Packaging predictions finally on target

Lisa McTigue Pierce in Automation on January 20, 2016

On the cusp of the new millennium at the end of 1999, I published predictions of what a packaging line would look like in the future. Called “A designer’s dream line in the year twenty-O-nine,” the article sketched out a production line that made flexible packages for a pretend beverage in different volumes on the fly. The line also incorporated reprogrammable robots at various stations for operational flexibility and included machine-to-machine communications, along with connections to the internet for remote monitoring and/or diagnostics.

Most packaging operations weren’t there in 2009, but I’m happy to report many are today. Packaging lines are still not quite at the stage I forecast 17 years ago when it comes to direct package printing and in-house ecommerce fulfillment, though. My predictions weren’t wrong, per se—just ahead of their time.

I have a feeling, though, that 2016 is the right time for packaging designs and production operations to focus on direct package printing and ecommerce shipping. Here’s why:

• New direct-print technologies continue to be introduced at a healthy clip, which means industry interest is high. On Jan. 11, 2016, Packaging Digest technical editor Rick Lingle wrote about a patent from leading PET beverage packaging supplier Sidel that replaces labels on PET bottles with laser-coded graphics added to the PET bottle preform. “The invention is a method for laser-marking or decorating a container with alphanumeric or graphic elements such as a brand logo, expiration dating, product formulation or other asset as a means to eliminate the need for a label,” writes Lingle. This was just one of several articles we published within the last six months about direct package printing.

• When it comes to in-house ecommerce shipping fulfillment, Lingle found “2 ecommerce packaging solutions that deliver real-time efficiency” at Pack Expo Las Vegas last fall. And in December, we reviewed articles we posted online throughout 2015 and discovered that “Trends in ecommerce packaging center on design.” Again, lots of activity in this area.

Packaging Digest tracks other business and consumer trends, too, to analyze how they will impact you. In its April 2015 article titled “The four global forces breaking all the trends,” consulting firm McKinsey & Co. cites urbanization, the pace of technological changes, greater global connections and the challenges of an aging world.

Not surprisingly, our best-read article in 2015—“5 critical packaging trends for 2015”—talked about urbanization and designing for digital, among three other developments. Our Winter 2016 cover story “Where is the digital revolution headed next in packaging?” takes a deeper dive into the multi-faceted and fascinating realm of “digital.”

It’s exciting to wonder what wonders the New Year will bring. Especially for our readers in the pharmaceutical and medical device markets, as Packaging Digest welcomes targeted news, technologies, insights and analysis from our sister publication Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News to our pages and our website. Please take a moment to meet my colleague and PMP News executive editor Daphne Allen.

Happy New Year!

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