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Smarter Supply Chains are the Future of Sustainable Packaging

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The fourth industrial revolution—better known as Industry 4.0—that we're currently experiencing is marked by digital transformation and technological advancements for increased efficiency. Included in the changes of this new industry is the enhancement of the supply chain. After all, the supply chain plays a crucial role in the manufacturing and service industries. A study from the University of Windsor emphasizes the importance of supply chain resilience to keep up with the changing economy. One vital change is the growing demand for sustainable packaging due to rising environmental concerns. Smarter supply chains are currently being developed to meet this development.

With that said, here are a few features of smarter supply chains and how they’re contributing to sustainable packaging:

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is the use of data and statistics to forecast future needs and performance. In the supply chain, it is used to determine how much of a given product a company has to stock to meet this demand. An article on LinkedIn discussing sustainability and supply chains adds that predictive analytics allow companies to streamline operations and production to save on materials and even benefit the environment. Using this technology, the exact number of stocks—and therefore the amount of packaging—can also be determined for a specific batch of items under production. This reduces any waste related to the production and use of packaging.

The precise production predictive analytics espouses is what promotes sustainable packaging. With the LinkedIn article adding that the manufacturing and supply chain industry contributes 23% of the US' carbon emissions, this feature can be especially effective.

IoT-Enabled Reusable Packaging

IoT stands for the Internet of Things. It is a system of connected devices, networks, and sensors designed to collect information. This function can make processes easier and more efficient. In fact, Maryville University believes that the future of jobs in multiple industries lies in the IoT. More and more things are being looped into the internet—something that almost everyone uses. Any user can thus access the information the IoT collects, which can ease bottlenecks in the modern supply chain. This is primarily why its use is prevalent in the supply chain industry today. To illustrate this, IoT in the supply chain is enabling reusable packaging to decrease waste and reduce loss rates. One example can be found in the cable installation sector. Here, IoT censored cable drums allow customers to view any drum’s location, as well as how much cable remains in each.

By tracking this information, cable installation companies are able to avoid drum losses. Once it's time to restock, customers can simply return their cable drums to their respective suppliers. This contributes to sustainability by promoting the reuse of packaging.

Packaging Customization and Innovation

There are a few major packaging trends that will influence supply chains over the next few years. One is the use of alternative packaging materials that are recyclable and fiber-based. Another is customizations and innovations in packaging construction and design that serve to make them more reusable. Our article entitled ‘What is Returnable Packaging?’ highlights that such innovations have resulted in items like reusable pallets, hand-held containers, and racks that efficiently transport products across the supply chain. As an example, pallets that are designed with the intention to hold heavy-weight products, like parts for major appliances, will prove to be more durable. This can reduce the need for replacements in the long run.

With this trend of constructing packaging with more durable materials and customizing them to specific purposes, the supply chain is able to use more sustainable and reusable packaging that benefits the environment.

Sustainable packaging is increasingly sought after today in response to environmental concerns. With the development of smarter supply chains through predictive analytics, IoT, and innovation in packaging construction and design, this demand will be met in the foreseeable future.

Written By: Raleigh Julianna


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