I immediately reflected on a visit I made to an ecommerce distribution center during my MBA studies some seven years ago. At this huge warehouse, operators – armed with labeling guns – were applying simple barcode labels to packages. Each operator was trailed by meters of label liner. You could tell it was a nuisance, not to mention an issue of waste and productivity.
Back then, linerless labeling hadn’t hit the mainstream. Now, it is a completely different picture. Supermarkets, logistics providers and quick service restaurants are adopting the solution en masse. Globally, the linerless market has exploded to 550 Mm2 (source A Watson) and is growing at a rate of 15%. If I went back to that warehouse and offered them a way to do the same job without the hassle and the waste, I could guarantee their answer.
But there is also another, more profound reason to choose linerless: it is better for the environment. Sourcing liner from sustainably managed forests does not deplete their capacity to absorb carbon. However, the less we use, the better. When we use less sustainable forest resource, we increase its availability for other uses and reduce dependency on unsustainable resources. On top of this, the energy and fuel usage associated with making and transporting the linerless is significantly smaller. Combined, the positive carbon impact for moving to linerless technology is massive.
So, linerless is better for the environment, and together with the productivity improvements and its impact on wastage, it's great for business. These reasons alone will continue to drive its adoption. The same reasons are completely congruent with the mission of UPM.
By scaling up our capacity and building a new production line in Nowa Wies, Poland, we are entering the linerless market big time. Put another way, if Elon Musk was going to do direct thermal linerless, he would do it the way we will: On a scale dramatically different to any other, with state-of-the-art technology and innovative product development that takes the entire industry to new heights. Along with our partners, we are acting on the needs that the market is just waking up to.
So, the next time someone asks me “Why direct thermal linerless?”, I can simply say: “Because it makes sense.”