Where is the digital revolution headed next in packaging?

Lisa Pierce in Optimization on January 19, 2016

From personalized printing and serialization to smart sensors and data collection systems, digital advancements are transforming the day-to-day lives of packaging professionals. What’s still to come?


Smartphones. The cloud. Serialization. Global connectivity. The ongoing digital revolution promises to change the world in ways we can’t even imagine—at both consumer and corporate levels. The implications for our personal and professional lives range from making it easy to share just about anything to saving time by enabling quicker collaboration across companies.

Consider, for example…

• Big beverage brands like Coca-Cola, Absolut and Anheuser-Busch have leveraged digital printing in recent years to create successful personalized packaging campaigns. Digital packaging and label printing—valued at $10.5 billion in 2015—expects to grow at a 13.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to 2020, according to The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2020 study from Smithers Pira.

• In January 2015, pharmaceutical manufacturers were required to comply with the lot-level traceability requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). Deadline for the next phase—serialization of pharmaceutical products—is November 2017. And by November 2023, companies will need to have a full electronic, interoperable traceability system at the package level in place.

Patient safety is the main driver. But economics factor into it, as well. The global economy loses about $10 billion annually from counterfeit and substandard medicines, estimates scholar and economist Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute.

• By 2025, the economic impact of the Internet of Things could top $6 trillion dollars, according to McKinsey & Co., with factories being the largest user sector. Packaging machinery manufacturers and engineers at end-user companies are already tapping into the wealth of information from today’s smart sensors to improve packaging machinery performance.

Packaging designers are also taking advantage of IoT technologies, as Anheuser-Busch shows with its Oculto beer bottle.


Anheuser-Busch leverages the Internet of Things for the first time for this limited-edition bottle of its Oculto beer. Plus, a smart label illuminates LEDs that are powered by paper batteries.


Recognizing a major trend at a critical point in its expansion, Packaging Digest organized a roundtable of packaging experts, sponsored by Videojet Technologies Inc., to discuss various aspects of “digital” in packaging operations, including serialization and a look at what’s still to come.

Here are highlights of the lively and insightful discussion.


Our topic experts

(Top row, left to right) Dirk Rodgers, principal, Dirk Rodgers Consulting (and founder of RxTrace.com); Scott Biondich, president, Packaging Innovation & Design; Tim Kearns, national account manager, Videojet Technologies Inc.; John Nobers, director, Systems Solution Group, Videojet Technologies Inc.; and Jorge Izquierdo, vp, market development, PMMI, The Assn. for Processing and Packaging.

(Bottom row, l to r): Eric Davis, national sales manager, Videojet Technologies Inc.; Jim Kerper, sales manager, North America, Systems Solution Group, Videojet Technologies Inc.; and (moderator) Lisa McTigue Pierce, executive editor, Packaging Digest.


What has been the impact of “digital” on packaging and, specifically, on serialization?

Scott Biondich: The biggest thing that strikes me is the amount of information that’s accessible to everybody now and the speed at which information travels or the speed that consumers can now get information from a package on their phone.

So it’s about speed and making people better informed.

Dirk Rodgers: My area is mostly drug serialization. Some of the regulations are going global. They are spreading in countries like the U.S. and the European Union where everyone’s got cell phones and smartphones.

But they are also in Africa. In fact, some of the African countries have had serialization regulations on drugs for a while now, before the bigger countries. People there have cell phones that they can use to authenticate the drugs using a scratch-off code. So it’s not just happening in the big countries, it is global.

The U.S. pharma supply chain has some built-in protections. Some of it is the way the supply chain is designed or operates; some of it is regulation. But it’s the safest supply chain for drugs in the world. It’s not perfect, though; there are some problems. The hope is that serialization will address those problems.

I’m skeptical that some of those problems will actually be solved by serialization. But with the new Drug Supply Chain Security Act, I think the biggest impact will be the lot number, which will be on all drugs for the first time in a machine-readable carrier.


Speaking of machines…Jorge, how is “digital” changing packaging production and operations?

Jorge Izquierdo: In terms of digital information, packaging machines currently are taking advantage of different types of sensors that can acquire more information from the equipment. That’s much more economical to do now and offers a number of opportunities to increase reliability and productivity.

Packaging machines currently are taking advantage of different types of sensors

that can acquire more information from the equipment. That’s much more

economical to do now...

— Jorge Izquierdo, vp, market development, PMMI,

The Assn. for Packaging and Processing Technologies


Something that is still an issue, though, is the communication between machines and the challenge of... CLICK "NEXT"

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