Converters of paperboard packaging might be feeling the squeeze this season. With RFPs, reduced volumes, and shrinking margins, the packaging industry can feel like a commodity business and a race to the bottom. The Paperboard Packaging Council’s (PPC) recent Spring Outlook and Strategies Conference, April 11-13 in Baltimore, offered industry leaders techniques for adding value to their packaging and escaping the commodity business.
Keynote speaker Mike Ferrari, an innovation consultant and former Procter & Gamble executive, shared seven secrets to packaging success. Ferrari’s concepts focused on adding value to packaging so converters can reverse the cycle of commoditization and curb margin erosion. Some of these included crucial practices around inventory management, speed to market, customization, and e-commerce.
Ferrari emphasized that innovation in packaging doesn’t have to come from traditional converting processes like printing or cutting. For example, he brought with him on stage a Bluetooth-enabled liquor carton that played music like speakers. By being creative and adding value in a variety of ways, folding carton and rigid box manufacturers can sidestep the commodity business and secure their status as valuable partners to brands.
David Friedman, CEO of High Performing Culture, LLC, offered Spring Meeting attendees a different yet equally compelling way to exit the commodity world. According to Friedman, one of the last remaining opportunities to create a sustainable competitive advantage is company culture. After all, competitors can’t copy another company’s people. In a three-hour intensive workshop, Friedman showed attendees how to develop their company cultures intentionally and systematically. His simple yet effective process included defining culture in terms of certain behaviors and creating rituals to help employees embody and sustain values.
There’s good reason for converters to heed Ferrari and Friedman’s advice. Later in the conference, economist Alan Beaulieu told attendees that the U.S. economy is headed towards a mild recession in the middle of 2019. Now, Beaulieu urged, is the time for strategizing ways to increase market share in a slow-growth environment. Competitive advantages will be an absolute must during this period.
“PPC’s biannual conferences are a perfect forum for leaders in the folding carton and rigid box markets to learn about economic changes, upcoming trends, and the outlook for the future,” says Ben Markens, PPC president. “Of course, we also want to offer practical tools and concepts for succeeding in that future marketplace. Ferrari, Friedman, Beaulieu, and others did an excellent job providing those tools.”
Other speakers included Mary Anne Hansan, executive director of the Paper and Packaging Board, who updated attendees on the paper industry’s promotional How Life Unfolds™ campaign; hospital association executive Bruce Siegel, MD, who offered insights into the future of hospitals and health care; and Paul Malooly, President of PPC member El Paso Paper Box, who shared the story of his company and his plans for future growth. PPC’s next conference will take place on Oct. 24-26, 2018, in Atlanta. To learn more, visit paperbox.org/fall.