Advancing Packaging in Supply Chain Digitalization Market

Recent developments are driving innovation.

By Swapna Gawale, Project Manager at Towards Packaging

The significance of packaging in the supply chain has transcended its traditional purpose, now encompassing critical aspects like environmental protection, product traceability, seamless item handling, efficient distribution and the potential to boost marketing campaigns. Last-mile delivery is also critical challenge in supply chain management, encompassing the final stretch of a product’s journey from the distribution center to the customer’s doorstep. Among the various supply chain models, centralized distribution is a popular approach familiar to most businesses. In this model, operations are centralized at a single location, and for multiple delivery locations, hubs may be strategically placed to handle different time zones or specific product lines.

These developments are driving innovation, and digitalization of the supply chain is a natural progression. Integrating digital solutions into the packaging supply chain allows stakeholders to access and analyze vast amounts of data throughout the product life cycle, and plays a crucial role ensuring product safety and integrity, particularly in the food and beverage industries.

More companies are using digital technologies to improve their operations, and acknowledge that the scope of digital transformation may be greater than previously thought. In fact, our research indicates 78% of corporate leaders think business-to-business integration improves supply chain performance. However, 53% of businesses say they lack the capabilities to enable secure collaboration with external partners.

Given the interconnectedness of the packaging supply chain and the larger digital ecosystem, a comprehensive approach to digitalization is essential. Graphic courtesy of Towards Packaging.

Optimizing the supply chain

In response to the post-COVID-19 complexities, disruptions, and evolving regulations, more businesses have adopted a proactive approach to enhancing their supply chain management. This entails end-to-end oversight, encompassing sourcing, storage, manufacturing and shipping raw materials or goods. Supply chain management now involves a holistic view, including product design, engineering, sourcing, logistics, and robust tracking mechanisms.  In fact, the global supply chain digitalization market will grow significantly by 2032.

Digitalization is adding a new layer of connectedness to the supply chain by combining sensors, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) systems, and other technologies, resulting in a wealth of actionable knowledge. This improved connection has the potential to transform the supply chain by enabling the smooth interchange of information, and is driving improvements in procedures and decision-making.

Cloud technology is also helping supply chain management by allowing contract packagers, shippers, and carriers to monitor smooth operations. Cloud-based solutions can also reduce costs and improve shipment productivity, and significantly improve demand forecast accuracy, often reducing forecasting errors by 30% to 50%.

Leveraging advanced packaging technology

Supply chains are changing quickly due to new digital technologies incorporated into goods and packaging, like sensors and intelligent labeling. Improved communication, accurate tracking, and the administration of large volumes of data are made possible by these technologies, which are crucial for effective supply chain management.

For example, Incorporating 3D printing capabilities empowers companies to manufacture components on demand, reducing lead times and inventory costs. Meanwhile, implementing autonomous mobile robots streamlines material handling and order fulfilment processes, enhancing productivity and minimizing human error.

The synergy of these technologies enables supply chains to evolve from reactive and descriptive models to proactive and predictive systems. By analyzing real-time data and leveraging predictive analytics, businesses can anticipate potential disruptions, optimize inventory management, and efficiently allocate resources.

Improving supply chain resiliency

Building a more resilient supply chain necessitates strategic investments in cutting-edge technologies and seamless interconnectivity of digital tools, physical infrastructure, and their underlying data streams, enabling a shift from descriptive to predictive supply chains.

By leveraging advanced technological solutions, businesses can significantly enhance and fortify supply chain efficiency. Prominent examples of such tools include blockchain technology, which offers secure and transparent transaction tracking, and digital twins, which creates virtual replicas of physical assets to optimize performance and predict maintenance needs.

Recent innovations include:

  • In Jan 2022, blockchain technology revolutionized food packaging, enabling the packaging to serve as a gateway to comprehensive product journey information. For instance, Walmart is actively exploring innovative blockchain solutions to ensure the integrity and traceability of its food supply chain.
  • In June 2023, BOBST, a Swiss machinery and services firm, announced new printing, converting, services, and performance breakthroughs to help its customers digitalize the packaging supply chain.
  • In Feb 2023, P&G introduced a supply chain platform that delves deeply into data strategy and digital innovation for retail partners.
  • In June 2023, Kinaxis acquired around $45 million for all of MPO’s shares. MPO is a European firm that provides a single worldwide cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) platform for multi-party orders, inventory and transport coordination.

The importance of packaging in the supply chain

A product’s primary packaging serves critical functions such as preserving the product’s quality, providing essential information, and enhancing the overall customer experience. While reducing weight and conserving materials are necessary to minimize transport costs and waste, these initiatives should not compromise the package’s durability and ease of use.

The global business landscape is undergoing significant complexity due to rapid technological advancements. Many supply chains need to be more active and contribute effectively to an organization’s profitability or performance. Consequently, more companies are actively seeking innovative approaches to optimize this critical aspect of their operations.

About the Author

Swapna Gawale is the Project Manager at Towards Packaging. Swapna is a seasoned research consultant with expertise in conducting and analyzing complex research projects across various industries. With a deep passion for knowledge discovery and a commitment to delivering actionable insights, Swapna has successfully collaborated with numerous organizations to help them make informed decisions and drive strategic growth. Download the report at:

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