Mister Beacon Episode #134
Reusable Packaging: Transforming Supply Chains & Business Models with IoTAugust 31, 2021
This week we’ve brought on Tim Debus, who is the President and CEO of The Reusable Packaging Association, to talk about the various benefits businesses can realize when they turn to sustainable, reusable packaging. Tim’s focus is on transportation and distribution packaging (such as bins, crates, etc.), which is an area primed for disruption and improvement.
Combined with auto-ID technology, reusable packaging is sure to change the supply chain industry as a whole, making the experience better (and more lucrative) for both buyers and sellers alike. Enjoy this conversation as we cover everything from grocery stores, clothing supply chains, and the circular economy as a whole.
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Steve Statler 00:00
Welcome to the Mr. beacon podcast. This week's episode is lifting the lid on something which is deceptively simple, the world of plastic crates, reusable containers. we're interviewing Tim Debus who is the CEO of the reusable packaging Association. And this is an area that is not understood well, a lot of people write off these plastic crates and boxes, and don't think about them at all. But really, what we're going to discuss is how this is transforming supply chains, how it's transforming the way people run their business, making a huge difference environmentally, probably, more importantly, is driving huge savings, huge increases in profit, different business models, and leverages IoT technology to do it in ways that you may not have considered. So to see the other side of something that seems simple, but actually has a lot to it to get smart about an area that's rapidly increasing in terms of its significance, and relevance. The salon Mr. Beacon Podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, intelligence for everyday things, powered by IoT Pixels. Well, Tim, welcome to the Mr. Beacon Podcast. I really appreciate your joining us. And I'm very, very much looking forward to getting into what the reusable packaging association is focused on. And what I want to do is understand, you know, what, what do you mean by reusable packaging, and why we should be focused on it. And then how it has a link with the Internet of Things, the technology that we're focused on on this podcast. So maybe we should start off with what is reusable packaging?
Tim Debus 02:18
Well, thank you, it's great to be here and talk about the exciting area of development that has been around but continues to find way to achieve high performance and create value and certainly emerged as one of the solutions to solve a lot of the problems that we have in society today, which will, we'll get into and the notion of reusable packaging is simply packaging that can be used over and over again. But what that means is that it was designed and manufactured to be very durable, to have stability, that has properties that allow it to be used for its intended purpose be recovered and put back into use. In effect, you're able to use a product that doesn't create waste, that actually is used over and over again for an extended period of time. Our particular focus at the reusable packaging association is on transport or distribution packaging, the business to business movement of goods in supply chains. So we represent member companies that are involved with pallets, crates, totes, Benz trays, things that are used to carry goods, from say a point of harvest, to point a processing or point of manufacture, from distribution, say from manufacturing to point of sale. And these products are ubiquitous, but used commonly around the world to be able to move goods as efficiently as possible. So the idea of reuse is to actually have durability inherent within these products. But really also the systems in place, that these products can be recovered and put back into use go back to their intended purpose and point of fill that can start that journey again. So those are two very important characteristics when you're looking at to reuse the strength and durability to last oftentimes measured over a point of years in the system in place for collecting these products after they're used in moving the back to the first point of their use in terms of filling and moving that product over again.
Steve Statler 04:40
And those systems, it seems like this taxonomy some groupings of different kinds of systems that are used, and I've kind of heard of closed loop and open loop. I don't know whether that's the right terminology, but can can you educate us a bit on that?
Tim Debus 04:59
Sure. There's a lot of difference of viewpoints, when you hear closed loop and open loops that are very popular terms used within our industry, and we actually took a step to define them in what in what they mean. And in simply a closed loop often refers to from our perspective, is the movement of these reusable packaging products under say, the same ownership or under say, the same accountability of ownership of the products. In general, you'll see that more of an aid to be back to a distribution, where it's enclosed environment where all the touch points, all of the movement is well controlled, usually under the same management. And that closed loop generally refers to a system that is captive in terms of those products, and those assets, whether they're pallets or totes, of bins. And they have that closed loop, there's no openness or gaps in which they may go that's outside of the management or control of the organizations involved. Converse example of that be, that could be for example, the automotive parts from a point of manufacturer shipped into an automotive assembly plant that are then used to build the vehicles, and then the packaging can go right back to the parts manufacturer for refill and movement. So it's very much of a of a closed system that's generally under the management of the supplier of those parts, or the the assembly or any OEM, excuse me, of the providing those parts into the the car assembly car, you know, brand dealership dealer, manufacturer, for example.
Steve Statler 06:52
And he typically owns these, and the reason why I'm getting into that question is if we, when we fast forward and talk about IoT, where you're starting to put tracking devices and radios and computing in those things, then that becomes relevant. So who owns them typically in a in a closed loop system?
