Jacky Sidebottom-Every, Joint Managing Director at Glossop Cartons, explores the challenges currently facing the packaging industry and how the company maximises opportunities for the taking.
Having worked in carton manufacturing for more than 36 years, I’ve seen some significant changes; some driven by us (For example, we were one of the first in the industry to achieve BS 5750) and some imposed by external influencers.
With Brexit on the horizon, one thing’s for certain – there’s more to come!
Depending on your perspective, change offers both challenges and opportunities. At Glossop Cartons, our approach is simple; we identify, assess and plan the best route to ensure the business not only survives change but thrives on it.
As in most sectors, Brexit remains the main topic of conversation in ours. Hopefully as 2019 progresses, the uncertainty surrounding it will start to disappear because above all we need clarity. But while Brexit is making our negotiations with European clients and suppliers a little awkward, we don’t see it as an obstacle to our plans to expand.
There could, however, be some short term disruption to the outward supply of products and inward supply of stock caused by delays around customers procedures. So we’re implementing some contingency plans designed to mitigate their impact including; increasing our holding of consumables; encouraging clients to forward order; forward-ordering raw carton board ourselves and making sure we have a good stock of machine parts to prevent any delays getting replacement parts from disrupting our day-to-day operations.
We’ve also organised bank accounts in both sterling and euros to enable us to receive payment or pay for goods in the most efficient and effective currency for any given contract.
World pulp prices
The price of wood pulp increased significantly throughout 2018 which had a knock on effect on the price of GC boards and made life financially challenging for carton converters.
We try to absorb as much of the increase as we could but there is a point at which we have to look to our clients to meet the shortfall. Clearly no-one wants to have those conversations but we’ve been fortunate because we’ve developed strong relationships with our customers over many years which has made those conversations a little easier.
Skills and recruitment
The printing and packaging sector requires a workforce with specific skills, expertise and professionalism. But it’s an ageing work force and it can be challenging to recruit – especially younger people who don’t consider it an attractive career option.
This year we are intensifying our plans to recruit, develop and train the workforce we need for the generations to come. In particular, we’re focussing in on changing young people’s perceptions about the industry to ensure the cascade of skills and knowledge from our existing workforce to the employees of the future.
We are also investing in our management team so we can both direct and deliver our ambitious growth plans. Mid last year, Wayne Fitzpatrick joined us from Mayr-Melnhof Packaging as sales director. He brings with him more than 25 years’ experience and his insight will be invaluable in helping us maximise future opportunities. His appointment has already enabled me to take a more strategic role as joint MD.
Sustainability & innovation
A common theme for our customers across all sectors is the focus on sustainability and the increasing demand for eco-friendly, low carbon footprint packaging. We’ve long been investing in this area, manufacturing products that are recyclable (and in most cases, bio-degradable). Our carton board, for example, is sourced from mills that adopt a 3:1 planting programme and farmed from accredited, managed, sustainable forests.
Customers are looking for a combination of unique packaging design and reduced pack size. We’re responding to that demand by innovating, developing and producing packaging which balances green and eco-conscious requirements with eye catching design, while always meeting relevant product safety requirements.
So as we look to the rest of 2019 and beyond, we acknowledge and are planning for the challenges ahead while welcoming the opportunities we will meet – and create – along this year’s journey.