The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant disruption in many industries, and the packaging sector is no exception. In this post, we will look into the critical short and long-term trends that may emerge from this disruption and how it might impact the future of the packaging sector.
- Companies are reconsidering sustainable options
In recent years, there has been a significant shift in consumer sentiment in favor of environmentally friendly packaging solutions. In the long run, COVID-19 is unlikely to put a halt to this. However, there may be some impact on the speed of this change in the short term.
For a long time, packaging has served the principles of maintaining the safety, hygiene, and integrity of goods, and these principles come to the fore during the current crisis. While this may be a temporary trend, it does mean that the current consumer demand is likely to be for more, rather than less packaging.
- The impact of a rise in eCommerce
Online orders are booming as retailers attempt to keep sales going due to the closure of most physical retail stores during the lockdown. Even retailers who did not have a strong online presence have also been forced to change their business model to eCommerce to ensure survival.
This results in a strong requirement for eCommerce specific packaging. The importance of packaging that offers the protection of goods through resistance technology has never been more crucial. Retailers want to minimize the risk of product loss or damage to reduce the potential of financial losses and returns.
Once normality resumes, some consumers will return to physical retail, while some will make a longer-term change in shopping habits.
- Logistics and manufacturing
Experts agree that this crisis will drive more investment in automating the supply chain. Many companies froze all their budgets, except budgets for automation. Manufacturers are wondering: How can packaging machinery and robots enable us to continue manufacturing while keeping social distancing? Instead of a person restocking the machine magazines, a robot could be tasked with this job to avoid potential cross-contamination. Automation also provides relief from employee headcount shortages due to COVID-19 safety restrictions or illness.
Coronavirus might even lead to an existential shift in the way products are manufactured and shipped around the world. The idea is to move the processes closer to home, but that will only be possible with increased automation.
Adding packaging automation to operations will not only make the manufacturers more resilient to disruption but can also cut costs.
- Will robots steal our jobs?
The COVID-19 pandemic prompts us to rethink what is considered high- or low-skill work. These questions are particularly pertinent in the context of artificial intelligence and automation.
We see AI technologies increasingly deployed in the packaging industry as well as across many parts of society. Governments around the globe are rushing to mobilize large amounts of capital to invest in AI innovation. The downside of this is that we see a narrative of AI built on vast and frankly overstated expectations of its capabilities. Movies and Sci-Fi books and shows fuel the looming fear of robots taking our jobs. The truth is that we are far from a movie-like scenario where this breakthrough technology is used for creating conscious or even sentient machines.
This scenario of AI and automation very often depicts “low-skill” or “blue-collar” workers as the most likely victims of automation. This framing is incorrect, but it shines the light on what we unjustly tend to see as “skillful” work and what kind of labor we value. If we had robots for all our essential “low-skill” services, then these services wouldn’t be on the edge of breaking down to the extent they are now, which shows us how vital these job roles are.
As a conclusion
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the world into uncharted territory. In industries like the packaging industry, that’s leading to an automation boom.
Many people are out of work, and automation is filling some of the gaps. We cannot know for sure will robots have replaced those jobs for good when the dust settles, but we know one thing: Automation trends that were already on the horizon will happen faster now.
The crisis isn’t just accelerating the transition to automation: According to experts, it’ll also boost investments powering that change. There’s a lay view that automation might slow because the technology is expensive, and firms would be hesitant to make capital investments in a crisis. That’s wrong. Economic literature over the last decade shows that these investments are made especially during a crisis.