Tim Debus 07:11
Yeah, it varies, you know, usually it is the supplier of the parts, you find is common to owning the assets, not all of the case. Many cases, you know, such as the automobile, interesting industry, it could be the the car manufacturers they owned and try and have control the entire process in which parts are being brought into the assembly. In most cases, those are the working environments in which packaging needs to have specifications to either accommodate or to be most utilized within the manufacturing or assembly operation. So in those cases, it could actually be the user that owns the fleet or the pool of these assets, again, having it more of this specificity behind the packaging, working properly and within the control of their own, you know, parts receiving parts and usage of the parts outside of the the packaging, but it could vary, maybe there are co ownership that could take place. But you see that quite a bit within closed loop systems that it's back to the user or the the manufacturer that is actually owning the transport packaging.
Steve Statler 08:24
I love this, these conversations because you end up digging into something that we all think we understand, and then you realize, Oh, I don't understand this, this is a whole world there are people who live their entire careers, optimizing this stuff. And it's other associations like yours, that focus on it, we have a customer who's in that business, and they're a poor, and you know, the amount of technology and expertise that goes into and it's really cool seeing that the processing plants where 1000s of these things are coming in, in the case of that they do fruits and vegetables and so they're all kind of washed and stacked and the different business models and you see it across different industries. It's amazing. So okay, so closely what about open loop what's open the
Tim Debus 09:13
open in generally where the reasonable packaging product over its planned journey goes outside of say ownership or management of those of those assets. And you see this a lot more in retail where there's much greater complexity of the supply chain that may go product being packed in a reusable container from the farm goes to a either a processing facility or perhaps direct to a distribution center at retail, then actually could transfer be transported directly to a store. In the at the store level. The particular retailer may not have ownership or full accountability, or even visibility of the assets. There's a system in place for their recovery. But in terms of the open loop loop, we like to think of that is, when you have a case where the transport or movement of the product at some point goes outside of, of, say, a controlled or managed, you know, facility in terms of the accountability for the assets, it doesn't mean that they're in the wrong place, that's actually, you know, pre determined that that's where they need to go as part of the process. But they require, you know, much greater awareness in record keeping, and certainly follow up to be able to manage those reasonable packaging products in that type of open loop system. You mentioned the word Pooler. And this is where a coolers often come into play, to be able to manage the complexities to be able to work with the variety of touch points and locations, that creates more complexity or added layers of touch points for the assets. And that's where you've got special organizations that maybe own the assets, and they leased them out, you know, for us, and they're in effect to the owners and managers of those assets, making sure that they're recovered and replenished in and brought back to the user in a timely manner. And it just in time basis. And pooling actually is, is a role within our industry that's just destined to grow, as more and more companies are looking to utilize sustainable reusable packaging within their operations to be able to eliminate waste or achieve other cost saving benefits, they may not want to have management of the assets, they may not want to purchase them using their own capital. And so in many cases, they'll outsource, you know, to a third party Pooler that has that expertise that has that dedicated business model to be able to provide the the crates or the pallets or bends when needed, and certainly maintained, you know, possession and control of those assets and being able to provide that service to the the use to the users of those products. And so that's where coolers I think in this is the supply chain continues to evolve and look for new business models. I think that's a very important area that really is destined for growth. When you look at the, say, the circular economy, which is a popular economic model, and they talk about that a circular economy can lead to trillions of dollars of growth. It really is these types of new businesses, these services that are asset managers, being able to eliminate waste or design out waste from business, being able to extend the life and value of products over time, those are really where you're gonna find this kind of new economy, on the shared side, on the service side, that could be coolers they could be repair, you know, they could be remanufacturers, or washing, you know, services to be able to clean and sanitize for further use and food applications, for example. So this is where our industry in the infrastructures to be able to look at either both closed or open loop. In particular, those that are more complex. There's a wide variety of roles, that can be a play, and they come into play and emerge actually, as new businesses. So to support the industry.
Steve Statler 13:26
How big is this business? And what's the trajectory? You you kind of hinted at alluded to some of the one of the drivers for growth, circular economy, cutting down the environmental impact of supply chains, the opportunity for efficiencies? Sounds like it's going upwards. But what what can you share with us?
