Smart Labels for Transparency, Tracking and Circular Economy
@ PTS Corrugated Board Symposium 2022
Corrugated fiberboard is a real all-rounder. We learned this at PTS Corrugated Board Symposium 2022 in Dresden. It is used for sustainable packaging in e-commerce, pallets are made from recycled paper, and the construction industry can build complete houses with corrugated boards.
We attended the event from November 23-24 and shared our expert knowledge with manufacturers, machine builders, and researchers.
CEO Arman Sarhaddar spoke about blockchain technology and smart labels for supply chain tracking and transparency, especially concerning the main focus of the symposium: sustainability and the circular economy.
While the city of Dresden was busy attaching a few more branches to the puny fir trees that people made fun of at the Christmas fair, Mother Nature no longer has so much to laugh about.
Read more about the participants and use cases for smart packaging solutions below.
PTS Corrugated Board Symposium 2022
The Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS) is a German foundation for fiber-based research & development, supporting paper production and processing companies in developing and applying innovative solutions.
The use of corrugated boards as versatile material is increasing yearly. With the PTS Corrugated Board Symposium, the Foundation offers a platform for exchanging knowledge and experience. Top-class speakers from business, science, and industry discuss forward-looking topics.
The two-day symposium addressed the entire value chain in the corrugated board sector – production, processing, shipping, and even tracking use cases with blockchain-based smart label solutions like ours. The event was organized and presented by Dr.-Ing. Birgit Lutsch and Benjamin Hiller at the Conference Center of the Institute of Wood Technology (IHD). It included a guided tour of Dresden and dinner with an entertaining program later in the evening.
- Current developments and future trends, such as sustainable corrugated board packaging
- New products from the supplier industry, such as adhesives, inks, and digital printing machinery
- Quality assurance in corrugated processing (printability, flatness, measuring technology)
- Requirements for the sector (Track & Trace, Packaging on Demand, A & I Packaging)
- Smart packaging and tracking solutions, e.g. with RFID labels
- Sustainability, recycling, and the circular economy
Why corrugated board?
Fiber-based packaging makes a vital contribution to the circular economy:
- 82 % of paper and fiberboard packaging is already recycled
- 91 % of the water used can be returned to the environment
- 60 % of the energy produced and consumed is renewable
Corrugated board is still one of the primary packaging materials for a wide range of industrial and consumer products. Thus, the above-mentioned focal points are not only relevant for corrugated board manufacturers.
A massive global market is affected by developments in the sectors – including companies that depend on freight transport and shipping.
After the welcoming opening of the conference by Dr. Birgit Lutsch and Benjamin Hiller, Dr.-Ing. Saskia Runte from the German Association of the Corrugated Board Industry reported on the current developments in the sector.
At this point, we hardly knew that thanks to Uwe Müller and SWAP Eco Future Systems, we would later arrive at honeycomb panels for facade cladding, floor heating, stable exhibition walls, and comfortable seating furniture made of recycled paper.
Here are some key facts and figures:
1. Corrugated board and other packaging materials
More than 67 % of all transport packaging in Germany is made of corrugated board. In 2021, the industry produced over 12.5 billion square meters of corrugated board.
Thus, in 2021 the corrugated board industry turned over about 6.6 billion euros. Put into perspective: The sales of the German paper packaging industry in 2021 totaled approximately 13.6 billion euros.
2. Development of e-commerce sales in Germany
Transport packaging, such as padded shipping bags, is needed for online stores’ growing number of final clicks. In 2021, net sales were about 86.7 billion euros – more than double the annual sales in 2015.
The e-commerce sector will likely continue to grow despite inflation and the energy crisis affecting the paper and corrugated board industry. The forecast for e-commerce sales in 2022 is 97.4 billion euros.
3. Customer areas of corrugated board production
The demand for corrugated board packaging is highest in the food industry at 41.1%. Shipping packaging, on the other hand, accounts for only 6.0%. However, demand for e-commerce shipping bags and lightweight corrugated board types will continue to grow.
Smart labels for more sustainability
In subsequent presentations, we learned that the need for digital printing and sustainable packaging solutions will most likely continue to grow as well. This shifts the focus to our expert topic: smart labels for seamless tracking of global supply chains on the blockchain.
