Thoughts on the packaging industry for 2016

Packaging Innovations, one of the UK’s biggest packaging events, returns to Birmingham’s NEC on February 24-25, 2016, alongside Empack and Label&Print, covering the whole packaging spectrum. The shows will demonstrate the most advanced innovations, inspire new developments and look at the latest machinery.

Show organiser, Easyfairs, has confirmed major names to exhibit, including Glossop Cartons, Hewlett Packard, Dantex Graphics, Epson, Durst Phototechnik, Xeikon, Etiq’Etains and Herma UK.

Among them will be Gavin Ashe, managing partner at Kite Packaging, who has just booked the biggest stand in the show’s history – occupying a huge 104sqm. He spoke to Easyfairs about the packaging machinery industry in 2016.

What is the next trend for the packaging machinery industry?

“There are probably two really significant trends emerging in the sector at the moment, which are both driven by the e-commerce sector.

“By Pack Volume minimisation we are talking about getting the smallest possible pack to dispatch. The really smart players in the industry have woken up to the fact that it is costing them five times more to ship its goods, than it spends on packing them. On the flip side we have the likes of DX saying that the physical size of a parcel is a very important factor in the cost of sortation and handling of parcels through its network.

“Pack Velocity has been on the radar for a while now and it is simply about getting more packs through the packing operation per minute. Space is at a premium, with a real shortage of commercial property, staff costs are on the rise and margins are being squeezed. Businesses will have to be more efficient or face some very tough choices. So the trick is going to be finding ways of being faster, while maintaining flexibility.

“Automation is very capital intensive and can often lead to bottlenecks. However through clever pack design and simple, relatively low cost systems, like stretch wrap machines and automated bagging systems, it is possible to get some very big wins.”

What packaging materials are set to be big in 2016?

“It is unlikely that there will be any significant change in the packaging materials that are to be used, but we are certainly forecasting that there will be some significant evolution. There is a continued drive from the corrugated industry towards lighter papers, with more recycled content, as well as the continuing adoption of thinner caliper boards. Kite was an early adopter of this technology and with the support of WRAP, brought Enviro Board to the market.

“Plastics are also undergoing a similar evolution with scientific developments allowing the manufacture of thinner, more efficient films, which can far out perform those on the market at the moment. Kite will be launching its new 5×5 stretch film range in the first quarter of 2016, which we forecast will save customers up to 30 per cent, while giving them better load retention.”

What do you think will represent the single biggest threat for bespoke packaging suppliers in 2016, and why?

“We don’t think there is a threat per say to the bespoke packaging sector, it is a huge part of the market and will remain so. We see the emergence of the customised standard as being a much more significant play. The growth in digital print allowing customers to bespoke standard product is in its infancy, but showcased at all of the big international shows there are clever, relatively low cost machines that allow the production of bespoke packaging.”

What’s the one thing that the industry should do more of, or do better?

“The industry should strive to create value through investing in innovation. Kite is a rarity in the sector in that we spend the time and effort to develop and patent new innovations. As a sector (admittedly often driven by our customers) we are all too prone to try and find the cheapest solution rather than the best solution.”