Digital Transformation And Five New Imperatives For The Paper And Packaging Industry

Jennifer Scholze

No industry has been more affected by digital disruption than paper and packaging. The challenge has been to survive this shift and leverage digital technologies in a world far less dependent on paper products than it was 10 years ago.

Uneven impact of digital disruption

The impact of digital disruption has not been felt evenly across the paper and packaging industry. Tissue, hygiene, and packaging are doing well and seeing healthy growth. The segments that have been impacted the most are newsprint, graphic, and printing paper. These segments must redefine how to create value in a digital world.

Leaders across all industries have found ways to leverage technology to solve digital challenges. Although it may seem counterintuitive to recommend that the print and packaging industry become more digital, they must to stay relevant.

Five strategies for paper and packaging success in a digital economy

  1. A healthy segment can still be improved. While healthy, packaging can grow by leveraging innovations such as artificial intelligence or augmented reality. Machine learning can help improve product quality and maintenance and is a game changer in terms of improving process automation. Augmented reality can support workers to maintain devices safely and more cost-effectively without needing to call skilled technicians.
  1. Customer collaboration can drive new business and margins for paper and packaging companies using digital tools. Using digitized information, paper and packaging companies can provide additional services based on customers’ individualized needs, such as co-development of new packaging materials or detailed tracking information for shipped goods. Technology can also be the answer to revamping channels to open up new businesses with higher margins. One example is Sappi. As part of the company’s digital transformation initiative, Sappi targeted the European markets as an opportunity for transformation of customer segments and the use of the merchant-retailer channel.
  1. Digital transformation improves logistics and operational efficiency. Paper and packaging companies have complex manufacturing and logistics challenges. These range from transportation and warehousing to process management and asset downtime. Capturing and analyzing data from machines, vehicles, or products allows better predictions, simulations, and decisions. Automation and connectivity across the plant floor reduce error rates, add speed, and cut operating costs. Analyzing sensor data from machines helps predict possible failures early and reduces unplanned downtimes.
  1. Digital tools like machine learning help make the most out of your workforce. Digital tools help employees spend less time on repetitive tasks and more time on strategic analysis and action by automating tasks. An added benefit of leveraging digital tools to create cost-effective, outcome-driven, human-machine partnership workflows across the organization is that smart automation also tends to reduce the number of errors and accidents that occur when automation isn’t built into the model.
  1. Key partnerships with technology providers are essential in the execution of this type of digital transformation: No company can be successful if it tries to tackle digital transformation alone. In the paper and packaging industry, strategic partnerships with technology providers who understand how to synthesize emerging technologies to address core business processes is a key ingredient to success. By partnering with technology solutions providers who can not only fulfill current technology needs but help them co-innovate on the business side to drive disruption (rather than just react and adapt to it), paper and packaging companies can more easily reinvent their industry for a digitally driven world where their products don’t have to be commoditized and devalued.

The paper and packaging industry was hit hard by the explosion of digital content in recent years, but new technologies open up a world of opportunities to improve operational efficiency, accelerate speed to market, become a hub of product innovation for retailers, and create more value to its customer ecosystem than ever before.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

About Jennifer Scholze

Jennifer Scholze is the Global Lead for Industry Marketing for the Mill Products and Mining Industries at SAP. She has over 20 years of technology marketing, communications and venture capital experience and lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.