"At interpack we will see a new level of technology"

Photo: Friedbert Klefenz - President of interpack 2017

Interview with Friedbert Klefenz

From 4 to 10 May interpack 2017 will make Düsseldorf the international hotspot of the packaging industry and related process industries once again. As President of interpack 2017 Friedbert Klefenz keeps a close eye on which solutions will make their mark on the trade fair. In this interview the former longstanding Division Director at Bosch Packaging Technology elucidates why the interpack themes are also of fundamental importance to other sectors of industry – and vice versa. Using the food and pharmaceuticals industries as examples he shows how a changing society also influences the packaging sector and why it also pays off to not lose sight of general economic change for the development of exciting packaging concepts.
Mr Klefenz, interpack 2017 is in the “starting blocks” and will in May again serve as a platform for trends from the international packaging sector and related process industries for seven days. Can you already give us a brief insight into the innovations now specifically awaiting visitors?
I anticipate we will see many exciting innovations for companies from all sectors of industry at interpack because interpack is considered an innovations showcase that many firms leverage for product premieres. Add to this that the sales perspectives for processing and packaging technologies are not bad in general. Many customer industries are experiencing dynamic growth around the world and require state-of-the-art technology that fulfils their needs. The innovations on display will be extremely versatile. Many of them can be summarised under the following buzzwords: efficiency and flexibility, safety and quality as well as energy and resource efficiency.

You mentioned the global economy. Is it true that developments that drive the global economy also impact the packaging industry?
This is most certainly the case! Generally speaking, a flourishing economy with a strong demand for a wide variety of goods causes more products to be manufactured that have to be packaged. The food industry is a highly dynamic growth market, for example. This is also due to the fact that rising average incomes in threshold countries have triggered stronger demand for pre-packed foodstuffs there. Therefore local producers have to expand and modernise their capacities. In western industrialised nations, on the other hand, we are faced with a societal change towards more single households that would like to see smaller pre-packed units and a wide variety of products. Incidentally, smaller and, hence, more demand-oriented packaging sizes for small households are also a simple means to countering food waste. Another approach is the use of modern processing and packaging technologies that prolong the shelf life of foodstuffs. This whole set of issues is addressed by the Special Show innovationparc with its focal theme SAVE-FOOD. Here solutions are on show that can help to reduce food losses and waste.

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Consumers are definitely also critical in view of other fields. How is it that the food sector, of all sectors of industry, is so tremendously dependent on consumer habits?
Needless to say consumers’ predilections and living conditions influence almost every economic market – but in fact there is more to it than just consumers’ rising demand for choice and quality. However, the effects become clear very quickly when you look at dietary behaviour. I would like to return to the smaller packaging units. Due to increasing urbanisation and the associated trend towards “on-the-go” consumption, for example, more and more meals are consumed out of home and in smaller portions. This demographic change in society also plays a prominent role in the pharmaceutical field. An ageing society needs more pharmaceutical products. Furthermore, older target groups make their very own demands on packaging – not only for drugs – such as easy handling. So you see: one thing leads to another – everything is interlinked.

With the buzzword networking, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things come immediately to mind.
This is such a wide field we could have a separate interview on it. Although solutions already exist in both fields that point the way, this topic is of such importance in the medium and long term that Messe Düsseldorf, in cooperation with VDMA, is dedicating a new Special Show to it at interpack in Hall 5, at the VDMA stand. Once software, sensors and networks make sure that information is available at the press of a button and devices can communicate with each other without human interference, we are faced with a whole host of new opportunities opening up. This also means that smart components play an ever more important role for processing and packaging technology. With the upstream supplies trade fair “components – special trade fair by interpack” Messe Düsseldorf provides a platform for this theme. I am very curious to see what the exhibitors will have in store here in the new temporary hall 18, centrally located on the fairgrounds.

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One possibility resulting from such technologies is the so-called Manufacturing Execution System that is capable of reacting almost immediately to unplanned events within a workflow. Thanks to such solutions service providers make sure that products can also be tracked and traced after packaging. The pharmaceutical industry proves that this is no longer just wishful thinking. Since the number of counterfeit drugs is growing and this can lead to serious consequences serialisation and traceability come into play here. These will be implemented for all drug packaging in the European Union by 2019 thereby ensuring that firms, wholesalers and pharmacies can detect counterfeit drugs quickly.

This means packaging will boast many, versatile talents in future?
It will at least perform more functions. Technologies such as RFID tags pave the way towards smart packaging by allowing consumers to check their product’s origin via Smartphone. However, track and trace solutions like this are indispensable and not only in the drugs industry. In the food industry they also prove beneficial, especially during transport. Manufacturers and suppliers can trace the consignment precisely and find out whether the cool chain was interrupted in transit, for example. Via time-temperature displays packaging can even display a product’s degree of freshness. And this display is much more precise than best-before dates. Smart packaging holds enormous potential. Now the costs of such solutions have to be brought down to allow their profitable use. After all, cost pressure is very high, especially with food packaging.

What else will happen to packaging in future?
It becomes smart and … … more personalised. A target-group driven customer approach up to personalisation is currently on everyone’s lips in the industry. After all, it allows firms to address shoppers directly because they feel emotionalised. Finally, packaging performs a key marketing function. When shopping consumers often decide spontaneously which goods end up in their shopping cart. Therefore packaging is often the first point of contact between them and the brand. This is why striking, target-group related designs are becoming increasingly important.
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