E-commerce may be booming, but the packaging that items come in has become a concern for consumers. What can designers do to make packaging affordable, reliable and eco-friendly? Delivery services and e-commerce have seen a jump in demand as more people than ever are working, learning and socialising from home. This increase in online shopping has a downside, however – a corresponding rise in waste. These interrelated trends have shone a spotlight on the role of packaging. How a product looks – and ships – plays an essential role in the decision to buy an item, the process by which it arrives at a home and the way it eventually leaves. With the at-home economy likely to continue at least in the near future, increasing the sustainability of packaging will be key to reducing the carbon footprint of e-commerce.
In May of 2016, ePac was founded in Madison, Wisconsin to utilize new digital printing technologies to primarily focus on the growth of small to medium brands, thereby helping to rebuild local communities. In these past 5 years ePac has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 80%, operates 20 facilities globally with a capacity of about $500,000,000 and serves over 5,000 customers.
The underlying strategy was to deconstruct and then reconstruct a simple replicable business model that could provide RotoGravure quality, short lead times, and no sku limitations at a competitive price. The last point basically dispels the notion that digital printing is only for short runs. During the last five years, the average order size across all ePacs has stayed constant at less than 10,000 linear feet, however, ePac today regularly handles runs exceeding 100,000 linear feet per SKU across its global virtual network.
In order to create an ePac that could grow at a rate to disrupt Flexible Packaging, the founders decided to go with an unique business model called Biomimicry. Biomimicry, or Biometrics, is an innovative concept for complex problem solving inspired by nature, which dates back to ancient cave drawings and architecture found in the Roman and Greek empires. Biomimicry consists of mechanical, structural and biological elements. The mechanical element is an easy to replicate plant in a box, which can be built in 120 days. For the structural element, ePac Holdings was created to reduce the complexity normally found in a traditional flexible packaging company, like IT, Treasury, Legal, R&D, Marketing and Procurement. On the biological side, each ePac plant is allowed to grow unfettered and focus on local sales, helping its customers grow, and perfecting the manufacturing process.
Finally, the company required an experienced team to create this new model. Carl Joachim, CMO, spent his career working with digital print technologies starting with Xerox. Parag Patel, CIO, who has built e-commerce companies and was recently with AutoZone attracted the right team to digitize the ePac business model and Jim Braun, CFO, has held CFO positions globally for printing companies both in the private and public sectors. Finally Jack Knott and Virag Patel have been in the flexible packaging industry for decades, with Coveris, Exopack, Pliant, Huntsman Packaging, CT Films and Rexene.
So what will the next five years bring? According to Jack Knott, CEO: “ePac will continue to replicate at a similar 80% CAGR globally, the digitization of ePac’s business model will drive a world class customer experience, the power of serialized printing and blockchain technology will allow direct B2C communications on an individual basis, and with this growth ePac will continue the optimization of the competitive cost structure”.