As the 2015 General Election looms, manufacturing in the UK will be a key issue with all the main political parties insisting that they will introduce measures to boost productivity and improve the UK's economic performance in this vital sector.
Despite an improving economy, there is still scope for improvement in productivity as Britain is now around a fifth less productive per worker than its main competitors. However, one industry in the UK that has already proven that it is up to the challenge of improving its productivity is corrugated packaging, says the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI).
Due to forward thinking and innovation, the UK Corrugated Industry has become a leaner manufacturing machine following an efficiency drive that has seen productivity driven up 40% in a decade and almost £500million invested in new machinery and plant over the last two years.
Efficient production – 42% of all paper output from UK mills is turned into packaging – goes hand in hand with sustainability. The introduction of lightweight papers has resulted in a seven per cent decrease in weight, contributing to a reduction in the industry's carbon footprint of 16% between 2005 and 2011.
The UK Corrugated Industry - a major part of the £6.5billion turnover UK Paper Industry - is the fifth largest market in Europe and is doing more with less by taking effective steps to hold its own in a fiercely competitive global market.
Corrugated's versatility makes it a vital logistics partner in the 21st Century supply chain. Its importance to many UK food businesses - as shown in a recent survey by CPI - and popularity with consumers for grocery shopping (YouGov poll 2014), are further indicators of the material's vital place in today's society.
As brand owners battle for space and prominence on supermarkets' busy shelves, latest research* predicts that adopting vibrant and innovative packaging could sway the purchase decisions that many consumers will make in 2015.
It's no surprise a product's best advertising is its own packaging, and corrugated plays a pivotal role for retailers and brand owners. Its ability to provide effective on-pack communications to entice consumers is reflected by demand for the material** which is expected to increase worldwide by an average of more than four percent annually over the next five years.
Shoppers are moving away from large out of town stores in favour of convenience outlets. By developing smaller pack sizes, corrugated box makers are helping to meet demand from consumers and retailers for attractive and sustainable grocery packaging. Corrugated's adaptability also reduces consumer food waste. There is growing recognition that food waste is 10 times as significant as the impact of packaging.
CPI's Director of Packaging Affairs, Andy Barnetson, says that the Corrugated Industry's innovative packaging solutions, coupled with renowned environmental credentials – corrugated is the most recycled material in the packaging industry – are boosting its appeal.
He explained: "The bottom line is that corrugated is a forward looking industry investing in efficient manufacturing solutions for a sustainable future. Its flexibility and qualities in terms of printing, design, hygiene, logistics and protection give it a significant edge over alternative forms of packaging. Its successful shelf ready packaging and functionality is benefitting brand owners, consumers and the environment alike."
The Corrugated Industry may not have all the answers to the nation's productivity dilemma but its continued investment in, and drive for, innovative and sustainable packaging solutions are making a valuable contribution to the UK's manufacturing base.