Keith Barnes, Chairman The Packaging Society, looks at how packaging has evolved over the past 30 years …
The world of packaging is growing rapidly and, in turn, becoming more complex. In our expanding global market there is a thirst for new ideas and these are coming in thick and fast, from numerous sources and with many coming far from these shores. More than 30 years ago packaging was a much more simple application, but maybe less exciting. Protection and information were the main areas of focus for a packaging department. All this has now changed and new ideas are urgently needed, with an awareness of sustainability, the environment and the carbon footprint. This means that the packaging technologist now not only has to undertake new product development and monitoring, but must also spend time seeking new materials, ideas and processes that directly or indirectly affect the product packaging.
In the food arena, we are actively searching for ways to minimise food waste, either by warnings or by barriers in the packaging to increase the shelf life of a product. Similarly, in pharmaceuticals, we must offer more pack security, better methods of application and protection against counterfeiting. All of this requires more time spent searching for answers and this must become a significant part of the job description and mission. For the most part, the internet has brought us major opportunities through many global centres, collating ideas and research from universities in Malaysia, South America and the Far East to name just a few.
The larger companies also have websites that release information on their activities. Apart from the internet, there are many other sources such as exhibitions, conferences, webinars, associations/societies and, of course, general networking (which is invaluable). Membership benefits In our own case, The Packaging Society as part of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and mining (iom3) offers many benefits to our members including a monthly magazine – Materials World – which provides many links to research being undertaken in diverse areas. We also offer an enquiry service to help find answers to problems, new ideas and sourcing needs.
Probably the major benefit is access to central activities and numerous local societies where networking can often provide. events for inspiration In the wider world of packaging do not forget the Packaging Museum at Notting Hill, London. The Inventors Society which holds an exhibition every Autumn in London and The Scin Gallery again in London, with a wealth of material samples and use. Once any member of the packaging industry has absorbed all this, they’d be advised to put together a large file of possible ideas. Obviously not all elements can be immediately used, so these should be stored for future reference. One idea would be to create a monthly ‘Innovation Bulletin’ for company circulation.
Finally do not forget the good old fashioned ‘brain storming’ session where even the person who sweeps the floor can be involved – many an idea has evolved from such a source. Most of all, enjoy your packaging, happy hunting, and do not forget the most important fact of all – COMMUNICATE. n For further information please visit www.iom3.org/packaging-society