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The Web: still searching for relevancy

For many packaging professionals, today's Internet experience is both irritating and irrelevant. In our view, that's because packagers have been deluded into wasting time searching for data that's not there rather than focusing on finding what is likely to be "enWebbed." Packagers who log on to the Web to find a piece of market data, for instance, "how much aluminum foil was sold in the U.S.
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last year for pharmaceutical packaging?" almost always log off without the numbers they are looking for. That's because that kind of information-market statistics-is rarely part of the Web's gratis offerings. If you want good packaging market statistics a dozen well-placed phone calls will still outpull two hours of Internet surfing.

There are exceptions. To get the most out of the World Wide Web (WWW) and preserve your peace of mind don't think of it as a treasure trove of data to be mined. Instead be prepared to encounter a lot of promotional hype and PR palaver. Nevertheless an Internet search for packaging data can turn up some useful information:

Excellent (or at least as good as it gets) production and shipment data on glass containers is available from the Department of Commerce's Census Bureau by logging on to http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/industry/m32g9611.txt. For the Food & Drug Administration's take on health-related issues-President Clinton's call for improved food processing and packaging standards for instance-go to FDA's "What's New?" page at http://www.fda.gov/opacom/hpwhats.html.

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The Glass Packaging Institute site (shown above) located at http://www.gpi.org&#44 showcases some of the newest glass containers (but doesn't credit designers or manufacturers). At the Closure Manufacturers Association site you can order standard closure drawings for a couple of dozen metal or plastic caps at http://www.gpi.org/cmafins.htm.

By and large however the Web is a better place to locate suppliers and resources than market data and technical specifications. Be aware that the Web and the real world are two different realities. In the real world Crown Cork & Seal (Philadelphia PA) is the largest packaging supplier anywhere. Not on the Web. In fact CCS doesn't even have a home page. Nor does Silgan Containers Corp. (Woodland Hills CA) now the largest producer of steel food cans in North America.

Among canmakers who are on the Web you'll find that Ball Corp. (Muncie IN) at http://www.ball.com is the most diversified with operations spanning aluminum beverage cans steel two- and three-piece food cans PET bottles and several continents.

Another major canmaker with a presence on the web Reynolds Metals Co. (Richmond VA) has what I consider one of the most useful Web sites at http://www.rmc.com. There you'll find details on its two-piece can making operations a comprehensive table of current Reynolds can specs from 5.5 to 32 oz in capacity and a lot more. At http://www.packnet.com/aboutPMMI/profile.htm&#44 part of the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute's site you can find some U.S. packaging machinery sales volume and market data as well as a complete list of PMMI member contacts.

Naturally if it's a bit of data-a company name material specification line speed market introduction etc.-covered by Packaging World in the last year or so you can find it by searching the magazine's archives at http://www.packworld.com. There you'll also find one of the most comprehensive lists of packaging-related associations anywhere (103 last time we counted) including addresses phone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses. At our own site http://www.packmgmt.com&#44 daily packaging headlines are the prime menu fare.

Want to locate a packaging supplier? A helpful Web resource is AOL's Switchboard(TM) people and business directory at http://switchboard.com. (You can use this site even if you're not an AOL subscriber.) Enter what you know about your target and Switchboard will often find them.

Alta Vista (http://altavista.digital.com) or one of several other business Internet "search engines" will usually bring up hundreds even thousands of possible sites for you to visit. But scanning the list of presented sites for what you're looking for is a lot like using an unabridged unalphabetized dictionary.

A recent Web search for "ICI" where we hoped to get information on Kaladex® polyethylene naphthalate film from ICI Americas (Wilmington DE) turned up 60 possible sites. Turns out ICI is something called the Interactive Curriculum Institute the Instructional Computing Initiative and dozens of other things. If you're interested in PEN film and label stock you'll avoid the trouble I had by logging directly on to http://www. icipolyester.com/kaladex.htm.

To a large extent the packaging neighborhood of the World Wide Web is a work in progress. Every day someone new moves into the neighborhood. In two years of surfing we've barely scratched the packaging surface and listed here only the smallest fraction of what we've found. Have you had better luck? Send an e-mail to [email protected] with your favorite WWW packaging sites. We'll check them out and publish your best picks in a future column.

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