We live in a smart age. We have smartphones, smart TVs, smart cars, even smart light switches. So why shouldn’t we also envision a new category of smart products? We are talking, of course, about smart packaging.
Why Should We Consider Smart Packaging?
The global supply chain is under enormous pressure these days. On one hand, consumers demand accountability and traceability for all the products. From the promise of fair sourcing and fair trade conditions, to the guarantee of the place of origin and quality of the products, businesses must have no secrets from their clients.
On the other hand, there is the industry pressure: competition is at an all-times high level and the winners are those who can deliver more, faster and cheaper. Last but not least, there are international regulations that put pressure on manufacturers, and distributors. They must comply with various quality and safety standards.
In the middle of these pressures, smart packaging could act as an equalizer – giving businesses a point of leverage against the said pressures. For one, smart packaging is easily traceable. Depending on the technology, it is enough to have a smartphone and use its native QR code scanner to obtain information.
Even if we consider more complex smart packaging solutions, the initial investment and transition phase will be worthwhile in the long run.
What Exactly Can Businesses Achieve with Smart Packaging?
At this point, the experts at Logistic Packaging are not speaking of theoretical possibilities only. The first steps towards creating a pool of smart packaging materials are already being made. Thus, speaking from what we know and what we envision based on our experience, we can identify the following benefits:
1. Reduced Order Picking and Customs Inspection Times
Smart packaging can be programmed to store a variety of information, including the type and quantity of products packed in a plastic stackable container or on a plastic pallet. By pointing a reading device to the packaging materials, warehouse workers can quickly identify the products they need for order picking.
In a similar manner, customs inspectors can check the contents of a loaded truck and quickly compare them with the readings from the handheld devices pointed at the smart packaging.
2. Real Time Monitoring of Merchandize in Transit
Merchandize theft and loss are still major issues for the global supply chain. With smart packaging, both the purchaser and the seller can monitor the journey of the merchandize and receive real time readings from various checkpoints along the route.
3. Ensure Proper Transport and Storage Conditions for Sensitive Merchandize
Smart packaging can be used to monitor temperature, humidity, tilt and other critical factors for the safety of special products, such as food and pharmaceuticals.
The sensors embedded in the packaging can give real time and en-route readings, so that the purchaser can check whether the specified shipping conditions were met.
4. Offer Detailed Product Information to Customers
QR codes are already the norm in most retail stores. Customers point their smartphones and get all the information they need. But sticker QR codes may fall off, and printed ones may fade. With smart packaging, this type of code would be a part of the crate or container itself.
5. Reduce the Risk of Packaging Theft
Smart packaging will be at a premium price – at least until the market reaches a certain adoption rate. Thus, companies would want to make sure their packaging materials are returned to them after each shipment. The simplest solution is to permanently record ownership details in the smart packaging: name and contact details of the company.
What Kind of Technology Will Be Used for Smart Packaging?
Now that we have your attention and interest, let us move on from what may be to the practical aspect of how smart packaging will be produced. There are several technologies available in this respect:
- Printed Electronics (PE) – this means that conductive circuits are printed within the substrates of packaging materials, such as plastic pallets or foldable large containers. This is done with regular printing methods (inkjet, screen printing, gravure, etc.) but regular ink is replaced by electrically functional optical or electronic inks;
- Smart Sensors – in this case, sensors are embedded into the packaging materials. This is already being done with RFID sensors, or environmental sensors for sensitive products. However, sensors can be programmed and re-programmed to monitor/display any kind of information;
- Near-field Communication (NFC) – this technology allows two transmitters to communicate with each other when they are in close proximity. The technology has been around for years and it is already embedded in most smartphones on the market.
The packaging experts at Logistic Packaging are constantly learning and researching for the most advanced technologies that help us create better products. While smart packaging will take some time before they become widely available, we can offer you the most modern and professional packaging materials for your products. Send us an email or schedule a live Skype chat with us to discuss your project!