Over the last three days, members of the UK processing and packaging industry have descended on the Birmingham NEC for the 2019 PPMA Total Show. The biggest machinery exhibition in the UK, the PPMA Total event showcases over 2,500 brands across 450 stands.

PPMA Total Show 2019The show’s footfall was pretty impressive and gave plenty of opportunities for networking, product demonstrations, and speaker sessions.

Since technical translations are one of Ultimate Languages’ core specialisms, with several clients in the processing and packaging industry, PPMA Total was one of the first events we added to our calendar. It allowed us to learn about the latest developments in some of our favourite areas:

  • Food and beverage
  • Household products
  • Luxury goods
  • Cosmetics and personal care
  • Pharmaceuticals

We also conducted a survey at the event, asking exhibitors and attendees about the potential export challenges the processing and packaging industry currently face. You can see the full results here.

So let’s get into my top three takeaways from this year’s event…

Reduce, reuse, recycle
Sprites ‘Clear is the new Green’ campaign

Sprite’s ‘Clear is the new Green’ campaign

We’ve all seen the environmental impact of plastic waste in the media, but have we stopped for a minute to think about the people and companies behind plastic packaging?

Responsible manufacturing was one phrase I heard repeatedly during my conversations at the show. It was great to see so many companies developing innovative solutions to result in improved recyclability. Take, for example, Sprite’s recent decision to move from their iconic green plastic bottle to a more “easily recycled” clear version.

Some organisations are also attempting to move to plastic-free manufacturing, with global leader in packaging and paper, Mondi, championing this through their “paper where possible, plastic when useful” campaign.

I’ll look forward to seeing how manufacturers in the processing and packaging sector continue to drive change through innovation.

ISO compliant translation for manufacturers

Digital Transformation

I’m a stickler for a (cute) robot, and there were plenty of incredible robotic displays at the show. With more and more organisations looking to improve production line efficiencies through the implementation of smart factories, it’s clear we’ll see more applications of machine learning, AI and digital transformation in this industry.

When it comes to language services, machine learning is now widely accepted, but this is something of a challenge for the processing and packaging industry. In a recent interview with Packaging Europe magazine, Paolo Butti, OEM Director EMEA for Rockwell Automation, stressed how digital transformation in this sector is just as much about a cultural shift as a technological one…

“The majority of this transformation – even if it comes through the installation of new machines – involves human-machine interfaces which means a new set of skills and new people” – Paolo Butti

Again, this is another area for processing and packaging machinery manufacturers to consider, as more and more industries move towards Industry 4.0.

Peter Conradi, Europe Editor for The Sunday Times

Peter Conradi, Europe Editor for The Sunday Times

What’s next for Europe?

The keynote speaker on day two of the event was Europe Editor for The Sunday Times, Peter Conradi.

In his session – Forecasting the UK’s Political and Business Relationship From Across the Channel – Peter addressed the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the economic impact that it is likely to have on UK businesses.

He described Brexit as a “major turning point in history” comparing it to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break down of the Soviet Union.

Those in attendance were looking to Peter to shed some light on what Europe will look like as a trading partner after the 31st October. Unfortunately, Peter’s presentation came only a few hours after Boris Johnson’s announcement at the Conservative Party Conference, where he presented his plans to address the ‘Brexit Trilemma’, meaning we’re still no closer to knowing what the trading landscape will look like three months from now.

One thing that Peter did say though, is that, despite a slight drop from 2% to 1%, the UK economy is still set to achieve some growth in 2019 through trade with the mainland. So it’s not all doom and gloom!

Highlights of the show

It’s always good to see events like PPMA Total booming with attendees and exhibitors alike. I learnt a lot about the challenges that the industry is facing, as well as the amazing opportunities that have been presented to manufacturers in this sector.

Sustainability, responsibility and transformation will shape the processing and packaging industry, meaning that it is definitely one area to keep a close eye on over the coming months/years.

Looking forward to what 2020 brings.