December 21, 2022
December 21, 2022
The discipline of logistics is complex, with global events during each year making an impact that can be difficult to predict or react to. By looking at the macro trends that made a difference over the past year, we can make observations that can help guide investments and strategies for 2023, and beyond.
Here you will find Ranpak’s top ten takeaways from 2022, as well as some of our predictions for which trends will continue to shape the packaging and logistics industry. Read on for the insight (and hindsight) that will help you to make your new year’s resolutions and plan for success in 2023.
In 2022, a challenging global logistics environment combined with geopolitical challenges meant that businesses required agility to be as successful as possible. Global trade was impacted by strained logistics networks, high fuel prices, and inflated currencies. As a result, demand from consumers fell for certain types of goods, while rising for others. Different industries were impacted by sudden variation in demand on top of fulfillment challenges, with the takeaway being a need for preparedness in the face of rapidly shifting demand.
As the pandemic years yield to a prolonged global reopening, businesses must be ready to quickly ramp up their fulfilment in reaction to increased customer interest but temper their investments so that they are sustainable during periods of sluggish growth. It is a fine line to walk, where a focus on shorter-term ROI can help to illuminate which areas in the warehouse to focus on improving first.
During 2022, one of the prevailing narratives in the warehouse centered on the challenge around hiring labor. Hiring and retaining labor in the warehouse is competitive, and businesses across multiple markets are being challenged to provide a positive environment, fighting high levels of turnover and poaching from competitors.
Automation solutions are increasingly being viewed as an asset for packaging and logistics that can help to increase throughput without requiring additional hiring or excessively long training periods. Automation also provides the benefit of creating more ergonomically optimized workspaces as the flow of goods is streamlined.
The potential for upskilling can also make a workplace more enticing for new hires. Data gathered from automated solutions provides a powerful asset that can be used to make more analytical decisions, creating more complex roles within the warehouse.
Peak seasons for e-commerce retailers can make or break the year, and as a result planning for seasonal activity typically occurs months in advance. Getting started in the new year on automation integrations makes sense for anticipating the 2023 rush, providing the runway for assessing the need within a warehouse, integrating, and training staff on the new solution with ample time.
Automation solutions can help to address challenges relating to spikes in demand, such as those caused by the holiday shopping season, without the need to invest in temporary hiring. Their flexibility allows for ROI to be realized relatively quickly compared to other warehouse investments.
Intralogistics takes a wholistic look at the warehouse and how to improve the overall flow of goods through it. When examining the warehouse, common areas of improvement can be identified. Ranpak’s experts see end-of-line packaging as one of the areas that is typically ripe for disruption within the warehouse based on its impact relative to other processes.
While any efficiency gains in the warehouse environment are a net positive for businesses, bottlenecks can be created around end-of-line packing when sorting and picking improvements move more goods to be shipped than standing end-of-line processes can account for. By focusing on the end-of-line as a key intralogistics component, this issue can be avoided with the added benefit of improving packaging consistency experienced by end customers.
The warehouse is the quiet workhorse of the supply chain, managing the flow of goods to consumers behind the e-commerce websites and apps that they use to digitally engage with a business. However, as the ESG movement around the world causes more businesses to examine their total environmental footprints, warehousing is an area that has attracted new scrutiny.
Warehouse spaces are large and will often require significant amounts of energy to run and maintain a stable climate to protect products and employees. These facilities are both a critical link in the logistics chain and depending on the shipping strategy in use by a company, might be the best area to focus on controlling margin costs as well.
In addition to changes in the warehouse, sustainability improvements are being made regarding the materials being shipped within packages. New materials that are being explored include products derived from grass, seaweed, and mushrooms, among others. In addition, paper from consumer and industrial waste streams remain important sustainable sources of fiber for packaging that are seeing their applications expand thanks to improving technology.
Some of the most exciting applications for sustainable materials are within the food and beverage markets, where improvements in barrier technology and innovation in packaging are allowing for a new generation of paper products to replace plastic while maintaining the critical properties needed to keep food fresh and safe to eat.
The cold chain, key to maintaining food safety, also has more sustainable options to work with including RecyCold cool packs. These packs use a bio-based gel as a cooling agent, an improvement on chemical incarnations that is drain and garden safe with a recyclable paper exterior.
Improvements in food packaging sustainability hold potential for the medical industry as well, where single-use packaging is common in order to maintain safety of equipment and keep important medical products free from damage in transit. In areas with less developed waste management infrastructure, avoiding non-biodegradable materials can help maintain a supply chain that is less environmentally harmful.
Consumers within several major global markets reaffirmed their preference for sustainable packaging materials in Ranpak’s annual Sustainability Survey with Harris Research. Negative attitudes around plastic waste are solidifying as the importance of environmental conservation becomes increasingly clear. While the next edition of our study is coming soon, past year’s data is compounded by popular movements around the world that are pushing for legal and social changes away from plastics.
Governmental action to reduce plastic pollution and improve recycling access is becoming increasingly common around the world, focused on the most common forms of plastic waste which contribute to pollution.
The list of offenders includes plastic bags as well as EPS packaging but could expand much further as information about the recyclability of plastic films and other materials becomes better known by the public. These films remain very common within packages that are shipped through e-commerce directly to consumers, making them a high visibility form of plastic that is also directly associated with the brand that they have purchased their goods from.
Ultimately, the growing platform of the ESG movement will continue to influence companies at the macro level. The global business community has made ESG into a clear area of focus going forward, and how a company is perceived in relation to these criteria can have a real impact on its growth.
Because of the time it takes to pivot within the supply chain toward new practices and solutions, it’s worth it for businesses to add ESG considerations to their growth roadmaps lest they invest in practices that can lock them into a path to growth that is not environmentally friendly.
Taking stock of the suppliers that the business is working with is another key concern, as that reflects on the governance and social elements of ESG and can similarly lock a business into a trajectory that may not be easy to reverse.
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