Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Arizona Plastic-Bag Bill a Necessary Step toward Limiting Needlessly Burdensome Regulatory Complexity

FPA_2012_winner-Hilex-Poly-KrogerLast year the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimated that the federal regulatory compliance burden for U.S. manufacturing companies exceeds $2 trillion on an annual basis. That’s a staggering figure on its own, but it pales in comparison to what the total eventually would be if every company had to comply with standards, laws and regulations that varied from locality to locality.

The last Census estimated that there were just over 77,000 local governments in the U.S. (excl. school districts). If the cost of compliance for manufacturers is $2 trillion now, what would it be if every one of those local governments grafted their own regulatory scheme on top of what’s already present at the state and federal levels?

Encouraging new opportunities for manufacturing growth in this country will require our legislators to think not merely of taxes, but of new regulations as well. “America’s regulatory framework is in need of a serious reboot,” SPI President and CEO William Carteaux said in the wake of the NAM report. “Comprehensive reform is necessary to allow the nation’s manufacturers to grow their businesses, hire more workers and keep America competitive abroad.”

“A modern regulatory regime based on scientific, technological and economic realities, rather than outdated facts, emotion and hearsay, will ensure the safety of workers, consumers and the environment while still fostering the innovation and job growth that manufacturing is poised to unleash,” he added.

Tailoring this regime to create adequate protections for individuals without overburdening manufacturers with redundancies, needless complications and laws based on bad science will require thoughtful analysis, enactment and implementation, not the broad-stroke, more-is-always-more approach that seems to be popular among so many activists. To this point, Arizona Senate Bill 1241, signed into law this week by Gov. Doug Ducey, is a small but meaningful victory in the battle against baseless overregulation and arbitrary statutes that make compliance a minefield for businesses.Bag2Bag-in-store-160w

By ensuring that the authority to regulate packaging and auxiliary containers rests in state capitols and not in the hands of local governments, SB 1241 certifies that businesses will have to comply with only one set of regulations in Arizona, rather than 432 different sets: one for each local government in the state (excl. school districts). It’s a pro-business bill that precludes the creation of a patchwork of new regulations. More than that, by heading off potential regulatory threats, businesses can plan for the future without worrying that new, increasingly segmented regulations could inhibit them. SB 1241 is a sign that Arizona understands how important that certainty is to business when making investments and moving forward. By providing that certainty, they’ve made it easier for companies to concentrate more on growing their business and creating jobs and less on future compliance challenges. Hopefully other states will follow in Arizona’s footsteps.

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Telling the Plastics Industry’s Story through…Food Packaging Compliance?

SPI’s Project Passport aims to make life easier for brand owners, plastics manufacturers and materials suppliers and is part of an open discussion about science, industry and consumer safety.

FoodPackaging_StockPhotoBrand owners are often correctly viewed as the conduit through which the consumer speaks to the rest of the plastics supply chain. The crazy, upside-down world in which they operate is a demanding one, where information is more available than ever before, and yet confusion continues to run rampant throughout the supply chain, starting with consumers, particularly when it comes to something as ubiquitous as the packaging in which their food is stored.

“The public is understandably confused by the conflicting messages they receive about product safety,” said Kyra Mumbauer, SPI senior director, global regulatory affairs, “and when people  get confused about the safety of the packaging their food comes in, they typically ask the brand owner, whose name is on the package itself, who then asks the manufacturer, who then asks the materials supplier before an answer is finally provided.”

Many of these requests for information go beyond what’s required from a regulatory standpoint, which only complicates the process for diligent materials suppliers and plastics manufacturers that are doing their best to assuage the concerns of their customers. “There may not be a common level of education about what is required from a regulatory standpoint,” Mumbauer said. “But if everyone that has to convey their compliance information has a baseline, then that will lead to a reduction in the number of redundant or unnecessary questions that get asked.”

For brand owners seeking information from their suppliers about the compliance of materials that went into their packaging products, the practical aspects of acquiring and sorting this information can be daunting. At the very least they’re an unnecessary time drain. “You can get 13 different letters from your suppliers that look totally different,” Mumbauer said. “It can be really time consuming and there’s no simple way to organize those documents.”

At least, there wasn’t until now.

