The need for flexibility definitely transcends market silos. For example, in PMMI's recent Machinery Communications study, end-users indicated that a major goal for automation on a line is increased flexibility. Consumers want variety in package formats and products, and to deliver that, manufacturers need flexibility in both processing and packaging. Making significant changes to manufacturing operations can be challenging for companies, so investigating new technologies to see what fits into their current line is critical. To help them mitigate these challenges, PMMI has expanded the PACK EXPO shows to include processing innovations.
We are also seeing a growing need for skilled workers to manage increasingly complex and automated lines. As equipment becomes more advanced to deliver the flexibility required by end-users, the workforce must possess an understanding of electrical and mechanical issues. PMMI has been working with industry experts and schools to indentify the mechatronics skills required, develop a series of tests to help employers indentify skilled workers and create tools to advance the skill level of existing workers -- all as part of our Mechatronics Certificate program.
What is the event about?
The event is actually two events in one: PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO. They will be co-located at the Las Vegas Convention Center this year from Monday, September 25, to Wednesday, September 27.
The event is the largest gathering in North America of suppliers and manufacturers of packaging supplies and equipment. The event provides an opportunity for the industry to showcase their latest products and services to the entire spectrum of industry customers, from food to pharmaceuticals.
How many attendees and exhibitors do you expect this year?
We are anticipating about 30,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors for the combined event, which will cover nearly 900,000 square feet of exhibit space. More than 15% of the attendees are from outside the US.
It’s a big event with a lot of people and it bring the entire industry together to view see the latest technologies, products, and solutions, as well as providing an opportunity for attendees to network among their peers.
What is the reason of combining the two events?
The Healthcare Packaging EXPO is a new addition to our event lineup this year. In the past, we have had a separate pavilion devoted to the pharmaceutical industry, but the healthcare area has developed and become sufficiently specialized that a standalone show is warranted.
By segmenting healthcare, we give the attendees the opportunity to focus on their specific interests; but at the same time, it gives them access related technologies and ideas that might not be available at a dedicated healthcare packaging show. So, we believe the synergy between the two shows is a value add for both attendees and exhibitors.
Please describe some of your education sessions and how attendees can benefit.
Our educational program is organized around what we call Innovation Stages. We have three stages set up in the Central Hall where we run concurrent secessions. The programs bring together industry leaders and subject matter experts to focus on the industry’s top-of-mind issues and trends. To date, we have 45 sessions scheduled. We also have a separate Innovation Stage specifically for the healthcare industry.
The Innovative Stage topics cover all kinds of issues and technology related to the packaging industry. Some of the topics included in this year’s program are: food labeling, coding. serialization, safety, sustainability, smart packaging, flexible systems, automation, high pressure processing, and remote monitoring. The 30-minute sessions run at the top of every hour for 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, which leaves time after each session for attendees to interface with the experts and confer with their colleagues.
There is also an area focus called the Reusable Packaging Learning Center within the show. The growing trend with e-commerce and home delivery has raised concerns about the quantity of packaging that is being generated. We will have a number of panels devoted the issue and possible solutions.
In addition to the Innovation Stages, many of our exhibitors offer product demonstrations and Q&A sessions at their booths. Exhibitor demonstrations have become very popular in the last several years, particularly where the exhibitors have their company experts showing off their latest technologies.
Do you have pavilions on the floor devoted to specific areas of interest?
PACK EXPO is a large and diverse show and we organize the exhibitors to make the floor more convenient for attendees. For example, we have a Containers and Materials Pavilion which focuses on mostly on packaging materials - paperboard, glass, metal, and plastic – and the related technologies and packaging equipment.
We have a Confectionary Pavilion, which focus on the confectionary and candy segment of the packaging industry. It is sponsored by the National Confectioners Association, NCA, and bring together exhibitors showing the latest technologies and innovations in that area.
The Reusable Packaging Pavilion is another area with a specialty focus. Attendees looking for reusable packaging, reusable products, services, and supply solutions can find out about the latest developments in that area.
We also have an area we call The Showcase of Package Innovations which is sponsored by DOW. This an area that features award-nominated packaging across the industry. Many different organizations have award programs each year and we provide as area where they come together and showcase their top innovations. Anybody looking for the latest, greatest, newest innovations in packaging should visit that showcase.
Who are the key sponsors for the event?
Because of the diversity of the industry, we have sponsors that are focused on different market segments. For example, we have a Baking & Snack Break lounge hosted by the American Baker’s Association. They are having a reception on Tuesday, September 26th, at 3:30. Attendees from the baking and snack industry will use the event to network and share ideas about the latest issues and developments in their segment of the industry.
