Pack Expo 2022: A Reflection on Taking Action Now

Posted on 
October 31, 2022
Matthew Wright
Founder & CEO, Specright

As I reflect on last week in Chicago, it was refreshing to see so many people back together, in person, with learning, innovation, and collaboration top of mind. I’ve been to many Pack Expo conferences in the last 20+ years, and this was the largest and most engaging one I’ve experienced. For me, however, it’s not just about those quick conversations, it’s about what happens next. And, at Specright, that’s what we’ll be focused on in the months ahead.

I did walk away from the event with a few key takeaways that I wanted to share…

Sustainability is On Everyone’s Mind – Which is a Good Thing

I noticed that no matter what a company sells, almost everyone at this year’s Pack Expo was talking about sustainability or showcasing ways in which to solve sustainability initiatives – Specright included. 

For years, we’ve all been grappling with how to address sustainability, but recently with the onset of global regulations (and many more coming) and consumer demand for transparency, companies are realizing the time to act is now. The challenge remains how to leverage data. I was fortunate to speak on the Innovation Stage about how to reduce packaging costs, while driving sustainability. My message was simple – you don’t have to have one without the other. You can achieve both, but it starts with having accurate and complete data. You can watch my entire presentation here to learn more about bridging the gap between action and ambition when it comes to achieving sustainability goals.

Innovation Stage presentation at Pack Expo 20202: How to Reduce Packaging Costs while Driving Sustainability

Building the Specification Management Ecosystem

Another takeaway for me was that no one can undergo digital transformation alone. It takes building an ecosystem – and that’s what we’re focused on here at Specright. Throughout the entire event, we had our strategic partners, customers, and industry experts stopping by our booth to showcase how we’re better together. 

For instance, we had members of the Trayak team at our booth showcasing our integration with their COMPASS Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool that enables customers to run LCAs in a matter of minutes vs. months of manual work. 

We also welcomed our partners at TOPS Software, the leaders in pallet optimization to our booth. This is another integration that is helping our customers consolidate their data aggregation and ensure the right data is being leveraged every time.

It was great to see many of our customers swing by for additional demos, conversations around expanding their use of Specright, and also to see our new branding – which was very well received. We spoke with members of the media and industry analysts about ongoing challenges in the packaging industry and up and coming trends. 

Even though packaging is such a broad industry, it was amazing to see how many people are connected, or want to be connected. At one point in our booth, employees from one of the world’s largest big box retailers, a global consumer goods company, and one of the world’s most recognizable food and beverage brands were collaborating on a spec-first approach. That sort of networking is priceless. 

Supporting the Next Generation of Packaging Engineers

Along with building the technology ecosystem, another takeaway for me is the importance of enabling the next generation workforce. I also spoke on the Innovation Stage about no longer accepting what I call a “digital double life.” This is where we leverage technology in almost every aspect of our personal lives, but go to work and still use antiquated and static data systems. Not only is this not okay for those of us who have been working in industry for years, but it just won’t fly with the next generation workforce we recruit, who are expecting technology to be a crucial part of their everyday lives–personal and work related. You can watch my entire presentation here

At Specright, we’re committing to the next generation workforce in many ways – because we realize how crucial it will be to supply chain resilience and innovation. While we were at the event we announced a major partnership with the Michigan State University School of Packaging to not only provide hands-on training for Specification Management in their classrooms, but also renovate and update their computer lab. Matt Daum, Director of the Packaging Program, also swung by our booth for a Beyond the Shelf podcast recording (episode coming soon!). Besides MSU, we saw many of our other academia programs stop by the booth, including students from U.W. Stout, Virginia Tech, Cal Poly, and Rutgers. 

We also had members of our Spec Squad in attendance at Pack Expo. This is a group of data experts enabling companies to digitize and standardize data much easier than dedicating internal resources. The Spec Squad includes students from packaging programs, which again, provides them with hands-on training in the importance of Specification Management, before entering the workforce. You can learn more about our commitment to academia here

Packaging students from U.W.-Stout
Packaging Students from Virginia Tech
MSU Packaging Students meet with members of the Specright Team and Spec Squad

Turning Insights into Action 

To say it was a jam packed few days in Chicago, would be an understatement. I’ve walked away feeling invigorated and ready to turn many of the conversations I was able to have into action. I know my team feels the same way.

While Pack Expo may be something many of us attend annually, I think we can all agree the time to act on the challenges our industries are seeing is now. Let’s all commit to innovation and being changemakers, so when many of us see each other again next year, we can also see the progress we’ve made. 

The Specright Team at Pack Expo 2022


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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