With ivault, we can map the entire supply chain, including its eco-circularity on the blockchain. Data is stored in a decentralized and, thus, completely tamper-proof way. Smart labels and digital codes ensure full supply chain transparency. Blockchain technology provides unambiguous traceability and serves as the data management platform with the highest level of security possible. This is beneficial for companies and their customers, but also vis-à-vis the German constitutional state – on January 1, 2023, the new Supply Chain Act will be introduced.
During the symposium, CEO Arman Sarhaddar demonstrated how blockchain is helping companies do just that,
- increase their authenticity,
- strengthen customer confidence and
- build long-term brand loyalty.
In cooperation with richter & hess Packaging, we prepared a use case for intelligent packaging solutions with RFID smart labels. Other use cases focused on the circular economy and protection against greenwashing allegations.
How RFID Smart Labels Communicate with the Blockchain
RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) is a technology for the automatic and contactless identification and localization of things using radio waves.
With our use case, we showed, among other things, how RFID labels are used to check whether a package has already been opened and tampered with.
Counterfeiters who steal a high-quality good from the transport packaging frequently replace it with an inferior good. Traces are hardly visible.
With RFID Smart Labels, however, this is guaranteed to be noticed during the next scan, and it is easy to determine where criminals have infiltrated the supply chain.
In addition, companies can ensure that tampered packages do not reach the end consumer. Or: no longer do so – as in the case of another use case.
RFID labels can also communicate with GPS trackers in delivery vehicles. Responsible parties are notified in real-time via the blockchain platform when a transport package has been opened. With iridium antennas, like those used for satellite phones, this even works on the high seas, where even the navy’s best GPS trackers do not work anymore.
Once the delivery has arrived, consumers can use a smartphone scanner app and easily check whether their packages have already been opened before. If something is wrong, they can inform the company immediately with one click and transmit all the necessary data.
Smart labels with QR codes in e-commerce
But it can be something other than RFID labels with iridium antennas. For example, regarding e-commerce in the B2C sector, QR codes on the transport packaging (or the product itself) are sufficient.
However, QR codes are used less sensibly today: a scan only leads to the brand owner’s website. Companies do not use their full potential when they could, in fact, meet the customer’s demands and take brand communication to the next level.
THE USE OF QR CODES TODAY
THE QR CODES OF TOMORROW
Thanks to the ivault blockchain platform, simple QR codes become much more intelligent smart labels. Companies can make the entire global supply chain of products, such as organic cotton or coffee, transparent. Consumers can check whether a product is authentic and view certificates stored on the blockchain, where they cannot be changed. Thus, the tamper-proof data stored on the blockchain can clearly prove that the company is operating fairly and sustainably.
In a nutshell:
QR, NFC, or RFID, in combination with blockchain technology, can be used to prevent and protect against:
- Theft and counterfeiting,
- Greenwashing accusations and maybe even lawsuits,
- cyber-attacks, data abuse, and data loss.
This is undoubtedly essential for consumer goods such as food, but spare parts in the automotive or construction industries can also benefit. As a matter of fact, everything that can be made from or packed in corrugated board. And that’s quite a lot, as we learned at the PTS Corrugated Board Symposium 2022.
To name a few more speakers and topics: Following the lecture by Arman Sarhaddar, among others, Thomas Walther (Baumer hhs Ltd., member of 4evergreen), who familiarized us with the challenges and solutions for adhesives in e-commerce.
Dr. Tim Slawik (BHS Corrugated Maschinen- und Anlagen GmbH) spoke about the world’s first direct connection of a digital printing press to a corrugator.
On day 2, in addition to many other great presentations, it went on, for example, with Thorsten Pitschke (bifa Umweltinstitut GmbH) or Dr. Stefan Uebelacker (openpack GmbH) with the lecture “Cost reduction through the digitalization of energy management.”
All in all, the event is highly recommendable for members of the paper and corrugated board industry and beyond. We thank you very much and look forward to the next outstanding symposium. All events of the Paper Technology Foundation can be found here: PTS Events.