If you are looking to find out the latest on packaging, packaging equipment and related solutions for industry at large, the "must attend" show is PACK EXPO. PACK EXPO alternates each year between Chicago and Las Vegas. Other associated shows include PACK EXPO East, taking place in April 2018, which provides ease of access for East Coast attendees, and EXPO PACK Mexico (June 2018).
This year’s PACK EXPO Las Vegas Show welcomed 29,500 attendees, up nearly 4 percent from its previous record attendance set in 2015. With 2,000 exhibiting companies and almost 900,000 net square feet of display space, the show was memorable for several reasons. These were some of the things we loved:
Following on the heels of flood and hurricanes, social responsibility was a central theme of the show. PACK gives BACK, a concert for charity event that has become integral to the show over the last seven years, generated its largest audience to date to see the Doobie Brothers. The event, sponsored by Rockwell Automation, was dedicated this year to hurricane and flood relief. Proceeds from the performance, combined with industry donations and show sponsor PMMI’s $100,000 match, pushed PACK EXPO’s hurricane aid past $325,000.
The Packaging & Processing Women’s Leadership Network (PPWLN) breakfast held at PACK EXPO featured Tana Utley as its keynote speaker. Speaking to 500 attendees, Utley, vice president of the large power systems division of Caterpillar, reflected on her 31 years of being a woman, engineer, and leader in the male-dominated manufacturing industry. The Network serves to recruit, retain and advance women’s careers in packaging and processing.
"After thirty-one years at a company, even at the pinnacle of my career, I am dancing backwards in my heels, just like you are," Utley said.
"I’m on a good mission. And you are, too," she continued. "I enjoy being a leader at a company and being the kind of vice president people want to work for. I want to leave a legacy for the people at Caterpillar, as we are building a better world." During her time at Caterpillar, she has worked to dramatically decrease diesel emissions.
The PACK EXPO DRONE DEMO – Packaging for the Last Mile event appeared at the show for the first time, and was a must-see attraction for many. Aside from the novelty aspect, supply chain participants are actively searching for ways to optimize home delivery of their products. Every hour attendees witnessed drones taking off from the top of electric trucks and making deliveries to mock houses populating the 15,000 sq. feet exhibit in the North Hall.
Wikipedia describes the Internet of things (IoT) as "the network of physical devices, vehicles, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data." Connected devices continued to be a focus at this year’s show. Machinery manufacturers are increasingly offering products with sensors which improve setup efficiency while enhancing monitoring capabilities, maintenance and data capture.
Another IoT hot spot pertained to pallets and containers. In fact, the IoT sessions at the Reusable Packaging Learning Center were some of the show’s most popular presentations. Tom Cometa, Head of Worldwide Business Development, BXB Digital, was one of the speakers. Like IFCO, BXB Digital is a Brambles company. BXB is exploring opportunities to place sensors on pallets, a move which would provide valuable operating data for CHEP, as well as important information for customers looking to optimize their supply chains. Discussing the success of other recent business models such as Salesforce and Amazon, he emphasized the crucial importance of ease of use. "Every time we talk to a customer they mention two things to us," he said. "It’s got to be really easy to use, and secondly, must be infrastructure free."
That pretty much describes the PACK EXPO experience – a plethora of packaging vendors at one event, proving ease of access to the latest in packaging equipment, materials and trends.