including remote monitoring.
- Reduction of all forms of energy consumption relating to ancillary products.
- Development of ancillary products that are innovative.
- Development of new, innovative packaging systems.
Of course there are many challenges when it comes to implementing sustainability whether in the form of packaging machinery and products or packing services. These include a perceived lack of demand and the lack of standards or definitions of what is covered. However, by measuring sustainability characteristics of products, results of sustainability strategies can be assessed. The study found that OEMs often use well-recognized methodologies that enable them to measure and track the benefits of the strategies they use. These include:
- Life cycle assessment (LCA) that focuses on environmental impacts
- Total cost of ownership (TCO) that measures the lifetime operating costs of packaging and other machinery
- Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) that evaluates effectiveness of manufacturing operations over time
Competitiveness is Propelled by Efficiency
It is a given that resource-efficient companies are more competitive than those that don’t follow practices that result in sustainable production. By using sustainable manufacturing processes, they are able to conserve natural resources and energy, and minimize environmental impacts that have a negative effect. This impacts directly on employees, consumers and whole communities, because these processes are safe, and they are sound economically, enabling companies to be more efficient, and ultimately leading to profitability.
By making use of professional packaging services, businesses can benefit from the expertise and experience of others, particularly when it comes to sustainability and improving the bottom line of your business.
If you are interested in reliable packaging services or shipping fulfillment services, please contact Technik Packaging Services to see how we can help you.