Monday, April 20th, 2015

On Earth Day, a Chance to Tell the Plastics Industry’s Sustainability Story

There’s a difference between the way people in plastics view themselves and the way people outside of plastics view the industry. To bridge the gap between those two views, the plastics industry has to tell the general public the things it already knows: that plastics has played a vital role in supporting environmental stewardship, that the industry continues to play that role today, from its day-to-day operations to its forward-thinking innovations, and that it’s continually working on ways to make life in the future longer, cleaner and greener than it’s ever been before.

Earth-NASA-2The plastics industry has countless sustainability stories, and SPI knows its members are the ones to tell them. That’s why SPI and the SPI Recycling Committee launched the Sustainability Benchmarking survey in January, the results of which will go on to create the Sustainability Benchmark Tool, which plastics companies will be able to use in the future to see how green they are, and how they can be greener. An informational webinar on the survey and the effort will be hosted on Earth Day, April 22, offering all plastics companies a perfect, timely chance to do their part telling their industry’s environmental story.

“As the 3rd largest manufacturing sector in the United States, the plastics industry has a great economic story to tell, but we also have an important environmental story to tell as well,” said SPI Chairman of the Board of Directors Fred Daniell, president of Kureha America LLC. “The industry is achieving environmental success through the sustainability benefits of our products and the strides the industry is taking to ensure the manufacturing of those products are done in a way that is efficient and minimizes the environmental impacts where possible.”

But instead of just being another voice in the crowd, SPI needs good, hard information from its members in order to truly tell a sustainability story that leaves an impression, and doesn’t falter when critiqued. “We know the industry has good stories, but we need the data to be able to tell that story,” said SPI Senior Director of Recycling and Diversion Kim Holmes. “This is what we’ll capture in the Sustainability Benchmarking Tool effort.”

Daniell echoed Holmes, noting that “the information gathered through this effort will give us the data we need to tell that positive environmental story and shape the conversations about our industry,” he said. “Our advocacy at SPI is based on sound science, and science is based on data. We need your help to build the database necessary to turn our anecdotal debate into data-driven policy.”

PrintDoing your part to communicate the industry’s environmental success stories will afford your company a number of direct benefits, including:

  • Benchmarking your company’s sustainability practices,
  • Undertaking an inventory of sustainability activities if your company has not yet done this,
  • Generating varying levels of reports through the tool to share with customers, or being the critical first step in generating your own corporate sustainability report,
  • Identifying areas of success and opportunities for improvement,
  • Having the information to tell about your own sustainability activities to your employees, community and customers.

But participation in the Sustainability Benchmark Tool survey will yield its own benefits in the form of a potent instrument for illustrating all the good that plastics do for the environment each and every day. In an age of constant cultural sharing and storytelling, it’s often the loudest, clearest voice that cuts through the clutter and makes a lasting impact on public perception. For the sake of all the plastics industry has done, and will do to make life more sustainable, efficient and environmentally sound, we hope you’ll join us in this effort to speak as one industry, sharing the story of all the environmental benefits that plastic provides.

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.


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.”


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.


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.

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.


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: NPE continues in Orlando, Fla.