KHS competence: Mr. Steinle, what did you see when you looked into your crystal ball this morning?
Steinle (laughs): We don’t use tools like this. That really would be a dilemma if something like this worked! Imagine if we really could predict the future. That would also mean that it’s inevitable; we’d be puppets and not people who can shape and change the future with our thoughts and actions.
Where do your tasks lie within the company?
Our main task is to enable people and companies to be proactive by informing them about various trend developments. We also help them to use this knowledge in their relevant field of business. This includes providing direct support in the development of innovative products and services.
And what exactly should we imagine your work is like?
In principle we use the same tools as journalists for our trend analyses. We make exciting findings from the information we collect. We run internal empirical tests, link up all of the data we’ve collated and from this derive various hypotheses on the future. We then check these using indicators of quality and quantity.
One of the helpful instruments we’ve developed for structured strategic change processes in companies is our megatrend map. This depicts the eleven big global social changes with all their facets, networks and spheres of influence. Our map shows that megatrends are interdisciplinary, very long-term global developments which encroach upon all areas of life.
What trends do you see for the food and beverage industry market?
The main megatrend here is individualization which opens up many opportunities. We’re assuming that this will alter the food and beverage market the most. The individualization process forces the use of smaller batches in conjunction with personalized products and packaging.
What does this mean exactly?
Consumers prefer to support the small brewery round the corner because they associate its range with products from their local area. This fits in with the strong trend for craft beers which, in having their own character, consciously distinguish themselves from the masses. In the last few years a similar trend has emerged among food products which also want to create a sense of home, such as yogurt made with local fruit. Both developments represent the customers’ wish to help retain a certain variety and preserve local value chains. Basically, customers link this to a better world – and for them this starts on a small scale, right outside their front door.
What changes will there be for suppliers?
If our world gravitates more towards local circulation and we again have more smaller companies, these can exploit their local advantages. They score on proximity and individual special features which today are important to people. Individualization kicks in here, too, as small suppliers can specifically distinguish themselves from the rest with special systems and solutions.
What do you advise the big food producers?
For industrial manufacturers of food and beverages the art here is to combine the big with the small. Like the automobile industry does with its individual configurations of car. Why shouldn’t there also be global brands in the food sector which rely much more heavily on local resources? In other words, brands which adopt a different approach and state that they promise to provide quality worldwide but chose to do so on a very local scale.
Andreas Steinle, managing director of Zukunftsinstitut Workshop GmbH, talks to KHS competence.
“Strength lies in innovative leadership and keeping your options open for the future.”
Does this mean that in the future there will also be more individual solutions when it comes to packaging?
Yes, this trend also applies to packaging. Individualization is becoming increasingly important, regarding both shape and lettering.
What does this mean for manufacturers of packaging machines and systems?
It’s always vital to be sensitive to change, to keep questioning strategies and to develop a sense of when systems change their makeup or direction. Today we speak of realtime business but the future is predictive business. Here, we must increasingly recognize where business lies in the future and to advise customers with this in mind.
The world is networking more and more. Will this change the range of services offered?
Definitely. Products and services can’t be seen as separate entities anymore. In the future we’ll only have combined offers, where data analysis and consultancy services are supplied together with the line or system. More and more products will be kitted out with communicative intelligence and give the user feedback. One good example is the intelligent toothbrush which already exists. It records the time you take to brush your teeth and shows a smiley on the integrated display if you’ve brushed for long enough. At the next stage in communication additional media can be used. For example, your smartphone can motivate you to keep to the brushing time in a fun and entertaining manner. Products and services like this are then much more complex and the work of interdisciplinary teams, with product designers, engineers, media designers and TV producers gathered round the table.
You basically thus have to realize which data you have and what you can do with it. The app recently developed by KHS moves in this direction, where customers have access to the relevant information on their lines and machines anytime, anywhere.
What can we expect regarding sustainability?
Our awareness of sustainability will continue to steadily grow. We’re convinced of this. For instance, organic beverages are often designed as a counterpart to mass production. They’re supposed to signify that everything’s made by hand and that the beverage only contains what it should contain. They often also have a social aspect. For example, with every bottle they sell some producers also pledge to support fair trade or various social projects.
Could this also be an indication of demographic development?
Sure. The young generation is a lot more open-minded. The young have also grown up with a very different concept of ’us’ and question more than we do.
Where do you see other starting points for increased sustainability within the industry?
We could launch a new discussion here, for example, and through ecological assessment prove which benefits are to be had from using fewer resources in the production and supply chain. We can see that ecological principles pay off here, too.
Are consumers actually prepared to pay more for sustainability?
Customers honor the organic idea and similar concepts which provide good, moral added value with a surcharge of about 10%. For local, neighborly product solutions this may be a little more.
Does this also apply to the packaging?
Consumers don’t see packaging separately. They’re interested in the overall concept, of which the packaging is a part. What they want is a clever combination of product concept, production process, including the entire supply chain, and the image of the company behind it all. If this forms a successful whole, then consumers are prepared to pay a little bit extra.
How are glass and PET positioned?
If we look at much increased organic market, glass is currently a dominant form of packaging. This doesn’t stop customers from also buying the practical and lighter PET bottle, however. The situation is not polarized like it used to be, namely that one is good and the other bad. In one context glass may prove to be more sensible and in another PET.
I think there’s a good chance of going to market with more PET if the concept is right. For instance, if you come up with a really original design and an innovative approach and combine the one with the other.
What role will recycling play in the future?
There’s quite a lot of potential in this field. The idea of the recycling loop or cycle has to take hold here. We’re still very much working in extremely isolated cycles: PET can be turned back into PET bottles, for instance. But let’s look forward a few years; we could feed a 3D printer with the material from used bottles and make all kinds of objects. We don’t even have to design them ourselves, as the template for the 3D print could maybe be supplied by company A and then downloaded as a digital file from company B’s Internet store. We’d then be in a very different dimension of loops and cycles which also make sense because products would then no longer have to be transported long distances.
A greater diversity of concept and innovative recycling loops: what else can we expect of PET in the next 10 to 20 years?
Our world thrives on cross-innovation, i.e. the interlinking of trends from various sectors. This also makes the combinations of different materials very exciting. One current example that springs to mind is that of a certain porcelain manufacturer in Thuringia. The company coats its porcelain with an individual, velvety soft covering and is on a sensational rise. Who knows – maybe in the future glass and PET will no longer be so polarized and we’ll see more and more innovative combinations. KHS already has a PET/ glass compound, for instance.* This is especially good for customers who want to market a special promise of quality together with their products. Here, too, strength lies in innovative leadership and keeping your options open for the future.
Many thanks for the interview, Mr. Steinle, and for your interesting view of the future.
The interview was conducted by Jörg Michael Pläske.