2015-project-psspt-4cProject Passport, the latest resource from SPI’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee (FDCPMC) seeks to provide “a more consistent approach to communicating vital compliance information to customers and consumers in a way that’s clear, complete and easy on the eyes.” In its current form, Project Passport’s Guideline for Risk Communication for the Global Food Contact Supply Chain is comprised of three separate components, each of which offers packaging suppliers a key tool to help them communicate the safety of their products to companies and consumers further down the food packaging supply chain:

  • An Example “Food Contact Declaration of Compliance” Form – The form is generic by design so that it can be adapted to different products marketed in various jurisdictions.
  • Instructions – These basic explanations and sample customer assurance statements provide the context to help companies complete the form quickly and effectively.
  • Quick Guides – A series of topical guides is interspersed throughout the document on select topics to provide added clarity on the instructions.

These tools will make it easier for brand owners to make sense of what goes into their packaging products, while simultaneously making it easier for companies to sell their products globally by preemptively addressing the compliance concerns of their potential customers. “New regulatory affairs professionals marketing a product globally can look at this and see what they need to be conveying to their customers,” Mumbauer said, noting that Project Passport currently is designed to address the needs of U.S. and European Union regulatory authorities, and that while complying with these two jurisdictions typically qualifies a product for sale in most countries in the world, as participation increases, Project Passport will continue to expand as well. “By promoting wide adoption of this form and this guideline we’ll have a more consistent approach to communicating information,” she said.

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

“This is Marketing:” After NPE2015, Wittmann-Battenfeld Offers Tips on Making the Most of Your Trade Show Booth

If you were there, you saw it. Robotics and plastics manufacturing machinery provider Wittmann-Battenfeld’s booth at NPE2015, the largest NPE in the show’s history, drew in a steady crowd of attendees with an eye-popping, jaw-dropping display of robotics performing the duties of a NASCAR pit crew. There was almost always a crowd at the Wittmann booth in the West Hall, a testament to Wittmann’s products and market position, sure, but also to their savvy understanding of trade show booth design.

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The centerpiece of Wittmann-Battenfeld’s booth at NPE2015.

While not every company has the resources to put on a full-fledged robotic racing pit crew in their trade show booth (nor does every trade show have the capacity or space to host as many top-quality, cutting edge displays as NPE), there are some important assumptions guiding the design of Wittmann’s booth at NPE that any company can put into practice when exhibiting at a trade show, whether it’s one as large as NPE or something more boutique.

“We try to excite the senses,” Wittmann CEO David Preusse said regarding the company’s booth at NPE, as well as their overall philosophy when it comes to booth design. “Lots of big, bright signage,” he added.

For Wittmann’s product line, Preusse noted that they virtually build a fully operational molding plant in two weeks for NPE attendees, as they did in 2012 and again in 2015. “We all know attendees like to see these injection molding work cells running. In our case, we want to show molders the possibilities of state-of-the-art technologies, and the continuing Internet of things,” he added. “All of our molding cells are connected, and can be viewed remotely. This means we can service any customer, anywhere in the world, at any time; 24/7 service with our experts.”

Additionally, when it comes to booth design, size matters. A big booth suggests a big company and a big investment in what they’re selling to potential buyers traversing the trade show floor, and a bigger booth design typically yields its own benefits in potential new sales and customer leads. “Attendees want to deal with big companies. They perceive a supplier’s commitment. To be in big arms is one additional important ingredient,” Preusse said. “It’s important to show our size in staffing, with experts from different specialties, for automation, injection molding niche areas such as micro or nano-molding up to large macro-tonnage molding and material handling resin conveying systems and a range of auxiliaries, all of which we own the designs, and we make the products. Attendees want to deal with experts to help them with the best and most innovative solutions for them to better compete both here locally and globally.”

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A full view of Wittmann-Battenfeld’s booth at this year’s NPE.

Both of these items are important points, but make no mistake; Preusse and his team know what brought you to their booth, and it wasn’t necessarily the size, or the fact that they had a fully operational molding plant toiling away under Wittmann flags and banners. People came to see the NASCAR booth, and that was entirely the point.

Wittmann has at least a couple NPEs worth of experience when it comes to eye-catching thematic booths. “Attendees are drawn into a booth with action. With robots we can be active,” Preusse said. “In 2012, our guys were able to have our robots dribble basketballs, pass and shoot three pointers. People still watch those on YouTube. It was a large, up high, nonstop activity and it stopped attendees in the aisle. They stared, pulled out their phone and videotaped the show, and they clapped when the robots scored a basket,” he added, noting that the display’s popularity resulted in what, in trade show terms, would be considered a “good problem.” “At one point, show guards came by to ask us what we can do about all the traffic in the congested aisle,” Preusse said.

