PACKAGING       PATTERNS OF TRADE

1. Food Gathering       Little
   --------------       movement
                        of goods
2. Agriculture
   -----------                          Merchant        Local
3. Simple Technology                    .               Longer
   -----------------                    .               distances
                        Packaging       :
4. City State           in glass        :               Continental
   ----------           & Amphora       |
                        especially      |               Trans-
5. Empire (Roman)       for long        |               continental
   --------------       distances       |
                                        .               Contraction
6. Medieval (Europe)                    .               Local -
   -----------------                    :               Continental
7. Industrial                           :               Trans-
   Revolution           Packaging       |               continental
   ----------           Development     |
                        - primary       |
8. Consumer Society                     | Wholesaler
   ----------------                     | -Retailer
                        - secondary     | .
                                        | .
                                        | : Int-
9. Mass Production      - tertiary      | : egrated
   Society                              | | .
   ---------------      to cope with    | | .
                        increased       | | :
                        volume &        | | :           MNCs
                        integrated      | | :
                        distribution    | : |            info flow
10.Post Industrial      - especially    | : |            substitutes
   Society              reduction in    | . |            for moving
   ---------------      labour                           goods
                        intensity          Hyper
                        (self-             Markets


Packaging follows the Constant Trend of Distribution - greater volume of goods distributed over greater distances increasingly requires a systems approach to their handling. The Constant Trend is one of increasing level of packaging - where each level is designed as part of the whole system - with a view to assembly, protection, transportation by different media, successive dismantling and handling, down to sales display and customer purchase. Increasingly, buildings, equipment and transport media become part of the system.

The different levels of packaging can be picked out with economic development:

Higher levels (e.g. container) have been developing recently. They will however differ for different products.

The whole packaging process is labour intensive compared with the manufacturing process, and catching up developments can be expected here - together with impacts from the Computer-Media.


The Constant Trends are expected to operate, and become interwoven with Computer-Media (CM) developments.

From a starting point, where the systems approach is mildly ingenious but antiquated, we expect a progressive build up for most products to the Container level.

The packaging lines which generally following an automated production line are antiquated. We can expect to see the packaging line merge with the production line, producing primary packaged products - closely linked on CM principles to the Secondary packaging line and the Tertiary packaging process.

The Secondary and Tertiary levels will be linked by CM to the requirements of the rest of the distribution system. Optimum loading of the lorries with respect to the destination requirements of the goods is notoriously difficult - optimum loading routines exist but have tended to be too number intensive to be calculated in time (or at least computer programmes exist but have not been taken up to a large extent). CM is gradually scheduling the optimum loading of lorries (or other transport media) to meet the destination of products.

There is also the present problem that for much of the time a lorry is travelling empty on its return journey. Growing CM networks between organisations will be able to match some of the spare journeys with goods transport needs, and eliminate more of the overlap. This may result in the decline of manufacturers' and distributors own transport fleets. The development of higher (lorry size) level of packaging (e.g. container) will help this. Firms have arisen providing this service, and it is obviously easier for them to fill more of the empty return journeys.


Naturally, each level of packaging will be machine-readable for automated handling throughout the system

This system merges with that of automated retail stock control and point of sale check-out systems which are coming in. There will come a time when a customer buying a single can of drink will trigger another container load being despatched from the warehouse, and perhaps another ship being despatched from abroad with metal or plastic for the cans - without any other human involvement.


Under this scenario, the construction of warehouses, retail outlets and all the equipment therein is minutely part of the total system. It must be common to manufacturer, transporter and distributor. This requirement for standardisation will be a factor slowing up development considerably. The transport system is also likely to become part of the system (already seen in some lorry systems and the container ship).

Packaging levels

The primary pack has evolved from the need for self-service. Use of the secondary level as an additional display and selling aid is following, and is likely to become widespread.

Developments of higher level packaging (ship size) are less certain - other than ships being designed to handle and hold so many containers. But we expect to see a trend where materials are moved in bulk if their form lends itself - e.g. if they are liquids or powders or their final assembly is trivial compared with the whole. (Thus whisky is now shipped in tankers and bottled in the US). There are obviously savings in space, transport of redundant materials, fragile elements requiring higher levels of packaging, and loss through breakages.

Underground Economy

We must note trends from Underground Economy that an increasing proportion of goods will be sold as "remainders" in underground economy markets - possibly becoming a majority in some cases. Thus the need for outdoor selling will covertly become an influence in the design of the total system.

Home Ordering

The Computer-Media is beginning to enter the home (through the Internet). The home CM will begin to transmit to the store its purchasing requirements - which will automatically be made up for collection by the purchaser. Trials are occurring, though at present, with one or two exceptions, consumer interest is not yet high. Naturally it requires most homes to be connected to a network. There is progress towards this in the US, followed by the UK.

This trend may take longer than current IT people predict, but progress is expected over the next decade. After a lapse of over half a century, the ability to have one's box of groceries made up for you is returning (from Leisure & Wealth Deployment).

The trend we have in mind will require the home PC to be used for more practical purposes than at present. Microsoft has really caused the PC to automate the typewriter, and associated tasks; and with others to cause the PC replace the radio and record player. What is needed is for the PC to begin to control household tasks - here acting as a stock control and ordering system. This is likely to take longer to come about than merely browsing down a virtual store with a mouse. It may require someone to cause the PC to do this, as Microsoft caused it to automate the typewriter.

Speed of Change

We have tended to develop above a picture of the mature Post Industrial situation. We are quite a long way from it in places. How fast may the changes be?

There is not really new technology involved, except for the Computer-Media and related developments - thus this is one of the times-scale constraints, which will take the end points of these developments well into this century (from the Computer-Media).

The developments over the start of this century will be more prosaic but leading in the direction described above:

The whole will be delayed while standardisations evolve over a very large number of organisations. The Computer-Media will be tried in various parts of the system - but not a great deal of inter linkages for a few years. These linkages are likely to be private links, not through the public Internet as is the present trend. The public Internet is plagued with viruses - like all open systems in life forms. Firms are likely to detach their public Websites from their computer systems. Only those selling to the public are likely to take orders through their Websites. But even here they may be detached from their computer systems, finding other ways of transferring data to delivery and stock control systems.

This field will continue, as in the past, to provide opportunities for people with good ideas relevant to the moment - and for other practices to find themselves in rapid decline.

Industrial and commercial areas differ considerably in their take up and automation and use of the Computer-Media. Progress is seen as linkages being made on a trial and error basis. Thus developments in any particular area are best considered from the position already reached in that area, and what are the practical possibilities for such linkages in the short term.

To return to your Contents page click your URL password (drop down menu below the current URL)