PPC Conference tells paperboard packaging manufacturers how to avoid the “commodity business”

Mike Ferrari discussing the secrets to packaging success at PPC’s 2018 Spring Meeting in Baltimore.
Mike Ferrari discussing the secrets to packaging success at PPC’s 2018 Spring Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

Converters of paperboard packaging in Canada and the USA might be feeling the squeeze this season. With RFPs, reduced volumes and shrinking margins, the packaging industry can often feel like “a commodity business and a race to the bottom.” The Paperboard Packaging Council’s (PPC) recently concluded Spring Outlook and Strategies Conference, April 11-13 in Baltimore, Maryland offered industry leaders techniques for adding value to their packaging while escaping the “commodity business.” Keynote speaker Mike Ferrari, an innovation consultant and former Procter & Gamble executive, shared his Seven Secrets to Packaging Success. Ferrari’s concepts focused on adding value to packaging so converters can reverse the cycle of commoditization and curb margin erosion. Some of these included crucial practices around inventory management, speed to market, customization and e-commerce.

Ferrari emphasized that innovation in packaging doesn’t have to come from traditional converting processes like printing or cutting. For example, he brought with him on stage a Bluetooth-enabled liquor carton that played music like actual audio speakers. By being creative and adding value in a variety of ways, folding carton and rigid box manufacturers can “sidestep the commodity business” and secure their status as valuable partners to their brands. David Friedman, CEO of High Performing Culture, offered attendees a different yet equally compelling way to exit the commodity world. According to Friedman, one of the last remaining opportunities to create a sustainable competitive advantage is company culture. After all, competitors can’t copy another company’s people. In a three-hour intensive workshop, Friedman showed attendees how to develop their company cultures intentionally and systematically. His simple yet effective process included defining culture in terms of certain behaviours and creating rituals to help employees embody and sustain values.

Later in the conference, economist Alan Beaulieu told attendees that the U.S. economy is headed towards a mild recession in the middle of 2019. Now, Beaulieu urged, is the time for strategizing ways to increase market share in a slow-growth environment. Competitive advantages will be an absolute must during this period, he insisted.

Ben Markens.
Ben Markens.

“PPC’s biannual conferences are a perfect forum for leaders in the folding carton and rigid box markets to learn about economic changes, upcoming trends and the outlook for the future,” said Ben Markens, PPC President. “Of course, we also want to offer practical tools and concepts for succeeding in that future marketplace. Ferrari, Friedman, Beaulieu and others did an excellent job providing those tools.” Other speakers included: Mary Anne Hansan, Executive Director of the Paper and Packaging Board, who updated attendees on the paper industry’s promotional How Life Unfolds campaign; hospital association executive Bruce Siegel, MD, who offered insights into the future of hospitals and health care; and Paul Malooly, President of PPC member El Paso Paper Box, who shared the story of his company and his plans for future growth. In addition to speaker presentations, the conference featured breakout meetings, networking sessions, a celebration of the industry’s safest plants according to PPC’s Safety Boxscore Report, as well as a cruise of Baltimore’s popular inner harbour. PPC’s next conference will take place on October 24-26, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, please visit www.paperbox.org/fall.




Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.