My Biggest Takeaway From ISTA Forum 2022

Posted on 
April 18, 2022
Matthew Wright
Founder & CEO, Specright

Earlier this week, the Specright team and I attended ISTA Forum, one of the biggest events dedicated to transport packaging in the world. During Forum, packaging and supply chain experts from near and far come together to work on solving some of today’s biggest challenges, learn about industry best practices and latest trends, and shape the future of transport packaging.

An array of topics were covered this year, from new packaging innovations, emerging regulations, sustainability, and how to use data to optimize business and supply chain operations.

Here’s my biggest takeaway from the event:

Sustainability is Top of Mind For Packaging Professionals

The last few years have consisted of living in a pandemic-world, where sustainability took a backseat to crisis response and live-saving product innovations. Single-use plastics took center stage in the packaging world to prevent further disease transmission. Supply chains operated in overdrive to keep critical products on shelves, forcing waste to become an afterthought for the time being.But as the pandemic has become more controlled, sustainability initiatives are roaring back as a top priority. Legislation around plastics bans are popping up again, and goods producers are now being held accountable for the entire product life cycle through EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) regulations.

And at ISTA Forum this year, sustainability was a hot topic.

In fact, one of the statistics from the opening keynote (given by Benjamin Trent, Managing Consultant at Smithers) stated, “70% of millennials expect online retailers to use as little packaging as possible.” And with so many of our goods traveling by e-commerce today, that garnered some attention.The packaging industry has always dealt with conflicting expectations, whether packaging needs to be more protective, yet attractive, or more sustainable, yet user-friendly.

The increasing emphasis on sustainability has the industry looking to their data for help.

How The Packaging Industry is Using Data to Drive Sustainability Initiatives

Until now, sustainability was treated as a one-time event versus an approach to new package and product development. And for those one-off innovations or projects, old, static data structures worked. But times have changed.

At ISTA Forum, many incredible technologists were explaining their innovative, high-tech solutions to their organization’s sustainability initiatives. I see this as a major opportunity for the rest of the industry. My vision is that one day companies will be able to leverage clean and complete data to make business decisions through powerful predictive analytics models, tracking and optimizing sustainability metrics, and recommending new product innovation in real-time. In fact, that’s our mission here at Specright.

I was fortunate to secure a speaking slot at ISTA Forum this year. I spoke about transitioning packaging to a digital world through specification data, in efforts to achieve outcomes like sustainability. And the most common question I got was “How do we propose re-thinking the way we approach our supply chain strategy to upper management?” This data gap between where we are and where we want to go (AI, machine learning, sustainability) has always been present, but we’re at a unique crossroads in which the C-Suite is listening. The industry is being called upon to act or be penalized, either through regulations, investors, consumers, or all of the above - and the only solution is data.So when it comes to proposing this to upper management, it’s critical to gather metrics and communicate the value of a Specification Management platform.

Luckily, over a million products have been built using a spec-first approach, so there’s a plethora of use cases and data to help support your digital transformation efforts and cultivate executive sponsorship. For more information on building a business case for Specification Management, check out this blog or reach out to a member of our team.

This year’s Forum inspired me with the forward-thinking ways companies are tackling sustainability, working to shape future legislation, and turning to data to remain flexible and innovative. Huge ‘thank you’ to ISTA for putting together such an awesome event. I’m so inspired by the innovations of my peers and can’t wait until next year.


Matthew Wright

Matthew Wright is the founder & CEO of Specright, the first cloud-based platform for Specification Management. Specright has been recognized by Fast Company’s prestigious Most Innovative Companies list, named a Gartner Cool Vendor, and as one of the Top Places to Work by the OC Register and Built in LA. Wright is also a published author and his book, “The Evolution of Products and Packaging,”was named to the Amazon Hot New Release List for Industrial Relations Business and has a five star rating. 

Prior to founding Specright, Wright spent more than 25 years in the packaging industry, holding leadership positions at International Paper, Temple Inland, and rightPAQ — a packaging company he co-founded. He has also been involved in leading multiple M&A deals in the packaging industry, currently sits on the MSU School of Packaging and Industry Advisory Board and previously served on the Packaging Advisory Board at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.

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