In a world where demand for products is no longer predictable, businesses are looking for more flexible approaches to packing and labelling. From the exponential growth in demand for PPE equipment to the collapse in many bulk retail orders, the outlook is volatile. Contract packing, or co-packing, offers a range of solutions to help businesses navigate through today’s choppy waters.

How can contract packing help?

Covid-19 has reshaped consumer and business behaviour, with a seismic shift to online shopping and far-reaching disruption to the pre-Covid supply chain. An extra layer of concern is the uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on labour and the movement of goods.  

As a result, with the exception of busy online retailers, few can commit to investing in the staff and equipment needed for unpredictable waves in demand. After all, who wants ongoing costs when a slump may be just around the corner?

The solution? Contract packing, or co-packing, has been established as an important resource in the production and logistics chain for many years and, today, contract packers are more important than ever.  

Covid makes sustainability more important than ever

One of the indirect impacts of the pandemic is that it has driven a change in consumer attitudes towards the health of our planet. A far-reaching survey by Natural England (the UK Government’s adviser on the natural environment) shows that the population is spending much more time outside. Being closer to nature has raised awareness of green issues. The environment now ranks in third place of our concerns, only topped by pressing worries about the virus and the economy.

By the beginning of 2020, consumer concern about sustainable packaging was well-established. As the pandemic has taken hold, the level of worry has kept growing. It’s clear that consumers want a cleaner, healthier environment.

Consumer awareness is in line with an emerging, new regulatory framework. The direction of post-Brexit legislation is set out in the UK’s 25-Year Environment Plan and the Environment Bill (2019-2021). Statutory requirements for cleaner packaging are getting more and more stringent, and the current crisis has given no respite.   

By partnering with contract packers who are focussed on sustainability issues, businesses can find effective and efficient solutions to the present and future challenges for packaging.

Do you need people or machines for packaging?

The current state of play also means that the role of collaborative robots (‘cobots’) and automation has come into focus. State-of-the-art machinery enables businesses to reduce the number of staff they need. That is an important consideration in a post-Brexit world where the availability of labour is seen by many to be a likely issue.

It is also easier to maintain a Covid-free environment with more machines and fewer people (for example, cobots don’t socialise in the same way as human packers!). There are many advantages to automation. While people with specific skills are essential for some packing and labelling operations, automated systems can provide the highest levels of accuracy, reliability and speed of throughput.

The challenge for businesses is when to invest in automation, and getting the timing right is now tougher than ever. Partnering with a contract packer requires a significantly lower level of commitment than funnelling capital into new machinery, and can still achieve the efficiency your business requires, together with greater flexibility.

What is new in contract packing, labelling and fulfilment?

Today’s issues in packing also apply to labelling and fulfilment. Digital labelling capabilities are becoming more and more important, with traceability a paramount concern in the current crisis. If your business is not equipped to label products and despatches accurately and speedily, using the services of a contract packer with advanced equipment is a likely solution.

Delivering goods in top condition is another prerequisite of the modern world. Customers will not stay loyal to your business if goods arrived damaged due to poor packaging or mishandling. Most businesses rely on the service of logistics companies to deliver to end users, and it is essential to make sure your delivery partner is upholding the standards your business requires.     

Contract packing solutions from PPMA members include:

  • Aerosols
  • Blister packing
  • Bottling/Canning
  • Cartoning
  • Clinical Trials Packing
  • Form Fill Seal
  • Wrapping
  • Liquid Filling
  • Medical Device Assembly
  • Multipacks
  • Peel Pouch Manufacture and Packing
  • Pot filling
  • Sleeving