What to Expect from Packaging in 2022

By: Sean Riley, Senior Director, Media and Industry Communications at PMMI:

The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies

The value of U.S. domestic shipments of packaging machinery is estimated to have been worth $9.4 billion in 2020, according to the 2021 State of the Industry – U.S. Packaging Machinery Report produced by PMMI Business Intelligence, a division of PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. The report forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 5.2% to reach an estimated worth of $12.8 billion by 2026.

Companies continue to embrace automation

As the industry expands, packaging companies continue to embrace automation in their packaging lines to achieve higher efficiency and productivity. This is expected to continue into 2022 as these companies leverage smart manufacturing technologies to maintain a competitive advantage and meet their pressing business needs.

Alongside the automation trend, robots have also been penetrating the packaging machinery market, parallel to the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G and expanding Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) environment. Most recently, collaborative robots or cobots emerged as human-machine interfaces (HMIs) became prevalent on factory floors. Compared to traditional isolated industrial robots in cages or isolation, cobots are safer for humans to work in proximity. This technology is picking up and is being designed to address various applications in machine monitoring, palletizing and packaging. Another breakthrough worth noting is autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) capable of transporting pallets and other heavy loads in dynamic environments.

The impact of the IIoT on the industry

IIoT has and will continue to have an impact across the product lifecycle in the packaging industry, including design, operation, maintenance and the supply chain. One of the most common early applications of IIoT solutions is focused on asset health monitoring through condition monitoring and predictive maintenance due to the ease of implementation and the ROI this can have for machinery end users. Soon, packaging machines are expected to be equipped with advanced predictive maintenance capabilities, reducing maintenance costs and downtime caused by unforeseen failures.

Consumer demand is driving sustainability

Another trend we can expect to see more of in the coming year is sustainability and flexible packaging, according to the PMMI State of the Industry report. Consumers have indicated their personal preferences for companies that practice sustainable packaging. In this consumer demand-driven packaging market, many brands have invested in packaging innovations and started to implement sustainability initiatives in their production and packaging lines.

Sustainability is becoming the new business reality, and the flexible packaging industry is innovating towards it. Traditionally flexible packaging faced challenges in meeting the need of modern waste infrastructures as single polymer waste streams could not separate coextruded or laminated plastics, hence in many instances making it a non-recyclable product. This is not the case now as brands’ suppliers continue to progressively innovate compostable and sustainable components for flexible packaging such as films and pouch closures.

E-commerce has created a need for flexibility

Additionally, e-commerce sales continue to grow. Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers were forced to transition from physical stores to a stronger online presence. This shift has created a need for manufacturers to increasingly adopt flexibility in production, packaging and supply chain processes. This requires reconfigurable, modular packaging machinery that can rearrange product flows.

With health and safety being an essential item of consideration for many businesses, protective packaging and tamper-evident packaging are becoming ever more popular for many food and consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturing companies. Advances in protective and tamper-evident packaging materials allow companies to enhance the safety of their current packaging containers, providing consumers with the ability to quickly identify if their products have been compromised or tampered with.

Save the Date for the PACK EXPO East: March 21-23

As the packaging industry continues to advance, the technologies and solutions to keep up with these trends and more will be on display from March 21-23 at PACK EXPO East, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

No other east coast event will offer such a wide range of state-of-the-art packaging and processing solutions as PACK EXPO East, produced by PMMI. With 400 exhibitors, PACK EXPO East provides a convenient and rewarding opportunity for CPG and life sciences professionals to explore packaging and processing technology, connect with suppliers and find the solutions needed to compete in a changing marketplace. The event is conveniently located just a drive or train-trip away for most of the east coast. To register or learn more, visit packexpoeast.com. For information about the PACK Ready Health and Safety plan, visit packexpoeast.com/packready.

About the Author

Sean Riley is the Senior Director, Media and Industry Communications at PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies


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