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DHL Survey Reveals the Future of Packaging

The logistics company's study cites smart packaging, based on the Internet of Packaging concept, as one of the three current priorities of businesses.
By Edson Perin
Jan 24, 2020

A recent study published by DHL, a German company in the international logistics and express courier sector, discusses the future of packaging to meet the new demands of companies, consumers and the environment. According to the study, 90 percent of businesses consider it necessary—and a significant portion are already acting on this—to rethink packaging in order to adapt packages to the new needs and innovations of their specific industries, and to take into account logistics operations.

The study addresses such topics as packaging optimization, automation, materials sustainability, reuse and reverse logistics, and the Internet of Packaging (IoP) for smart packaging. "The growing use of technologies in logistics applications leads to an obvious question," the study notes: "When will each package be connected or be smart?" In the survey with DHL's customers, the implementation of smart packaging solutions was one of the three main priorities of interviewees.

These days, the most advanced tags—such as those that detect position, temperature, shock and humidity—are still being used only for high-value shipments. But the cost of this technology is falling rapidly. The average price of a sensor has decreased by more than two-thirds since 2004. In the coming years, cheaper hardware, improvements in battery life and more efficient communication features will extend the range of economically viable applications to include a wider range of shipment types.

The price of IoP technologies will need to drop significantly further, according to the study, before they will approach universal application levels, but the most advanced technologies offer a glimpse of future possibilities. Smart labels, such as Faubel's electronic paper display, are already a viable alternative to paper-based labels for the reusable crates and containers used in pharmaceutical supply chains. Smart tags are more than a labor-saving device for senders, the study explains, because they can be configured to be dynamically updated during logistics processes, to display the next destination in the supply chain, for example, and to record events detected by sensors, such as physical shocks and temperature variations.

DHL Trend Research, which created the study, reports that Finnish company Logmore produces a data logger on packaging with an integrated electronic ink display. The display generates a QR code from a dot matrix that changes at regular intervals as the sensor records new information. This can be verified by users with a smartphone so they can quickly access a report regarding the conditions of a package in transit.

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