Topping the 2012 display wouldn’t be easy, but Preusse noted that, like the basketball display from the prior NPE, the company’s booth couldn’t simply rely on something that would appeal to plastics technology and robotics wonks; it had to appeal to any consumer, inside the industry or not. “Don’t get me wrong, the 5D curvilinear precision and powerful programmable control with payloads for these robots certainly help one’s mind to the possibilities, the flexibility, the power and sophistication we can accomplish, so no, we do not desire a circus act,” he said. “We are however, a FUN company.”

The process of planning began more than a year prior to NPE. “Kenny Pond, our lead robot technician, was the leader behind the Basket Ballers for NPE2012, did not want to continue on basketball. Kenny originally was an auto mechanic, out of high school, and he had this idea we could develop a pit crew of robots to change race car tires,” Preusse said. “Kenny made a sketch over a year ago and showed me and our team what he thought was possible. He even had images of booth models in designer pit crew jump suits.”

Wittmann’s executives in Austria weren’t originally sold on the idea, but Preusse urged them to let the team work, allowing Pond and the Wittmann engineering team led by Rob Eselby to develop the idea into something valuable, and the result ultimately was what we all saw at NPE2015.

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Attendees stop to watch Wittmann-Battenfeld’s robotic pit crew display in action.

Sure, the booth and the performance contained therein cost Wittmann some money, but one of the advantages, from a budgetary standpoint, of a triennial show like NPE is that, as Preusse’s boss Michael Wittmann said, you have three years to pay for it. More than that however, it’s important to remember that a booth isn’t merely an investment in future business, but an investment in existing business and existing employees and staff. “Honestly, some staff here actually love the chance to change things up from their normal work life, to do something different,” Preusse said. “A show is not just for the attendees, but for our own staff, our sales agents, our field sales and service troops, management and our colleagues from around the globe. Wittmann is in 52 countries. There is a bit of an ego in showing what a team can do when allowed to do great things. NPE is our Olympics.”

In many ways, for Wittmann, the booth isn’t merely an opportunity to bring in new business, but an opportunity to celebrate. “I sent many cheerleading emails when times leading up to the show were getting difficult,” Preusse said. “I pointed out in one email that what we as mankind, can achieve together is one of man’s best possibilities and triumphs to celebrate. NPE is a celebration.”

This attitude was infectious among Wittmann’s staff, and infectious among attendees and visitors to their booth as well. “I think attendees see this. I think it inspires them. It creates positive energy and a buzz,” he added. “And this would’ve been the case, even without one of our 20 truck trailers being stolen in Daytona, then rolling over and totally damaging our show shipment of two molding machines worth over $500k, and only nine days before the opening.”

In short, all the things that made Wittmann’s booth design, implementation and execution were as beneficial for the staff and for Wittmann as they were for the mood of the attendees who stopped by to photograph the company’s robotic pit crew in action. Creating a buzz within the office often translates to a buzz outside of it, a certifiable truth of business and sales that Wittmann’s booth proved throughout NPE2015. “This is marketing,” Preusse said.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Officially Official: NPE2015 Sets Records for Exhibitors, Space, Companies in Attendance and International Participation

NPE2015 has officially come to a close and while the crowded halls of the Orange County Convention Center might’ve hinted at a record-setting year, the numbers released today by SPI officially confirmed it: NPE2015 was the largest show in NPE history.

The South Hall of NPE2015.

The South Hall of NPE2015.

By number of exhibitors, amount of space and unique companies in attendance, NPE2015 exceeded all prior iterations of the International Plastics Showcase. The data showed that NPE2015 attracted 2,029 exhibitors over 1,128,200 net square feet (104,813 sq.m) of exhibit space—exceeding the previous records of 2,009 exhibitors and 1,041,000 net square feet (96,712 sq.m) set in 2000.

Additionally, registered attendance for NPE2015 was 65,810—19 percent greater than three years ago at NPE2012—and these registrants came from 23,396 unique companies, a 22 percent increase over the 19,198 companies at NPE2012 that represented a substantial increase in buying potential.

As expected, NPE2015 also set new records for international participation as well. Nearly 44 percent of exhibiting companies and 26 percent of registrants came from outside the United States, with nearly 5,000 registrants coming from Latin America alone.

