Consumers Infest the Factory


The title of this post may seem a little bit emotionally charged. But this is actually an emotionally charged subject. Consumers are gaining more power in the supply chain. There was a time when the factory could call the shots, telling brands what was possible and rejecting designers’ whimsical ideas in favor of more standardized, easy to make options.

There’s still a little bit of that going on. Packaging facilities can offer a good price on standardized containers and some brands — Jones Soda, for example — will get creative within those parameters.

But the brands don’t really have the power any more, either. There was a time when a brand could lay down the law on what was going to be in style for the coming season, knowing that consumers and retailers alike would accept the brand’s decrees.

But then retailers gained the power. A grocery chain could make it clear that they expected packaging that would keep costs down, streamline the supply chain, make shipping easier, and look just right on shelves. House brands grew and brands had to keep up with the retailer’s rules.

That version of reality is heading into the past very quickly. Now the empowered consumer demands customization. Retailers get the pressure from consumers and pass it on to brands. Brands pass it on to manufacturers.

And packaging, one of the industries where Rexroth motion control solutions often turn up, is getting the brunt of this change in the world.

Take a new report on “Hot Drinks: Identifying the latest trends for beverage manufacturers in the hot drinks industry” from Radiant Insights. One of the particularly radiant insights in the report is that people want more convenient forms of their hot drinks, from instant powders to self-heating canned drinks. But they also think that the more convenient options are lower in quality than the less convenient ones.

Anyone who has tried a self-heating coffee beverage (yeah, it’s a clue when they have to say “coffee beverage”) and compared it with a fresh cup of espresso brewed in a machine that grinds the beans and heats the water for each individual cup… well, let’s just say that we know why consumers think that the more convenient drinks are lower in quality.

But the hot drinks industry isn’t going along with that. “To offset this,” the industry report says, “manufacturers must market products as of a premium class through top-quality packaging materials, designs, and packaging claims.”

Notice that they’re not recommending actually having a premium class product. Packaging is now responsible for getting the idea across, whatever is actually in the can, bottle, or flexible pouch.

The result is that printing machines are expected to do ever fancier jobs, with short runs that inevitably limit the opportunity to make the fancy footwork profitable.

Across the board, pressure from consumers is seeping into the factory. And there was plenty of pressure in the factory before.

One thing we can help you with: the performance of your Rexroth electric motion control system. We’re specialists with decades of experience. If you’re having a problem with your servo motors, drives, and controls, chances are good that we’ve seen it before.


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