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New Year's promise: Internet packaging data

Imagine this. You get a sample of a stand-up pouch used to market salad dressings in Australian food stores. Marketing is pushing to introduce such a product/package ASAP.
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You are based in (select one: the U.S. South Africa Brazil the Philippines) and have no other products in pouches. You'd like to know more about the Australian package i.e. What's the pouch structure made of? Is it a preformed design or is it run in-house on form/fill/seal equipment? Who supplies the materials and equipment? What kind of production speeds? How's it case packed? Is the material and equipment available in the market where you are based?

In a matter of minutes with just a few keystrokes on your computer you've got a pretty complete set of specs on the package and located some local material and machinery suppliers with stand-up pouch experience. You connect your research and development team with their technical services people. They exchange data and select a time when everyone can get together again. You'll be out of town but you agree to join everyone on the appointed day and hour. Less than an hour after your search began you're considering several packaging line options. At this pace you might be able to have your product standing on retail shelves in time to meet marketing's deadline.

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Right now you can only imagine that scenario.

But thanks to the rapid development of the Internet as a business tool you (or your competitors) could be launching new packaging projects that way before the year is out.

The Internet isn't much of a broad-band packaging resource right now but every week more packaging producers are establishing "web pages" that let you explore their product offerings. And "web browsers" and "spiders." or "search engines" make it a lot easier for us mere mortals to use the net.

As we go along it's clear some definitions are in order. You won't find these definitions in any Internet glossary. First of all the Internet. Think of it as a telephone system for the electronic transmission of data. Originally designed for government and university scientists until recently it could be traversed successfully only by transmitting a peculiar hieroglyphic code decipherable only by its developers and twenty-something computer hackers.

The World Wide Web. Known to keyboarders around the world as WWW it is a rapidly growing number of "sites" along the Internet. To help you crawl around the web and find packaging "home pages" someone developed "web browsers." These translate Internet code into pictures. "Spiders" or "search engines" help you crawl around the web to "home pages web pages or web sites" which are points of interest. You get the idea someone made up these terms to keep the rest of us in the dark.

But now onto packaging on the Internet. You're probably already familiar with electronic mail or "e-mail" the "no frills" section of the Internet. It's a way to send and receive messages around the world for the price of a local phone call. It's like sending faxes without fax machines paper or long-distance charges.

PACKRND grows daily

If you are e-mail literate you can participate in a packaging discussion group moderated by Ken E. Neuburg director of the packaging program at University of Wisconsin-Stout. The forum called PACKRND grows daily. There are already close to 400 subscribers from around the world who regularly exchange information and views on PACKRND. If you'd like to join the discussion send your first and last name along with the command SUB PACKRND via e-mail to [email protected].

Web-footed packaging scouts can find dozens of large and small packaging companies organizations and individuals on the Web by using the "Yahoo" or "WebCrawler" spiders. Among the on-line packaging pioneers Reynolds Metals Co. (Richmond VA) has one of the most informative sites at http://www.rmc.com. They offer market and industry data as well as product information.

Other packaging home pages we've found: The Glass Packaging Institute (Washington DC) at http://www.gpi.org; can and plastic bottlemaker Ball Corp. (Muncie IN) at http://www.ball.com; machinery manufacturer Horix Manufacturing Co. (Pittsburgh PA) at http://www.sgi. net/horix/index.html; flexible packaging converter James River Corp. (Milford OH) at http://www.jrc.com&#44 and hang-tag maker Do-It Corp. (South Haven MI) at http://www.netplaza.com.do-it.

Dow Chemical (Midland MI) at http://www.dow.com; DuPont Co. (Wilmington DE) at http://www.dupont.com; Eastman Chemical Co. (Kingsport TN) at http://www.eastman.com&#44 and a number of other petrochemical concerns are enwebbed though the packaging rooms in their home pages were in early December sparse under construction or non-existent.

Still it's worth checking periodically for packaging sites because new ones are coming on all the time and the best ones are updated and enriched regularly sometimes even daily.

Later this month the World Packaging Organisation (Herndon VA) is slated to offer links to packaging institutes around the world at http://www.packinfo-world.org.

If you have a packaging website or you've found an interesting one tell PackagingWorld about it. The address is [email protected]. c

Ben Miyares is vice president and editorial director of the newsletter Packaging Strategies. He may be reached at 31408 Narragansett Lane Bay Village OH 44140. Telephone: 216/892-0998; Fax: 216/892-0208; e-mail: [email protected].

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