Tim Debus 13:52
Yeah, very, very much. So, you know, we've quantified the reusable transport packaging market worldwide to be $100 billion business. But that really is just the tip of the the scale in the sense of where the industry can, and frankly, it should go based on the benefits and the opportunities with reusable packaging that are thinking of getting more and more understood, more and more developed within the supply chain in the marketplace. And, you know, basically what we're finding is there's an urgency to sustainability to to having packaging, being more stable on its performance, particularly if it's into abuse. You look at some of the the global, you know, problems that are on headlines every day, whether it's, you know, waste in landfilling, or whether it's pollution and packaging products in the ocean plastics in the ocean, greenhouse gas emissions, it could be natural resource depletion, energy consumption, that list goes on and on about things that where we are This is where reusable packaging excels in being able to address those types of challenges from an environmental sustainability perspective, that when you can actually harvest resources and put all the, the the inputs in manufacturer, that you've got a product that you can use over and over again, over time, that you can actually utilize and extend the value of that material and that product for a long time, you know, for its purpose. And, and when you do that you eliminate waste, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the overall operations of of those products, so you're saving on on energy. And certainly, you're not polluting because you're recovering the assets to put them back into use. And so that's a very much of a sharp upswing, in terms of companies recognizing that a more sustainable approach to packaging is actually reuse models. But that's only one side of things. What's most exciting about our industry is the economic value creation that you can achieve from using these reusable packaging systems, that you can have economic growth and cost savings, in addition to those environmental benefits. And that's really what the aha moment is, I think, in the marketplaces, you know, some companies will feel more pressure, they got to go more sustainable. So we'll look at reusable packaging systems. But then you start discovering that, well wait a minute, if I've got a more durable, ergonomic product, I can stack more pot units on a pallet, I can ship more within a container, I can automate my facility and count on the specifications and the precision of these products through my robotic, you know, capabilities. And then all these things start getting noticed. It's like, well, I could save costs here, here. And here. If I build a reusable packaging system that is this specific to optimize my operations. And then and then the other thing is resiliency, you know, we saw over just the past year, about raw materials not being available, commodity markets for things like paper, and wood, that are very volatile. If you build a reusable packaging pool, you've already have those assets available, ready to go for your business, you're not going to come into a situation where all of a sudden material from another country is necessary and is short. And therefore you run out of raw materials to manufacture after every use that you need a product. So resiliency, all of a sudden, they you know, becomes an important benefit to reusable systems. So all of a sudden, you know, you've got this, these two buckets here, yeah, you know, you can achieve great sustainability with reusable packaging, but the economic values are really starting to sink in about the potential of creating benefit, creating efficiencies within your supply chain operations. And it's truly exciting to see the ability to achieve both, for example,
Steve Statler 18:17
I'm really excited just hearing you talk about the the benefits and the from a theoretical perspective. Are there any kind of practical case studies that you can point to where people have achieved these benefits?
Tim Debus 18:33
Well, absolutely. And that's one of the things that the reusable packaging Association specializes in. We're a nonprofit organization, we're more about educating. We're about raising awareness about the opportunities around reusable packaging, our email@example.com it has a wealth of resources and information, including case studies about real world applications of how reusable packaging was able to achieve both environmental impacts and also economic impacts as well. In fact, every year, we hand out an award based on several entries to recognize a particular real world case study where reusable packaging has excelled both environmental and economic applications. And this is our 10th year so it's not new as far as honoring users in the marketplace as far as reusable packaging. So that's the first as far as referencing the the chance to go on our website and see these real world that not only just the word winners, but many other case studies that are in the market and they do spend quite a bit you know, I mentioned examples of the automotive packaging. Last year's winner was actually a distribution of wine in reusable containers that actually have a thermal printer control with with ice like a thermos inside and to be able to maintain the desired temperatures. And that really allows for shipping at all times of the year, you know, and in many cases shipping wind is avoided when temperatures are hot in the product could lose its boundary of temperature in terms of its quality. So shipping wine directly to consumers, for example, pallets that are moved, and can be cleaned and sanitized effectively for the distribution of food, all sorts of different unique case studies that are in the market that are that we look to promote and give interested parties examples about how achievements have been used for reasonable packaging products.
Steve Statler 20:45
Excellent. And so where and where do you think the sweet spots are? Where is the biggest return on investment? If I'm going to start using plastic crates, plastic pallets? Those sorts of cases, where do you see people focusing to justify this switch to something that's a bit more sustainable?
Tim Debus 21:09
Well, I mentioned several benefits. That could be the turning point is a company discovers what reusable packaging can do for their operations. But let's talk about a very appropriate segue as far as technology and innovation. And I've always said that the best is yet to come with reusable transport packaging. Many years ago, especially when I first you know, came into this position of representing the reasonable packaging industry, we're always looking for ways that we can convey those benefits we can communicate to, you know, where the values are in adopting reusable packaging. And it became quite clear that this really merging technology space and being able to automatically identify assets, being able to capture the data points, you know, through different systems, really is now becoming a game changer. And I know technologies, you know, RFID tags and barcodes and things that were scanned, going through portals. Now that's been around for for quite some time. But what really is changed, say over the last 510 years is the suitability of technologies of devices of innovation that could be applied directly to products like pallets and bends and containers cost effectively. And being able to do so and provide a data such as transmitting to wireless lead to the internet of things where all of a sudden line of sight and having to scan individual crates with a handheld reader or making sure you pass it through a portal within a warehouse door to be able to achieve record or transmission of what's on the pallet to the database. Now all of a sudden, we're talking about being able to identify, in real time the location of the product, anywhere in the world, and not have to have a particular portal or line of sight to see it. And that's whether it's wireless Li like like a cell phone communicating, you know, to a satellite, or it's transmitting through, say, capturing through the Internet of Things and transmitting to the cloud and beaming to someone's laptop a few 1000 miles away, it really all of a sudden creates a new level, a new path, a new basis of value and opportunity for reusable packaging products. So you know, take aside a reusable packaging product that exists today that has been used for for decades and the benefits it could bring. Now all of a sudden, you're layering the technology creating a smart package in a package that has a whole new set of value associated with understanding and having visibility of not just the asset, the packaging asset, but the contents inside. And so it just opens up the door in terms of inventory management, predictive analyses about the products of both the packaging asset and the contents inside. And it really allows for use of the data to be able to create efficiencies and to respond to market conditions to meet that customer demands to satisfy customers and more quickly as we're looking at the explosion of e commerce over the last couple of years. You know, to me, that's the sweet spot that we have today, which was already sweet to begin with that now all of a sudden it's just crystallizing as far as saying that taking technology today. And it's important to recognize that this technology is available today. This technology is ripe to be able to deploying several different aspects and product offerings, that today that these smart packaging could come online and just open up the door for a whole new set of, of benefit and value in terms of using that product over and over again. And it's truly exciting. And to me, that's what the best is yet to come. And I may be saying that, you know, for years as as technology continues to improve and offer new capabilities, but to me, it's, it's that driver of the differentiator between reusable packaging, and single use packaging that's designed to be low cost disposable, that's not going to have any technology embedded in it. Because it's going to end up in the landfill or in the recycling center. After reduce, that's going to drive that wedge for someone to say, you know, I really need to implement reusable packaging in our supply chain, because we need to go to a modern digital business. And that's the best way that we can achieve an ROI in reusing reasonable packaging that's tech enabled.
