Smart packaging has the potential to break the age-old deadlock between planet, profit and people. How, you may ask.
By making a reengineered supply chain or “demand chain” something that can drive a lift in sales, a reduction in capital employed in inventory and lowering the cost of logistics while massively cutting carbon footprint, according to Wiliot marketing and business development senior vice-president Stephen Statler.
Statler, who recently spoke at a keynote session during the AIPIA Smart Packaging Virtual Congress, said the core enabling technology is postage stamp sized computers that recycle radio frequency energy, which are manufactured into packaging and products using cloud connected battery-free BLE.
“It all comes down to supply chain. We live with just-in-time supply chains, and we look at them and we say ‘can there really be anything more to gain from optimising them’? And what we found, in the last few years and talking to our customers, is that our supply chains aren’t that lean after all, providing us with an incredible opportunity,” he said.
According to Statler, a part of the opportunity lies in increasing the scope of the Internet of Things.
“The solution is going to come with the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is currently the Internet of Expensive Things. We track appliances, cars, and very expensive things but the real opportunity going forward is to track the everyday things – the plastic crates and the cardboard boxes that food products and medicine are in and that’s really what we’re focused on,” he said.
“But the problem has been the cost of the infrastructure. We have relatively low-cost tags with NFC and RFID. But infrastructure is expensive and with devices, the tags and the IoT devices are expensive.
“So, the result is that if you go to your average brand and ask them what their visibility of their supply chain is, it’s not very good. It’s basically a black hole. We believe the opportunity that we have is to shed some light on that.”
As such, these postage stamp sized computers, which are manufactured at low costs, uses an infrastructure that already exists – Bluetooth.
“What does this look like? It can shed visibility onto the supply chain that can give a brand knowledge of where the overstocks are and where the under stocks are. For example, you’ll be able to identify how long a package of medicine has sat at a production site,” Statler said.
“If the products are kept at the wrong temperature, the system can be triggered automatically. So, it’s all about moving from a manual IoT to an automatic IoT system where the things are driving the actions and we start to get the visibility that we need to make it more efficient.
“One of our customers has 100,000 retail outlets and they were driving huge vehicles, and the only way they can really see the inventory levels in those retail outlets is this solution. The future that beckons to us is an environment where those trucks are only going to the places they need to go.
“So, with this solution, the number of sales is going up and the inventory turns are much more rapid because they’re not out of stock.
“Smart packaging provides the answers as it provides the visibility that allows us to reconcile people, profit and planet and that’s why this conference is important and the technology that we’re all working on is important.”