Witnessing a Paradigm Shift in Manufacturing Packaging
Adam Pawlick, VP of Engineering, Wells Enterprises
1. In the light of your experience what are the trends and challenges you’ve witnessed happening with respect to the manufacturing packaging space?
One of the first trends that present a manufacturing challenge is customization. More and more brands and customers are chasing custom packaging. It could be custom primary packaging to stand out on shelf, custom case configurations including display ready packaging, or even just custom printing on cases with varying information. This inherently drives complexity in our manufacturing process that we need to solve for.
Customization isn’t going away; sustainability is only going to continue to grow. Both will drive new technologies that will require new manufacturing practices to be developed as well.
The second trend, which is somewhat related to the first, is the growth of regionality and seasonality driving packaging. Trying to stay relevant to local consumers as well as the season is driving significant challenges across the entire supply chain, including manufacturing.
The third trend you are seeing is around sustainability. It seems like every month a different company or brand is taking a public position on packaging sustainability, which is great, but definitely driving a trend that does impact manufacturing. As consumers gain even better understanding around sustainability and large brands take more responsibility, significant shifts in packaging around recyclable materials, recycled content, renewable, light weighting, etc will occur. Each of these areas hold their own challenges from a supply chain standpoint (including manufacturing) as well as a performance standpoint (both during use and end of life). The key is finding a solution that truly has a sustainable benefit and maintains its functional purpose and cost structure.
2. What are some of the points of discussion that go on in your leadership panel? What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?
While I can’t get into specifics on the key metrics we use, I can tell you that there are several best practices that all companies I’ve been involved with use.
It is always a good idea to start with the end in mind and set very clear, very on point key metrics. As the adage goes, what gets measured gets done. The important thing to remember is that key metrics shouldn’t just be a trailing view of what’s happened (although that is important), they should also focus on intermediate measures to ensure that your organization is behaving the way your strategy says you should. If the only key metrics you review are profitability and sales, you’ll be chasing your tail a lot. Metrics should include those, but also provide a view of your project portfolio health and resource allotments to ensure that you are driving correctly towards your desired output as well as several key manufacturing metrics. The manufacturing sites are the life blood of a company and if their health is good (key metrics showing performance where you want it), a lot of other things get easier.
Other key areas for discussion are market dynamics (including competitive analysis), financial performance, and continually reviewing what your “right to win” is. A big role of leadership is to make sure the company is pointing in the right direction and then empowering people to get you there.
Finally, review key projects. What are those two to five things that will really enable the company to get to where it needs to go. It may be capital investments, new product launches, new process development, acquisition, sustainability, etc. Each company will be different based upon their business, the role they play in their market, and where they are on their journey.
3. How do you see the evolution of the manufacturing packaging arena a few years from now with regard to some of its potential disruptions and transformations?
In terms of a few years, I think we will see a lot of the trends we spoke about earlier continue to grow and gain momentum. Customization isn’t going away; sustainability is only going to continue to grow. Both will drive new technologies that will require new manufacturing practices to be developed as well.
I think an interesting development in the food and beverage industry is the growth of smaller startup companies and the impact they are having on innovation and growth. We really saw it a few years ago with the beginning of the micro-brewery trend that really changed that entire industry and we are seeing it branch into other parts of the market now as well.
Additionally, globalization will continue to drive changes (at least in our industry) across product, packaging, and manufacturing. Kombucha is a great example of a global product that has really come in and created a market in the U.S. that didn’t exist only a few years ago. In the U.S., we had to figure out how to react and supply that product.
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