Steve Statler 26:07
Yeah, it's so important to actually see parallels with the apparel industry and other industry that starting shift towards circularity, longer life products. If you say yeah, this product may actually have more than one owner, in the case of apparel, you can start to make a better quality product, a product that is actually has more utility, and applies the same to packaging, oh, I'm not gonna throw this away, well, I can actually make this smart packaging, I could make a crate that knows when it's full or empty, I can make a crate that can report where it is in real time I can make a crate, they can start to understand the rightness of the product in there. If I can do that, then I can start to have dynamic routing, I can say oh, this, you know, the, the timer on this fruit, you know, I know the state of it, I know what the temperature history is of it where it's been. Now maybe I can start routing it. So it gets sold really fast so that I am not eating into the shelf life. And I don't have shelf life that maybe is doesn't have utility so I can be smart about managing the life of the product. So I'm throwing less of it away is like one of the incredible opportunities that I think we have. And we were talking to a colleague the other day, and they were talking about some of the analytics from from my crates that has auto ID technology and in this case ours and they were talking to a customer who was saying yeah, we have this FIFO system first in first out and that's how we make sure that the life of the products I kind of managed appropriately and my colleague was saying Well, I know that's in theory what you have but actually you don't have the hat and Do you realize that substantial amount of what you're doing is actually lastin first out which is a disaster because the stuff that is being pushed further and further to the back of the warehouse and and isn't being bought out basically just burning through the shelf life and that product ends up being spoiled which is which is a disaster you're writing it off you're giving a poor experience for your your customer and you know what I see is I know there's projects going on, down under where you know, the goal is very simple. It's like let's put what can we do if we put another day of shelf life on to our produce? You know, why are we doing this we what would the savings be to us as a grocery store if we had another day of shelf life is huge.
Tim Debus 28:59
And that's there and that's there without the technology to tell us if something is in or the right temperature you know reusable packaging again because it's can be designed and built for durability. You can put ventilation holes, you know throughout the the entire container, you can build it so that the weight of say the pallet of foods the weight is on the container not on the actual product and causing compression damage or bruising of the the product that say a weaker or inferior packaging type, you know may offer and so you know this is another some Hallmark benefits of reusable packaging that that has been proven and we've seen it out in the marketplace doing temperature studies from point of harvest and packing all the way to you know the point of views consumer purchase, were being able to say maintain temperatures through ventilation. Being able to protect and preserve the quality is leading to more saleable or marketable days. That product on the shelf, for example, and that does cut down on waste, that allows for more selling opportunity and retail instead of them having to dispose of it because it's spoiled, and it's no longer suitable for purchase. And that so that's an A good example, especially when you're talking about, you know, food and perishable products. You know, the best example I have firsthand is with fresh eggs. You know, with fresh eggs, eggs are harvested and actually packed at a high temperature, maybe up to 90 degrees, let's say. And the idea is, is that you want that egg temperature to go down to say, you know, 45 degrees in terms of holding a steady state, you know, of the quality. When these eggs are packed in, let's say corrugated boxes, the heat that's being generated, you can actually see the boxes absorbing moisture, and sweating. And because it's capturing all that internal heat, and it takes several days for it to go from the center, especially of that pallet of eggs from that 90 degrees down to 45. When you've got a reusable packaging product that's out there that has strong durable ventilated, allows for great airflow through the pallets, the actual data, the studies say that you can get that cooling down in less than a day before the product is even shipped out to the customer. So you want to talk about a quality difference in a product like eggs in terms of temperature reduction and hitting that fine quality temperature holding the egg and preserving its quality difference between a matter of three, four or five days before you achieve that versus that same day of getting that temperature that that is just world a difference in eggs offers a tremendous example of differences of a reasonable packaging product, let's just say versus a single use disposable.
Steve Statler 31:48
What are some of the trends that you're seeing? One of the things that I've noticed in Europe is that the the use of crates actually in the store seems a lot more prevalent than in this country here in the United States where there's more kind of transfer of product from one kind of packaging and display to another whereas it seems like in Europe, they're eliminating that. Can you can you speak to that a little bit?
