Discover the Future of Packaging: Improved Supply Chain, Monitoring & Communication

16 Sep 2021

What can we expect from the future of packaging? Learn with Essentra Packaging about smart solutions you could be adopting in a few years.

Have you given much thought to the future? We have, and with this article, we would like to inspire you with some trends we could be experiencing in coming years.

It seems that the application of intelligent technology will be the right path for many sectors, including the packaging industry dedicated to pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. According to the Smart packaging market - growth, trends, COVID-19 impact, and forecasts (2021 - 2026) report by Mordor Intelligence, the growth forecast for the smart packaging market is at a rate of an annual 4.15% between 2021 and 2026. At Essentra Packaging we like to work alongside our customers, developing with them the best solutions to fulfil their needs; and it appears that smart packaging solutions will be the way forward in the coming years to improve aspects such as monitoring, efficiency, communication and safety, all of which could enhance and streamline the experience for consumers and businesses alike.

There will be new ways to improve supply and inventory

Ideally, businesses should always be able to locate, monitor and control their stock in real time, but nowadays, knowing everything that happens in the supply chain at every moment is one of the greatest challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry. In the future, however, and with the right partner, you will be able co-create smart packaging solutions to tackle this issue by applying existing tools such as RFID, NFC, or GPS in new ways to fulfil your needs, enabling greater traceability and transparency, all to ensure the product reaches the end user in perfect condition. Each business conducts operations differently, and at Essentra Packaging we have the experience to advise and help you develop a solution for the future as unique as your processes.

Improved agility and transparency within the supply chain

Can you imagine optimal supply chain traceability? The future holds solutions such as assigning a unique ID to each item, using QR or Data Matrix codes, or including technology such as RFID or NFC within the packaging; all of which will result in businesses tracking and tracing their items in real time, providing users with full visibility and ensuring that any products diverted to the grey market are identified. 

The right partner will have the expertise to build a strategy and make the most of every bit of information collected, rendering processes and logistics easier. Gradually, the new solutions will increase the level of control over items after they have left the factory or warehouse; and at some point in the future, we will be able to effortlessly monitor the entire supply chain.  At Essentra Packaging we want to co-create the future with our customers,  using our capabilities and expertise to meet their needs and requirements. This way, we would develop unique smart packaging solutions, with the latest technology available, that could truly achieve our client’s goals.

How will the packaging’s condition be monitored in the future?

Knowing where the product is in real time is not the only advantage: packaging from the future could notify you, almost instantly, if a product has been damaged or tampered with at any point within the supply chain. To be on the safe side, you would need a trustworthy supplier with a dedicated team of experts who can help customers develop new solutions that are tailored to your requirements. This is particularly important in the case of pharmaceutical products and medical devices that might require specific environmental conditions during transport, e.g., temperature or humidity. 

Nowadays, 7 out of 10 pharmaceutical products require transportation with temperature control, fast becoming damaged if the cold chain is broken. In the future this number will most likely increase, according to Grand View Research, which is why the need for technologies such as RFID or NFC that log environmental information will grow, reporting if there have been any irregular fluctuations during transport or storage. Other measures could include Time Temperature or Printed Indicator inks, such as thermochromics, which will provide visual guidance if the pack is subjected to temperatures that might damage the packaging’s contents –the specific time period could be customised to fit different requirements and ensure the product’s safety

This may sound like science fiction, but with new types of treatments, such as cell or gene therapies, the demand for cold chain and ultra-cold transportation will continue to increase, and so will the need for groundbreaking and innovative packaging; at Essentra Packaging we are excited to work on developing new solutions alongside our clients, and see how the future of packaging unfolds.

Improving inventory management with packaging from the future

Efficient inventory management goes hand in hand with agile supply and traceability, if a business could gather all the information about where the items are in real time, with full visibility in any location, they could use this data to optimise their inventory management. The smart packaging tools and solutions mentioned above to monitor pharmaceutical products –whether in storage or in transit– could also be used in the future to help with stock control, especially important for certain healthcare items and crucial medical treatments. New needs call for innovation, and we would like to inspire the future of the sector alongside our clients by finding new ways of improving inventory operations.

Here is an example of how inventory management could be optimised a few years from now: smart packaging could include each product’s expiry date, very useful to prioritise which item to send out first. A date may seem like a small piece of information, but it could greatly reduce waste due to expired medication, and improve stock efficiency, not to mention its potential for cost reduction. With an experienced supplier such as Essentra Packaging, you would only need to discuss your needs, and we would work with you to find the best way to develop a new solution, in order to streamline your inventory management.

Communication: the key to long-term improvement

There might come a day when smart packaging solutions will be used for more than monitoring and tracking. For example, they could help tackle low patient adherence figures, or inform customers about the brand and its values. Unlike the previous solutions, geared towards real-time data and instant feedback, the future may hold some smart packaging solutions that will become noticeable long term.

Patient adherence to medical treatments will become easier

Currently, one of the greatest issues concerning the pharmaceutical sector is low patient adherence to the prescribed treatments, since it can surmount to additional costs. We hope this will no longer be a problem in the future, given that, according to Schreiner MediPharm, 50% of patients involved in clinical trials do not take the prescribed dosage, resulting in distorted outcomes –such as insufficient drug efficacy or underestimated side-effect frequency– and thus delaying the products’ marketing. 

However, using tools like smart packaging will assist users in coming years regarding many of the issues that cause lapses in treatment adherence today. It will provide a communication channel through QR codes or an NFC, informing patients of the correct dosage, the right time span, remind them to collect prescriptions or include instructions for any medical devices included in the treatment. Pharmaceutical companies could use several smart-technology methods linked to their packaging to interact with users and encourage them to continue their medication, we have compiled a few ideas:

  • Easy-to-read information linked to the packaging with a code.

  • E-leaflets in several languages.

  • Video and audio guides for correct treatment usage.

  • Pictograms.

  • Patient helplines and social media support groups.

  • Dosing alerts and reminders through a smart phone calendar.

Let's start co-creating for the future of packaging around agile supply, monitoring, inventory and communication. At Essentra Packaging we would be delighted to provide you with further information about our current services, and how they can be developed and applied to your products. Get in touch and our dedicated technical team will help you find the best path to take your business to the future.