Q&A with Paul Young, Head of Packaging Services, DHL Supply Chain
Paul Young (pictured) at DHL Supply Chain looks at future packaging trends
DHL commissioned a study of the future, "Delivering Tomorrow: Logistics 2050", what were the key findings?
The central finding of the study is a comprehensive collection of five credible visions of the future. They outline how different the world could appear in 2050 in terms of the degree of globalization, the extent of economic and social development, predominant technology standards and environmental conditions. The study describes five far-reaching, occasionally radical, versions of life in 2050. All scenarios share a common element: the broadly transformed role of logistics. Overall demand for logistics services does indeed climb in most of the five alternative scenarios. But the particular requirements placed on logistics providers and the special challenges they face vary widely from scenario to scenario.
Is the packaging industry really changing from the traditional cardboard box?
We are starting to see innovative new substrates that provide realistic sustainable alternatives for where we have to use packaging. We have examples of bamboo and even mushrooms being used by the more innovative companies today. Some companies are researching the use of straw as a raw material from which a box can be formed. We see exciting developments in both edible and dissolvable packaging. I will be providing examples of these in my presentation.
The packaging industry really hasn’t moved on much in the last 20 or even 30 years. We need to take notice of what today’s savvy consumer is concerned about, and that includes less waste. It is true that we re-cycle cardboard, but take into account the energy that is used to do so and we are still wasting precious resources. We need to see more re-usable packaging, particularly around the secondary packaging requirements.
There are more than 25 "megacities" around the world all set for major growth over the next 10 years, with megacities comes mass packaging and food waste – how will the packaging industry respond, and help find a solution?
In the scenario’s I will be presenting at the Packaging Innovations event at the NEC later this month, I will be demonstrating how some companies are reducing and avoiding unnecessary packaging. This is certainly a trend that will continue with the growth of the megacities. We can ship consumer goods in bulk from the manufacturing point to a local megacity consolidation point. Bulk shipping has less of a requirement for secondary packaging, and where it does, re-usable containers can replace most, if not all, of the secondary, or transit packaging that is used today.
The consumer is becoming increasingly aware of food waste and we should see habits changing over the next decade. In the meantime, as a business DHL has expertise in eliminating the need for land-fill waste for both packaging and food. We have invested in the use of waste driers that remove all moisture, reducing food waste to a dry powder that can be mixed into compost or burned for fuel. Using this system for some customers, British Airways for example, has reduced the landfill to zero landfill.
What packaging Innovations can we expect to see in the next 12 -18 month years?
Although I shall be presenting what the future looks like in 2050, we take a look at the innovations that are starting to emerge, giving us an insight into the step change between the now and the future in 2050.
Personally I don’t see any real innovation, or game changing packaging with the next 12 to 18 months. Just more tinkering. Yes, there are new films being developed, someone’s thought about a new label, but as for the cardboard box replacement? I’m sorry, I don’t see it yet. You can rest assured though. I will be promoting the avoidance and reduction of secondary packaging during this time.
What recent trends have you noticed regarding packaging efficiency?
I am really concerned about the emergence of e-tailing and how this is effecting packaging. Increasingly, more and more retailers are selling more and more products over the internet. Little thought is given into how they should be packaged. This is clearly impacting on efficiency, but more worryingly we are seeing potentially harmful situations where liquids and solvents are being packaged into re-used cardboard boxes with little or no thought given to protection or barriers to prevent damage or leakages.
There are examples of both the small corner shop, and the large e-commerce sites getting it wrong. The good news is that the supply chain has now met with social media. You only have to look at sites like Facebook and twitter to see that consumers are highlighting some of the ridiculous practices that are emerging particularly around packaging sizing. We have all seen the cardboard box, from the on-line retailer, turn up that is far too big for the letter box, and when opened, and we have removed the vast quantities of brown paper wadding, we pull out the small packet of razor blades that we ordered.
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.