Tim Debus 32:18
Yeah, absolutely. In many cases, you know, reusable packaging is designed for say one touch merchandising. The idea is, is that how that case was packed at the at the farm could show up and be placed right on the shelf, for consumer mean for merchandising to the customer, to the shopper, and you want to touch not only allows for, you know, labor efficiencies as far as not having to, you know, touch the product and remove it. But it's also reduces the amount of handling and potential damage of the of the product itself. And so in many cases, and it is here in the United States, you know, Walmart, for example, you know, utilizes that one touch system, where if you go to a Walmart or fresh produce display, there, it is all displayed in the crates, you know, for example, and but it hasn't really caught on as much as you would think in Europe, in a lot of cases that retailers in the competitive nature, you know, want to diversify who want to want to deviate from say what a competitor may do. So one competitor, competitor may have this look, we want to go on a different route and maybe create something that's a different look or vibe or feel for our our shoppers. And so, in many cases, it could just be a competitive way of just having a different look instead of the the crates directly on there. But, you know, it varies from from retailer, the retailer, but in many cases I think in Europe has been so far advanced in you know, collectively, you know, trying to achieve those cost saving benefits and actually find other ways to compete in market rather than the merchandising or display of the product and it could be freshness, it could be brands of the product, it could be service you know other things pricing of course other things that they decide to compete on in Nottage transport packaging.
Steve Statler 34:17
Well ironic. Ironically, the kind of the higher end grocery stores that may be doing more transferring from the crate to the display and so forth. They may actually be negatively impacting the quality of the product because you start taping these things up and dumping them then you bruise the product you damage it and these things can be crushed and so yeah, okay, your display may be better but actually what the product that someone takes home maybe it maybe worse, which is a little ironic, I think.
Tim Debus 34:53
It definitely shows I mean a lot of the reasonable packaging program, the products, you know the design intent Is to a rule to capture those benefits from the handler or from the user. So it's not just in terms of packaging and distributing, but how can you design the reasonable packaging product to offer the greatest advantage at the final end use area, in this case, it would be the retail store, going back to the ageia reusable plastic container, they're actually designed with a long wall that you just slipped down, in may even pull down. And all of a sudden, now you're displaying your egg cartons directly to the shopper, how they do how other stores who use boxes, they take a knife, and they got to cut the box and pull it down. And they've got, you know, ribbing in rough edges associated with what's being displayed in the box to consumers. So this is where you've got this not only a one touch system, but retail ready displays that reasonable packaging can offer. Because the design and durability allows it to have other features that say a single use product just can't match.
Steve Statler 36:03
Very cool. So for someone that gets excited by this here, I can help save the planet, I can make some money, help this new be make sense of this ecosystem. If you look at your members, the and the companies in affiliated areas, can you kind of map out the kinds of players and if it's not breaking any rules mentioned some names of who the kind of the dominant players are, or rising stars are, I'd love to, to help our viewers and listeners navigate around this, this new ecosystem?
Tim Debus 36:43
Well, sure, it's probably best from a general standpoint, to talk about this ecosystem, because it is changing. We even within our membership, you know, traditionally, the member companies of the reasonable packaging Association, or the manufacturers or suppliers of products. So these would be you know, plastic injection molders that are producing, you know, plastic crates and milk crates, bread trees, reasonable plastic containers for fresh produce, they could be producing pallets, whether it's wood pallets and pooling them could be plastic pallets, other fortify, you know, bulk bands. And so you know, it's really was the manufacturer or supplier of these products. But really what is changed, and it's more reflective of the marketplace, is that our membership, and what we represent as an organization is that full cycle of reuse. It's the service providers, that's an area that's a real exciting to have the growth because in our business, it's not about the product, it's about the system, you can have the coolest, most innovative reusable packaging product in the world. But if you're not having the system that recovers it and puts it back into reuse, you don't have a reusable product, if all of a sudden is lost, or it's it's left somewhere not being reused. So the system becomes a critical point in differentiating what a reusable packaging program is all about. And the growth of our membership is really reflective of I think the growth of the service providers, companies that are providing the technology or automation capabilities, the logistics or transportation services, we've got four members that are manufacturers of equipment that wash and sanitize pallets and bins and crates. And that just shows you again that there's there's a whole entire industry that is aligned to the RPA membership in our industry as far as you know, providing that service, high end commercial washing machines that on a per crate basis can really reduce the costs of washing and sanitizing when such you know procedures and processes are needed to for the the product. And so the the diversity even within our own membership is starting to grow. And we're seeing that more also on the technology side for reasons we mentioned earlier about the emerging capabilities of technology. So our membership includes some of the, you know, the world's, you know, biggest suppliers of these products, the coolers of our products, you know the providers, and service providers and within that system of of reuse. And it continues to I think diversify, which is great. And to me that's the biggest sign of healthy growth is when you've got more entities involved in providing products and services to make that system robust, high performing and of course, efficient in its operations.