The beverage segment is having a similar reception on Tuesday afternoon at the Beverage Cooler Lounge, and the confectionary industry has a reception at The Candy Bar Lounge. The lounges give the attendees who are from the same industry a place to get together with their colleagues.
Packaging education is very important to the industry, so we are also hosting a fundraiser called Pack Gives Back. The proceeds from the event will benefit the PACK EXPO Scholarship fund, which provides grants to colleges around the country that have packaging and processing programs.
For the fundraiser this year, we are bringing in The Doobie Brothers for a concert, which will be held Monday afternoon, September 25th. The price of admission, which includes beer, wine and light hors d’oeuvres, is $75.
Are there any other special events planned?
Every half hour, there will be a exciting demo going on during the event called “Drone Demo-Packaging for the Last Mile.” The demo, which is being put on the Workhorse, will show how drones and remote vehicles can be used to deliver packages. They will demonstrate how a drone can be launched from a remote electric vehicle and deliver a package to a doorstep without the need of human assistance.
Then on Wednesday, we have the Amazing Packaging Race, which is sponsored by ASCO and Emerson. The event is an opportunity for students who come to our show to interact with exhibitors.
The participating students are divided into groups of four and five students. Then the groups go around the floor interacting with the exhibitor displays and doing different tasks. The team that gets most points wins an iPad courtesy of our sponsors.
We also have the NextGEN Networking Fair on Monday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00. This is opportunity for exhibitors and industry professionals to meet students who are looking for career opportunities in the industry.
Another group that we sponsor is the Packaging & Processing Women’s Leadership Network. Bringing women into the packaging industry is one of our goals and recruiting, retaining, and advancing women’s careers through leadership development, networking, and mentoring is the group’s objective. Last year, over 600 women registered for the event.
Who should attend your event?
Most of our attendees are professionals in the packaging industry. Companies looking for packaging solutions or ways to improve their supply chain operations send plant managers, engineers, brand managers, or production people to the event. Attendees cover the range of market segments including: baking, snacks, beverages, confectionary, food, meat, poultry, and seafood.
We also have a substantial participation from the medical, personal care, and dairy industries. Basically, anyone in manufacturing who requires packaging in any way would come to our show – or, should come to our show.
How has the show evolved over the past few years?
We have found that taking people off the exhibit floor to a ballroom for an educational secession or presentation is not effective. People are busy and want to maximize their time at the show. So, we have structured our show, more and more every year, to focus on where people are going and what they are doing. That is why we have our stages set up on the exhibit floor close to where everything is happening.
Even the Drone Demonstration is on the show floor and available for everyone to witness. The different pavilions and lounges where people meet and gather, are also on the floor. Our objective is to make the exhibitor booths and program venues as convenient and accessible as possible.
We also have developed a robust mobile app to make it easy for attendees to find what they need. They can locate the educational sessions, booths, and special events right on their smart phones. While we have had the app for several years, every year we have improved its capability.
Would you tell us more about your association?
PMMI is the association for packaging and processing technology. We are a membership organization with over 800 members representing the packaging and supply chain industry, which includes everything from containers, materials, equipment, to technology. Our goal is to promote the industry, its interests, and efficiency. We are not a professional organization and do not allow individuals to join as members.
MMI was incorporated 84 years ago, in 1933. Although the organization has evolved quite a bit, our main goal has remained the same and we showcase it through everything that we do: organize trade shows, provide business intelligence, and offer industry related education.
In addition to our annual Las Vegas show, we have two shows in Mexico. One of the shows is in Mexico City and one in Guadalajara – the location alternates every other year. We maintain an office in Mexico because that is really an important market for our members who sell their equipment and services to local companies.
Would you describe briefly your certification program?
PMMI offers a Mechatronics certification. It is a certification designed specifically for mechanical and electrical professionals who service and maintain packaging and processing equipment. We organize training programs for our members and offer a variety of continuing education programs through PMMI U, which is our education arm.
PMMI U has just completed two courses, one titled the Total Cost of Ownership and the other titled Cyber Security. Risk assessment and safety are some of the areas of recent focus, but the education group undertake research and study on many related topics and present their findings at both national and regional meetings.
We do our best to not only provide that kind of information for our members, but also share that information to the entire industry. Our PMMI Media Group in Chicago publishes targeted trade magazines, which is another way we try to keep the industry informed about the latest innovations and issues.
Our publications include: Packaging World, Automation World, Healthcare Packaging, Contract Packaging, Pro Food World, Packaging, and Processing OEM.