Nov 23, 2022Ed. Note: This article was previously posted at IoP Journal.
HP Brazil's smart packaging solution won the 2022 GS1 Brazil Automation Award, at a ceremony held on Nov. 9 in São Paulo. According to HP, the technology helps customers ensure they are purchasing genuine products, and that they can properly dispose of and recycle them through smart packaging methods developed by the company. HP adopted the same process of digitally printing personalized codes, which it had been using on the boxes of printing equipment, on the packaging of ink cartridges manufactured in Brazil.
In this way, every cartridge receives a unique identity in HP's Smarter Packaging project, which uses technologies such as QR codes and RFID tags. HP began implementing the technologies in ink cartridges during a testing phase, to evaluate how the solution would perform in practice, and thus bring authentication and validity to cartridges sold both at the company's own online stores and at physical stores. The Smarter Packaging solution is intended to help HP ink cartridge buyers be confident they are purchasing genuine goods, the firm explains. Shoppers can simply point their smartphone camera at the QR code, which is printed on the cartridge's packaging via a digital process.
Once consumers perform this action, they immediately receive information indicating whether the product in their hands is an original cartridge. In addition, customers are granted immediate access to a webpage containing information about the product purchased and any available services, as well as access to in-store promotions and more. No special app is required to perform this action, the company notes. Consumers merely need to point their phone at a package's QR code and follow the instructions appearing on the screen. Currently, cell phone cameras automatically identify QR codes and present options programmed in their digital code.
To apply this security QR code, HP Brazil adopted a change in the production of its packaging, which is no longer produced using conventional methods. Digital printers now print the serialized codes, guaranteeing full traceability and product identification. According to Diego Mutta, HP Brazil's reverse logistics projects manager, from the moment the company decided to adopt the digital printing technology (developed by HP), the system was made available to all customers. "This is not a technology available only to HP," he states. "It can be used by other companies and other sectors, such as food, pharmaceuticals, beauty, etc. Thus, everyone can apply this technology to their packaging."
The technology of printing packages through a digital process brings a series of added values, Mutta explains. "An example that we bring here, when making the change from a conventional technology to a digital one, is that we can print on demand," he says. "That is, companies can print exactly the volume of packaging they need for the products produced," thus eliminating waste. "In this case, there is no minimum order quantity, which conventional processes need to have an adequate cost." As a result, Mutta reports that in addition to cost benefits, sustainability gains are also achieved. "I can ensure a more efficient process, with less materials and with a smaller carbon footprint as well."
With regard to ink cartridges, another sustainability gain is enabled by the reverse logistics program that HP carries out, which involves removing at-home devices already used by customers so that materials can be reused in the production of new cartridges or other goods. "HP's Planet Partner program has been available for several years, free of charge, by collecting used cartridges at home," Mutta says. "Now, customers can scan the cartridges to find out if they are genuine HP products—and also, with a click on the webpage, request the product to be discarded."
HP Brazil has provided technologies for supply chain management, sustainability and customer experience for around two decades. The company's investments in smart packaging range from the use of RFID tags in the brand's printers manufactured in Brazil, to ensure 100 percent efficiency in its assembly lines and in the delivery of products and respective accessories, to the use of technology that digitally prints personalized codes on boxes to allow closer communication with consumers. View a complete list of the award winners here.