Steve Statler 39:49
And what about the future? You know, where are things headed? I'm interested in reusable plastic packaging beyond the store Going into the home, we've had our grandmas on this on this show a few months ago where they're, you know, working with Unilever with reusable packaging for, for soap down. I think it's in Chile, somewhere in South America, they started but now they're in New York City. And are you seeing? Is that something that you're seeing? What What does the future hold?
Tim Debus 40:29
Yeah, this is what's most exciting. And you're seeing now a lot of attention, a lot of the headlines, a lot of the new developments related to consumer packaging, how can we take what's traditionally a, a one way disposable packaging for a consumer product and make it into a reusable system. And you mentioned, you know, a couple examples right there, in terms of working with brands and consumer products, this is one area particularly a heightened attention, because it is these types of packaging products that are being escaped out into the environment that are being, you know, put into landfill that are being a you know, into the marine waterways and into the oceans about, you know, plastic materials. And so there's a lot of, I guess, an increased attention and did to accelerate reuse programs for consumer packaging. But, you know, what that requires is really a transformation of not just processes and operations, but behaviors. Now all of a sudden, you got direct, you know, contact with with consumers that can behave completely different than, say, the end use of a b2b application that could be another business or store for example. And that's a changes the, you know, the the scenario as far as how you could implement a reusable packaging program for a consumer packaging. But what is really exciting to us is that there is an opportunity we just can not overlook is to leverage existing and and healthy and stable distribution, reuse packaging, supply chain reusable packaging programs, and leverage that to extend out to make b2c or consumer packaging reuse models work, it's very important for reuse models to have scale to have value, to have enough that when you're moving it around and transporting that you can have efficient in order to achieve the right cost or price points to be able to operate, especially with consumer packaging. So for example, you have a lot of these pallets and crates and bends that are already going into a retail store at a local neighborhood or community, for example, that could be another launch point for consumer reuse packaging, and being able to leverage that physical collection point of products that are already going there for reuse in a business to business setting to extend out to be successful with business to consumer models. And in To me, it's it's you know looked upon is that that reusable transport packaging, could be that trunk of the tree, where operationally it builds the culture, it builds the infrastructure, it builds the processes to be effective with reuse. And then the branches of the trees could be how we can deliver on reuse models for consumer packaging items, and make it much more convenient and easier to manage with with consumers, you know, to me, so that's something I definitely continue to promote and want to see out there is let's let's not look at them having to be separate, that all of a sudden, we have to develop the consumer packaging reuse model on its own. And let's tap into the infrastructure where billions of reusable packaging products around the world every year are being managed in being implemented, that are kind of out of sight, right? They're behind the stores. They're the trucks moving in, that consumers don't often see, but they're there. They're omnipresent in the supply chain and distribution of products. That's what our membership does. And we're looking to grow that and optimize that. As I mentioned earlier, we're just at the very tip, I think we're those supply chain reuse systems can be adopted, but also optimized for performance. But let's leverage that and let's work collaboratively in other business to consumer reuse models that I think could be more effective and how they're being adopted, implemented and ultimately optimized for the the best experience for the providers and for the customers as well.
Steve Statler 44:55
What I love about this is it's a great example of where the triple bottom line comes into play where people planet and profit actually work together rather than in conflict. And the, I think the strategic opportunity, the opportunity for CEOs of business to consumer CPG companies, other companies that that want to go from a one off product sale where there's very little loyalty and they want to transition to a subscription business, they want to be the, the Netflix of detergent, you know, what does that mean? That means I, I don't have one off consumers, I have subscribers, companies that are subscribing, I have a direct relationship with these companies. And that fits hand in glove with reusable packaging. If I have connected reusable packaging, then I can start to implement these strategies I can pool and recycle, not recycle, reuse, much better than recycling and recycling is destructive. It's, it's wasteful, it's the point of last resort, it's not something that we should do it if we have to, but we can reuse that consumer packaging, then then we have that ongoing relationship with customers and much higher margins, much better loyalty, much better intimacy, insight into usage, auto replenishment, all these things that basically made the stock price go up. This is not you know, a feature of a product, it's a strategy of the business. And I think you guys are right in the center of that. So well,
Tim Debus 46:36
he really underscored a key point. And in reuse, because of the fact that it's a shared objective for all those involved, that if you're providing it, you're using it, you're providing services to recovering it, you're all part of this share business model with the the mutual interest in moving that reusable packaging. And that's where you can really open up the dialogue and the partnerships, and being able to maximize, you know, what the reuse opportunity has. And you mentioned loyalty, you mentioned about getting to know the customer, that's all part of that it's no longer necessarily the directs, you know, the siloed is silo. And when it's out of my shop, that we're washing our hands, we're, you know, it's downstream, it's our customers, you know, a position now, that's the linear thinking, the linear economy, you know, this is where you actually have greater partnerships within your, your trade within your businesses where you're understanding, let's say how packaging could be utilized, not just within your operations, but within your customers operations, and so on all the way downstream, and how that could be beneficial for everybody involved in again, that really builds that level of partnership. So it's a great point that you make, as far as taking something that that traditionally is point, the point, the point, now all of a sudden, you've got this, this great synergy in this great, you know, partnering capabilities associated with how that product flows, moves is used and comes back within your business.
