Pakex: the very latest in solutions and design Packaging suppliers are finally being brought in from the cold and greeted as an intrinsic part of the supply chain with npd contributions to make Not so long ago, dealing with packaging suppliers was limited to haggling about materials, prices and production timescales, and not much else. Now, the packaging industry is keen to foster a different, more collaborative relationship with its customers. It wants to be seen and treated as an intrinsic part of the supply chain and to be involved much earlier in the new product decision making process. Some success has been achieved, according to director Ann Stirling Roberts of packaging industry trade body Pira International. "More launches are being made with packaging manufacturers involved in the early decision making processes," she says. To move the involvement forward, the packaging industry's big show Pakex 2001, is taking supply chain management as its theme. The show takes place from April 2 to April 6 at the Birmingham NEC and show marketing manager Paul Byrom says the aim of the focus is to emphasise the importance of co-operation between all parties in the supply chain. "We want to show that through sharing information, companies can benefit from the synergies of joint innovation which can add real value to the product offering," says Byrom. A central feature of the show will be a design and retail section within the information centre, highlighting some of the innovations now being tailored for grocery retail. A free workshop programme will also cover supply chain issues. At the same time, many of the show's 1,168 exhibitors will be promoting new solutions for grocery. Packaging giant David S Smith is championing a new supply chain analysis tool, developed in conjunction with three corrugated suppliers. It applies the principles of activity based costing to shelf utilisation. Development director David Gillespie says it identifies slower moving products and the cost of the shelf space they occupy, together with shelf refilling labour costs. "Taken to its logical conclusion, it will enable retailers to tailor their stock keeping units and pack sizes precisely to a product's rate of sale, enabling them to stock shelves more cost effectively. It will also enable us to offer packaging solutions that allow products to be given shelf space appropriate to their rate of sale. "The tool has been on trial and now we are targeting major retailers and leading brand manufacturers," says Gillespie. In line with this development, the company is featuring its two-part packs comprising a removable protectitve hood and a highly decorative tray. "It reduces the cost of putting products on shelf and provides better shelf presentation." Package coding errors are a source of much discontent between suppliers and retailers, causing losses through recalls and the imposition of heavy fines to cover the costs. Claricom has come up with a solution in Clarisoft, a new software package that enables coding to be centrally input by an operator and down loaded through its Clarinet network control system to the different coding and labelling equipment on the production line. The company says it has many features to help eliminate human error and can produce different label and code designs. The system is being launched at Pakex. Domino is showing a similar development. A coding network product, it enables Domino's coders, as well as other brands, to be linked together through a central database on a PC. Domino says the ability to add codes to primary, secondary and tertiary packaging from one source should lead to reduced turn-aways by retailers and fewer problems with stock control throughout the supply chain. Knowing the precise location of a product as it progresses through the supply chain is an issue that Omron Electronics believes it has the solution to with its radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Unlike barcodes, these tags do not require line of sight for identification, and they can be written to during their flow through a process. The tags also enable certain supply chain processes currently handled manually to be automated. RFID tagging is limited to transit packaging because of its cost, with a pilot scheme underway at Sainsbury, but Omron thinks it could be incorporated into packaging across the supply chain. It will be talking about RFID's potential at the show. Returnable transit packaging is being widely embraced by retailers because of the cost savings it offers. Linpac, which is at the forefront of developing these units, including wheeled versions for in store merchandising, is to launch Recopac, a collapsible polypropylene box offering considerable space savings. It is also launching a nestable/ stackable home shopping container developed in conjunction with a multiple for home deliveries. Product and brand protection has become a big issue and De La Rue will be talking about its solutions to counterfeiting. On the decorative side, there will be a many opportunities to see the latest developments in printing technology, sleeves, labels, inks and lacquers. Decorative Sleeves will be featuring the latest special effects that can be achieved with tactile lacquers. The company says these lacquers, which create specific surface textures, have already been snapped up by the drinks industry, with GBL's V Ice being one of the first products to use the design possibilities of touch. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}