Exhibitors came from 37 nations in all. In descending order of number of exhibitors, the ten largest participating countries were China, Taiwan, Canada, Italy, Germany, India, Turkey, France, Switzerland and South Korea. These rankings don’t include many companies that are based in other countries but exhibited through their U.S. subsidiaries.

View of the West Hall of NPE2015.

View of the West Hall of NPE2015.

SPI president and CEO William R. Carteaux acclaimed NPE2015 as the most successful NPE by many measures. “What made NPE2015 a milestone in the 69-year history of NPE was not only its size and international diversity, but also the richness of its offerings to attendees,” Carteaux said. “The hundreds of machines operating on the show floor, the customer service centers provided by material suppliers, the pavilions and programs on current issues and emerging technologies, the extensive agenda of co-located conferences—this wealth of content surpassed our previous shows and now provides a guideline for making future NPEs even more attractive to participants. The plastics industry should be truly proud of its show”

All focus now turns to the next NPE, NPE2018, which will take place Monday through Friday, May 7-11, 2018, again at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Visit www.npe.org for more information and click here to receive updates on the NPE2018 program.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

NPE2015: A Quick Look Back on the Largest, Most International NPE in History

The SPI and NPE team wrapped up what was by any and all measures an outstanding NPE2015 last week. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights.

_F4C5169_webNPE2015: The International Plastics Showcase kicked off with the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show, the result of many months of work by students from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in collaboration with SPI. All of the featured garments were made using post-consumer recycled, reused or repurposed plastic products, and the final products were outstanding. Check the fashion show photo album on SPI’s Facebook, and read an interview with two of the participating SCAD students here on In the Hopper.

Many, many announcements were made on-site at NPE2015, particularly on Monday, the first day of the show. Among the largest of them was SPI’s announcement of its new annual recycling summit, the re│Focus Recycling Summit & Expo. The inaugural summit and expo will be held in April 2016 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla. and invites the entire plastics supply chain to collaborate together to find future sustainability solutions and new markets in recycling. Learn more here.

SPI President and CEO William Carteaux at NPE2015 announcing ReFocus, SPI's first-ever annual recycling summit and expo, to be held in Orlando in April 2016.

SPI President and CEO William Carteaux at NPE2015 announcing ReFocus, SPI’s first-ever annual recycling summit and expo, to be held in Orlando in April 2016.

On Tuesday at the SPI/IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing, the plastics industry got an invitation from Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio to help the world’s largest retailer fulfill its goal to source an additional $250 billion worth of products from the U.S. Marsiglio also invited attendees to consider attending Walmart’s next Open Call event, where manufacturers can work directly with Walmart buyers to pitch their products to the company and, ideally, get them into stores. Read more about Marsiglio’s presentation here.

One of the best attended receptions of the week was the FLiP N’Sip young professionals event, where hundreds of plastics professionals under 40 were able to relax after a day at NPE while networking with their colleagues and making the connections they need to continue their careers in plastic. Hosted by SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) and SPE’s Next Generation Advisory Board (NGAB), the event also served as the venue for a joint announcement from SPI and SPE about a new student membership option that makes it even easier for students and new plastics professionals to get involved with their trade association and set them on a path to plastics success right at the start of their careers.

Young plastics professionals at the FLiP N'Sip reception.

Young plastics professionals at the FLiP N’Sip reception.

SPI’s Bioplastics Division (BPD) also honored Eastman Kodak with this year’s Innovation in Bioplastics Award on Wednesday at NPE2015 in the BPD booth in the South Hall Lobby. Eastman Kodak won for its creation of a biotoner that contains greater than 90 percent biobased and biodegradable materials, which has the potential to have a major impact on the electro-photographic printing market. Learn more about the award here and stay tuned to SPI’s website and In the Hopper blog for more news and information on Eastman Kodak and their award-winning innovation.

A crowded view of the South Hall at NPE2015.

A crowded view of the South Hall at NPE2015.

All this and so much more from NPE2015! Stay tuned to SPI’s website and to In the Hopper for more NPE highlights (and photos) in the weeks and months to come, and scroll back through SPI and NPE’s Twitter accounts for more from what was one of the most socially-networked NPEs ever. And don’t forget to mark your calendar for the next NPE! Click here to sign up for updates, and we’ll see you in Orlando in 2018. SPI thanks every attendee, sponsor and supporter for making NPE2015 a true milestone!