Steve Statler 48:12
So Tim, as you may know, part of our tradition on this show is to probe into your personal life and specifically your music tastes. It's not that probing really, but have you had a chance to think about three of your favorite songs that have some kind of meaning to you?
Tim Debus 48:30
Well, I did. It was a very difficult question to answer this week. I haven't thought about it in a while. But it was it was a fun exercise. As far as thinking about the the wide range of music that I particularly like, as different moods come into play. I could go from maybe a nice easy classical all the way to an AC DC song. In fact, AC DC was the last concert I went to so
Steve Statler 49:00
when was that? That was just before the lockdown was it
Tim Debus 49:04
just was a few years ago is in St. Louis. It was right before the lead singer actually had came down with some some hearing problems that I think jeopardized the band. So one of their last shows. But it was just fantastic to be a part of that experience from a band that we would listen to for decades to actually see them for the first time as a as an adult, and actually had my nephew's there at the time or so it was fun. They're kind of a generational view of what was a very exciting band in the 80s.
Steve Statler 49:38
Yeah, very cool. I kind of came to them late but I'm gonna make a hash thing But back to black or back in black or what what's
Tim Debus 49:48
that? Yeah, back to black. All night long. There's quite a few actually can be quite fun and certainly appropriate. If you wanted to get charged up for an activity for sure.
Steve Statler 50:02
Okay, so do you use that, though? Is it kind of relate to your life in any way? It's just sort of a set of songs that you tap into when you need Yeah, well, actually, they didn't make the top three. Okay. All right.
Tim Debus 50:18
I'll go back. I'll start in no particular order with the three. But I thought the best way to answer this is to look at songs that I generally like, they may not be a favorite, but actually, they've got some meaning in terms of times that I've crossed them in my life where they were playing, and they were attached to things on a personal basis. And the first one is, this is the time by Billy Joel. In fact, it's funny the the ones that stand out to come from more of my childhood day as in the 80s, that really looked at that stood the test of time for decades past. And this is the time by Billy Joel was actually played alongside of a slideshow, that was shown at my high school graduation. And they had pictures of photos over the years of the students in the class. And that was just such a powerful song that it was newer at the time, you know, to really capture the specialty of the special niss of having a graduation, not only to seize the moment, but what's to come ahead. And now that many decades have passed if I listened to that song, and think back of that time, when when I was 18 years old, and the songs is still great, it's still got a lot of meaning to it. But I think back even the decades past, about the time in time being really the most precious resource we have in the world. So that's one that, you know, it's probably not high on my playlist, you won't see me turn it up on a regular basis. But it's a favorite. And it's one that I think resonates over time, and is still today, a
Steve Statler 52:05
Tim Debus 52:07
Yeah, the next one was kind of interesting. America by Neil Diamond, I might have been one of the few kids, teenagers, even early adults that really, really enjoyed the Neil Diamond that got into Neil Diamond attended several concerts. But the American song was kind of an entry point for me, because it just was such a great musical entry to, to really feeling good about the country. And, and just overall, that builds a lot of excitement, and a lot of meaning to it. But it really was an entry for me to tap into and listen to some of his older music is classical music, and just really found a lot of enjoyment from his music Well, before that was even recorded and released. But America is one of those songs that if that doesn't get you fired up, that doesn't get you, you know, excited about really enjoying the country. And, you know, the the opportunities of the country, even in times of, of troubles and struggles, you know, then I think you may have a different view of, of the nationalism and what America represents. And I actually it's funny, I think back of the, you know, that song you don't hear often, whether it's Fourth of July, or other celebrations of national, you know, national accomplishments. And it truly is a terrific song with a wonderful beat about America and the opportunities. And I just think, you know, again, it's one that I'd like to hear more, whether it said, you know, Super Bowls are your sporting events or concerts and things that, that I think really demonstrate the greatness that this country is so America would would be my second one again, that I still find to be very rousing every time I listen to it, and and think back about the the strength of the contrary.
Steve Statler 54:13
I mean, what if you were to sum up, like kind of your the three favorite things about America? What would those be? What what are the thoughts that this kind of gets you excited about?
