Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

A Simple Shift in Shipping Regulations Could Net the American Economy $27 Billion in Annual Savings

Truck in portThe shipping economy operates adjacent to the manufacturing economy, and increased efficiency in either can often yield benefits in both. The advent of plastic materials decades ago enabled trucks to carry more products for longer, all while using only a fraction of the fuel because of the lightness of plastic materials.

That’s just one example, and the industries have traded innovations back and forth for decades. Most recently, however, a new industry group comprised of some of the biggest names in the shipping world is doing its best to save manufacturers money. The Coalition for Efficient & Responsible Trucking (CERT) counts Conway, Estes Express Lines, and UPS as members, among several others. The group has only one goal: a five-foot increase in the maximum length of trailers used in double configurations, from 28 feet, to 33 feet.

The idea is elegant in its simplicity, but could still have wide-ranging effects on a multitude of sectors. According to CERT, under the current 28-foot limit, trucks routinely “cube out before they gross out,” which is to say they fill all of their available volume long before they brush up against the 80,000 lbs. gross weight limit. This, simply put, makes shipping much less efficient, and saddles businesses with $27 billion per year in avoidable, additional shipping costs. Congressional authorization to extend the trailer length to 33 feet could put those costs back in the pockets’ of companies and consumers.

It’s a practical solution arriving at just the right time for the shipping economy and those industries that depend on it. “Every year, millions of tons in goods are sent across roads in shipments that don’t quite fit in a 28-ft. trailer, but aren’t nearly enough to require a full 48-ft. or 53-ft. trailer,” CERT says in a fact sheet. “As a result, more than 6.6 million avoidable truck trips occur every year. This inefficiency is only expected to worsen: over the next decade, less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments will grow from 145 million tons to an estimated 204.6 million tons.” Before that happens, however, CERT, SPI and its other industry partners are hoping Congress authorizes the five-foot extension.

More than just reducing inefficiencies and putting $27 billion back into the economy, CERT’s suggested legislative fix will also yield significant environmental benefits. By eliminating those 6.6 million unnecessary truck trips that currently happen each year because of the currently outdated regulations, extending the length of the trucks would result in 204 million fewer gallons of fuel being used by trucks, and reduce carbon emissions by 4.4 billion pounds per year.

If you need any more reason to support CERT, on their website they note that their simple suggested legislative change would eliminate 1.3 billion miles in truck traffic nationwide, making the 42 percent of the nation’s highways that are congested much clearer, and preventing 912 crashes annually.

SPI supports CERT’s plan and stands behind their efforts. The entire $375-billion plastics industry stands behind them and looks forward to repaying the favor through innovation.

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.

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!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Walmart Exec at NPE2015 Invites Plastics Industry to Work with Company to Help Meet $250-Billion U.S. Sourcing Goal

Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio discussed her company’s 2013 pledge to source an additional $250 billion in products from American manufacturers today at NPE2015, during the SPI and IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing. Marsiglio noted that Walmart is working to accomplish its ambitious goal in three ways: 1) buying more from the suppliers Walmart already buys from in the U.S., 2) finding new products made in the U.S. to sell on Walmart shelves and 3) reshoring the manufacturing of goods Walmart currently buys by facilitating these efforts among its suppliers.

BillAndCindi_Walmart

SPI President and CEO William Carteaux and Walmart Vice President of U.S. Manufacturing Cindi Marsiglio at the SPI-IHS Key Market Breakfast Briefing, hosted at NPE2015.

“Reshoring, onshoring, right-shoring, whatever you want to call it,” Marsiglio said, Walmart is “working with our suppliers to devote some resources to assisting them, where it makes economic sense, to bring production to the U.S. from other locations across the globe,” she added.

Innovation in manufacturing, Marsiglio noted, will be key to the “economic sense” aspect of reshoring.  SPI has always supported reshoring and aims to support it in the plastics industry. Walmart is using its retail might to do the same, by supporting innovation, directly and indirectly, in order to make U.S. production more profitable. Hitting the $250 billion target, Marsiglio said, is “going to take some innovation and some changes in some of those core manufacturing processes. Some things have to be made differently to make it cost-effective here.”

To support this innovation, Marsiglio discussed a $10 million innovation fund Walmart created in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors that continues to give out grants for companies working to make all sorts of manufacturing processes more efficient and cost effective. Some specific areas that are ripe for innovation include those that are “primarily focused on textiles—changes to cutting and sewing, weaving, dyeing, printing—small motor assembly, advancements in the assembly of small motors and many of those products, so think home appliances, floor care, hair dryers. We sell a lot of that type of product at Walmart. And the third piece was plastic injection molding and tooling or costs associated with that.”

In addition to supporting reshoring by working to spur innovation in the manufacturing industry, Marsiglio also noted that Walmart facilitates connections between potential suppliers of U.S.-made products and Walmart’s purchasing team through their Open Call series of conferences, the second of which will take place July 7-8 in Bentonville, Ark. At these meetings, manufacturers can work directly with Walmart buyers to pitch their products to the company and, ideally, get them into stores.

“If you’ve got finished products you want to come and pitch to us, we will welcome you. Please share that news with your networks of people as well as your companies that you’re representing today,” Marsiglio said. “We’ll continue to offer those state resources, finance resources, workforce development resources, all of those things Walmart can bring to the table to accelerate our suppliers doing the math to increase their manufacturing here in the U.S. so that we can meet our commitment to purchase more products and bring them to our customers in stores.”

Manufacturers interested in learning more about the Open Call event can find out more here: www.walmart-jump.com. NPE continues in Orlando, Fla.