Rory Gopsill is an associate analyst in GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence team, where he has covered themes including augmented reality and cybersecurity in consumer goods. Other areas of interest include digital twins, IoT, AI, the Metaverse, supply chain management, and the space economy.

Lara Virrey: What are the biggest challenges facing packaging companies today?    

Rory Gopsill: Firstly, packaging companies’ supply chains have been severely disrupted in the last three years. In this time, pandemic-induced labour shortages, a global semiconductor shortage, and sky-rocketing inflation due to the war in Ukraine have disrupted logistics and complicated the economics of production.   

Secondly, quality control is a primary area of competition for packaging companies. Quality control is what ensures the integrity and sterility of the packaged product. Getting it wrong can have serious consequences for packaging companies and their customers, ranging from lawsuits to financial losses to severe reputational damage.   

Thirdly, packaging companies are under growing pressure to use sustainably sourced packaging materials, reduce single-use plastic packaging, and tackle their CO₂ emissions. Sustainability ambitions are also prompting greater demand for new, more sustainable packaging materials. New materials being developed by packaging companies include plant-based packaging alternatives (produced most notably by BioPak and Sustainable Beverage Technologies), bioplastics, recycled plastics, and smart packaging. These new materials can differ significantly from traditional packaging materials in chemical properties, conversion procedures, handling and performance in production, and the economics of their production.  

Lara Virrey: How can cloud help packaging companies address these challenges? 

Rory Gopsill: Firstly, numerous cloud-based applications can improve the efficiency and resilience of a packaging company’s supply chain. Firstly, many leading supply chain management applications are delivered via the cloud, including products from Oracle, SAP, and Logility. These applications enable packaging companies to optimise supply chains and automate their management. In addition, cloud-based engineering applications such as digital twin platforms give packaging companies greater insight into the machines and physical assets that underpin their production facilities. By collecting and analysing data from these assets and developing digital twins, packaging companies can maintain industrial machinery in a proactive rather than reactive manner, preventing unplanned downtime and, by extension, ensuring their broader supply chains face fewer disruptions.  

Secondly, cloud computing can facilitate the storage and analysis of data for packaging companies. Quality control in packaging relies on consistency in both the performance of packaging machinery and the properties and dimensions of packaging products. Monitoring these indicators requires collecting a lot of data and the subsequent analysis and conversion of this data into actionable insights. This is precisely what the cloud allows providers to do.  

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Thirdly, ensuring packaging lines do not push new materials beyond their physical or chemical limits will require extensive and continuous data collection and analysis for quality control purposes. Cloud databases are already used for production line quality control purposes: HAI and InfinityQS are both providers of cloud-based quality control software for the packaging industry.   

Lara Virrey: What are the main use cases for cloud computing in the packaging?    

Rory Gopsill: Cloud use cases in the packaging sector are numerous and varied, but all ultimately are predicated on cloud platforms’ data management capabilities. Wherever packaging companies want to optimise business processes via data-based insights, cloud computing offers the most efficient and flexible computing model to achieve these goals. CRM systems, ERP systems, and engineering applications are all examples of this, and are fundamental parts of any modern packaging operation.  

Lara Virrey: Who is the biggest winner in the packaging in terms of cloud right now, and why?    

Rory Gopsill: Avery Dennison is a leading adopter of cloud computing in the packaging industry. Avery Dennison posted 88% more cloud-related jobs in 2022 than in 2021 and 247% more than in 2020. Avery Dennison has also published patents pertaining to a cloud-based system for identifying counterfeit packaged goods. In recent years, Avery Dennison has focused on combining digital labelling with cloud-based data management to develop its supply chain management services. In 2020, Avery Dennison and EVERYTHNG, an IoT smart products platform, partnered with The R Collective, a sustainable apparel manufacturer, to track products’ journeys throughout The R Collective’s supply chain via attached smart labels developed by Avery Dennison. In 2021, Avery Dennison launched atma.io, a cloud-based supply chain management platform. It uses digital labels such as QR codes to assign unique digital identities to products and track, store, and manage all data associated with said product’s journey from the production line to the consumer.

Lara Virrey: Who is the biggest loser in the packaging in terms of cloud right now, and why?    

Rory Gopsill: Hiring, filing, and patent data indicate that Veritiv has failed to invest sufficiently in its cloud capabilities. Unless a packaging company recognises cloud as a strategic priority and invests accordingly in the appropriate human capital, innovations, and partnerships, it will fall behind its competitors in the race to digitalise effectively.  

Lara Virrey: What are the biggest barriers to implementation of cloud computing in the packaging industry?  

Rory Gopsill: The factor limiting cloud adoption in the packaging sector the most is ignorance of the breadth of use cases this technology has in the packaging industry. Most modern packaging companies will utilise cloud-based ERP, CRM, and HRM systems. Not all currently realise the range of engineering applications and productivity and collaboration solutions that cloud computing can offer. Nor do all packaging companies pay sufficient attention to the latest developments in cloud computing.