Tim Debus 54:27
Yeah, you know, I think, for me, a lot of it is the diversity of the country. And in many ways, geography, you know, population cultures. One of the things that I've had really benefited from in my lifetime was to actually have lived in different parts of the country. I grew up in the Midwest, went to school in the Midwest, lived out in the west coast in California for many years lived out, I believe, right. That's right. We mentioned in San Diego and got to learn about the the the left coast way of life and living, then moved to Washington, DC, relocated to Florida for many years and now currently reside in the Mid Atlantic, on the east coast. And I'll tell you having experienced both, you know, West, Central and East Coast, there's a lot of differences. There's a lot of things to celebrate as people and in backgrounds, even when you've got the transplants, which you see a lot in California, let's say in Florida, of people from say, the Northeast, going down and living in Florida, you know, you still have, you know, like a different set of cultures and virtues and a way of life. And I always tell people that I'm a Midwestern, er, that's where I was born and raised, I think that's where my roots and value systems lie. And, And to me, that's a special part of America in, I don't think we honor and celebrate and recognize that strength of that diversity, and use it to our advantage. Certainly, when we're in such a red or blue division in our country, racial divisions and something that I just think it's we've got a lot more than we can do to celebrate that diversity in the strength that it provides us. You know, I always look at, you know, in terms of travel and enjoying, and hey, you know, go take a vacation in Europe or, you know, Asia's got some wonderful places to visit is like, well, there's so many things and wonderful places to go to in the United States, that you don't have to go too far, I think, to really be all of what this country offers, from a sightseeing recreation history, and a lot of things that we can enjoy as Americans. So that does stand out in terms of personally, what what I think, you know, about this country that I enjoy most perhaps,
Steve Statler 57:01
yeah, it's interesting. It's a so it's very often the case, isn't it? Your strength is your weakness. It's true of many people. And as a nation, you know, we can be pulled apart by that diversity, but it's also a tremendous asset, when, when we come to together, I mean, to me, America, is a country that can achieve some amazing things. I mean, I'm obsessed by the man on the moon, the moon shot, and this last week, we've had two billionaires up in space, one of them British, I guess, so that you look at the incredible advances we've made. And so America has achieved that. And I was born here, but I came back out of choice. So I chose to come back to America. Because, you know, what, what an entrepreneurial culture, this, it's a bit of a cliche, but anyone can do everything, you're not held back success is celebrated in many older countries. You know, don't get above yourself, who do you think you are? from, you know, venture capital markets and corruption. You know, we've got this incredible environment, there's a platform for people to really achieve.
Tim Debus 58:27
And it's not without its problems. It's not without its stains in history, I mean, some major corals and black marks, you know, on the contrary, but but I think it's something we've got to learn and improve on, recognize them. And certainly, you know, find ways that we could use those to come together rather than apart. And obviously, we're not there yet. We may never get to this, this ideal is some perfectionism. But, but that doesn't mean we can't try and that doesn't mean we can't improve and get better. And so, yeah, I agree. There's a lot of things that that I think does unite us. And perhaps, in the day to day, initiatives that we have citizens and the Corps government, we sometimes lose sight of, I think the bigger picture but but a lot of promises still yet to come. And I think you cited two great examples of what you know has took place just with this last week, with multiple countries and interests involved.
Steve Statler 59:35
Okay, so America and then one what's your last song?
Tim Debus 59:38
You know, this goes back again, showing this this wide range of music interests. We have Purple Rain by Prince. I was a big Prince fan when Purple Rain came out, love the music, love the soundtrack. And if you ever hear a long version of Purple Rain, one that maybe it's not on the radio one night it was recorded. Live You know, sometimes it's 1520 minutes long, it's just brilliant. It's just a beautiful Ballad of music. and powerful, really powerful speaks to, you know, to inside. And I think it's, to me, it's a song that really perseveres. And again, decades later, could listen to you today and just just get really, what not Nestle choked up, but moved, listening to the song and its beauty. And even watching some of the videos in the movie that it was based out of, but it certainly was a prince fan, and liked his music, but nothing at tops, I think Purple Rain is funny a couple times I've gone out whether at a bar, and you've got a band playing and they're their cat, covering some of the songs and all of a sudden they pull out Purple Rain themselves. And if they do it, right, the whole place just gets into it. I mean, it just is a stop, and stare and sway, you know, song for the whole place. And I've never seen places that that all of a sudden, everybody gets into that song. And so to me, it's got a lot of fans a lot of following and once again, very popular in one that that definitely is among the top of my list. So you can kind of see this, Billy Joel, to Neil Diamond to Prince. All these based I listened to classic rewind done on Sirius XM, maybe at times, little yacht rock. We have more for the humor than anything else. But But yeah, I'm kind of skipped a couple decades, and still find myself really enjoying the music of the 70s and 80s. The second generation of rock as they say,
Steve Statler 1:01:47
Purple Rain publisher, you're one of our few guests is actually coordinating their wardrobe with their music choice.
Tim Debus 1:01:56
If I only had that white guitar that he plays, you know, during that.
Steve Statler 1:02:01
Very cool. Well, Tim, thanks so much for this conversation. I've really enjoyed it. Willie recently joined RPA. And that's how we met. And I'm so excited by what your organization is, is doing and looking forward to participating more in this community.
Tim Debus 1:02:23
Well, Steve, thank you. We're so grateful for William, you know, seeing that vision, joining the vision, helping us get to achieve, you know, that vision, it takes that, you know, collaboration across our industry. So thank you very much. And it was certainly an honor to be here with you today. And talk a little bit about the insights and perspectives associated with reusable packaging systems.
Steve Statler 1:02:48
Wonderful. Well, I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Tim I loved his enthusiasm. This is more than just a job. It's clearly a passion, a lot of really interesting information that I hope will allow you to dive into this part of the ecosystem, the auto ID world that's transforming the way products are made, distributed, sold, used and reused. I want to thank our hammock for his work on production. Jessie Hazelrigg, our producer, I want to thank you for listening. Please do like us, tell your friends about us. And please join us for the next time we meet