The packaging industry is at yet another turning point. It’s ironic business is looking to recover labor losses and increased wages by implementing automation. These measures may cause additional job losses. Automation may lead those former workers to no longer afford the products they once help produce.

Burgeoning generations have been exposed to technology their entire lives and believe technology is the sole answer to challenges they face. Companies are starting to believe and align with them. However; this situation is quite fragile. Businesses are implementing technology to improve bottom lines. They seem to forget companies only exist because of its employees. It’s not a race to zero game. If businesses are going to be completely dependent on technology, their view of technology may need a wake up call.

The implementation of technology in companies was to assist and not control the business. If packaging business owners think they can replace employees for technology at a 1:1 ratio, they are wrong. What happens when technology breaks, humans come into play. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are trying to address technology fixing itself which may take longer than some think.

Certain business owners have narrow, short term views by taking immediate market share when in reality they should have long term visions and goals.

A prime example of this is a packaging business trying to attract younger generations (potential customers) to their products via sustainability. Certain businesses are green-washing while others have legitimate sustainable materials. It does not help when the former invest in lobbyists and public relation firms to distort perceptions.

The government is going to have to step-in and meet with the packaging industry to improve relations especially when it comes to sustainability. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) will be enforced since certain business is demanding tax breaks for construction of Material Recovery Facilities (MRF’s) for the materials they produce.

Businesses already receive tax incentives for having packaging manufacturing facilities within certain locations and jurisdictions to improve employment. It’s counter-intuitive to give companies these benefits when they’re the only ones reaping the rewards.

How can the government continue to fund MRF’s when the packaging producers are not openly recycling their own products? A prime example is LDPE and Glass as these materials are less expensive to make from a virgin source compared to making recycled. If the government provides funding for these MRF’s; generally they want the companies who are going to benefit from the MRF’s to create jobs for people. If complete automation by computers, robots, and technology take over human jobs; what does this mean to these contracts? Furthermore; what happens to the the tax base that municipalities, counties, states, and countries depend on? It’s a complex issue.

Technology will continue to assist the packaging industry and business arena, but only to a certain extent. Thus, moving towards a 100% automated packaging system will most not likely happen in the near future. At least until there is a resolution to the human employment issue which is a main driver in all world economies.