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In the era of immediacy and in the midst of the environmental crisis, there are two things that consumers are constantly looking for: rapidity and sustainability. That is why it is common to see more and more brands trying to bet on these two trends that are setting trends today. Today, Julian Erhard, CEO of PackEx, one of the leading package delivery companies in sustainability, explains the importance of being socially and environmentally responsible in a world that seems to be less and less so.

PackEx is focused on changing the packaging industry and the folding carton market in particular. To do so, they have created their own machines, such as a high-power laser that acts as a substitute for classic punching tools, thus reducing their impact on the environment. In addition to betting on process automation, all in order to be able to produce short runs quickly and flexibly. Since 2019, they have been producing their folding cartons at their production plant in Worms (Germany) thus becoming one of the company’s flagship products. It is one of the top 10 for the Ecommerce Germany Award in the “Best logistics solution” category.

We will learn from Julian Erhard the keys to achieve your business goal without leaving the environment behind.

Hello Julian, you have been working in this company for 6 years now, 4 of them as the CEO, what got you interested in the world of packaging and logistics?

I originally started out in the printing industry – so wasn’t a big leap to the related packaging industry. What I like about packaging is its versatility and multifunctionality: first of all, packaging has to be functional, i.e. provide structural support and protection during transportation. However, it also has an aesthetic function – it has to match the product, appeal to potential buyers and express quality. Packaging is therefore a very complex and dynamic product.

Bearing in mind your knowledge, which 3 learning points would you choose based on your professional experience? What is the biggest challenge you have overcome until now?

I have a hands-on mentality – often you simply have to dare to try things out and make adjustments if necessary. You can plan projects to death. However, what has worked for me personally is a healthy mix of curiosity and modesty. 

My biggest challenge so far was and is definitely the foundation of PackEx. Due to the gratifyingly rapid and continuous growth, new tasks are constantly arising: For example, I have to forge new processes and continuously develop the organizational structure while simultaneously keeping an eye on the corporate culture and our values.

As the CEO, what is your role in PackEx? What a normal working day is like?

As CEO, I see myself in a form of coaching role for my employees. There really is no such thing as a normal working day for me: sometimes I am with customers, sometimes with suppliers, other times there is a trade fair or an internal workshop. Even when I am at the company, there are days at my desk with meetings and phone calls and days that I spend in production. Everything is very dynamic and varied.

We have seen that in PackEx you offer a great range of packagings for different product types and sectors: pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food, CBD…Which is the sector who demands more PackEx services?

It is impossible to say with certainty – every industry has its own peculiarities and specific requirements. While there are high documentation requirements in pharmaceuticals, every other industry has its own individual criteria. Cosmetics and food, for example, place more value on high-quality printing.

Is there any sector that you are yet not working with that  is having a prosperous evolution to consider it as an option in the future? If the answer is yes, which one and why?

Not really – we cover a really broad range and have customers across a wide variety of industries.

How are your clients? Why do you think they choose your company?

In general, we can divide our customers into three groups: 

  • One group longs for flexibility and a simple and straightforward ordering process – which is very unusual in the industry. They have a need for small batch packaging production, but have repeatedly experienced that only large runs are economically viable. With us, our customers can produce runs of just one piece without significantly increasing costs. Thanks to our virtual warehouse, we enable quick re-orders that are delivered to the customer within 72 hours. In addition, these customers can calculate prices and place orders without assistance in our portal, without any waiting times for cost estimates. As our customers often have a low order volume, they are always a D customer for their standard supplier and are not prioritized. At PackEx, we specialize in precisely these needs and are happy to offer individual advice, even for short runs. 
  • The other group of customers values sustainable packaging without greenwashing. We put great emphasis on reducing CO2 emissions in both production and parcel shipping and have the figures to prove it. 
  • The third group values us as a one-stop shop. Instead of working with several suppliers, we provide high-quality standardized folding boxes, labels and shipping boxes  from a single source. This makes the everyday working life easier. 

Of course, there are also customers for whom several of these factors are important and who therefore choose us.

When you start a selling process with a new customer, how is the procedure to be followed and what has to be taken into account?

We always try to take the perspective of our customers and potential customers and offer solutions to their problems. This also includes easy access and a simple ordering process.

Most customers come to our website, get information there and then playfully click through our portal to configure their desired product. If everything fits, they order with one click and are independent right from the start. If any questions arise, our Customer Success team takes over and guides the customer through the ordering process. By the second order, most customers are already acting independently. They can easily configure new orders or re-order via our portal.

Of course, we also talk to new customers at trade fairs or because of recommendations. Our Customer Success team then tries to identify the pain points and shows which solutions we offer.

You are a company that is committed to sustainability and environmentally friendly materials. Why? Do you usually work with customers who share your vision as a company? How important is that?

Sustainability is part of PackEx’s DNA: the entire business idea was born out of the need to develop a sustainable way to produce packaging. Without greenwashing – instead through innovation and a pioneering spirit. We are convinced that innovation is committed to sustainability in order to create a world worth living in for future generations. 

All customers are price-sensitive and – let’s not kid ourselves – price and delivery time always take priority. However, many of our customers share our attitude towards sustainability and are happy that they don’t have to choose between sustainability and cost-effectiveness. In the end, sustainability is always a plus and is often the deciding factor in choosing PackEx.

What materials and packaging are the most chosen? In your personal opinion, why do you think they are the most wanted by the customers? How do you see the evolution of the sector in terms of materials and packaging?

The discussion about materials and sustainability often only scratches the surface – plastic is generally labeled as an environmentally harmful material, but the plastics industry does a good job when it comes to recycling. It’s usually not that simple when it comes to sustainability. The issue of “plastic or no plastic” does not concern us because we mainly work with cardboard – both for folding boxesand corrugated cardboard for shipping boxes. 

Customers are usually interested in certificates – but you also have to look very closely to find out what certificates make sense and which enable greenwashing. All types of paper used at PackEx are FSC certified, which means more trees are planted than cut down.

The big topic of this year is AI: every week there are news related to its applications. Do you use it in your business? If yes, how have you integrated AI into your business, and how do you assess its potential? If not, are you planning to do it?

So far, we have not used AI operationally, but we are looking closely at where it could be useful for PackEx. I see the greatest potential in production planning and data analysis.

Which advice would you give to yourself from 10 years ago if you could go back in time?

I would advise my younger self: Stay yourself and don’t forget about yourself. You can only perform well if you have a balance and keep yourself healthy with sport, for example.

This sector has evolved so much in these last ten years. In two or three years time, your company will probably offer services you cannot imagine now. What are your plans for the future? What are the new trends that will shape the packaging and eCommerce sector in 2025/26?

We can already see that the packaging sector in eCommerce is becoming more aware of sustainability. So far, the focus has been on avoiding materials such as plastic, but if we really want sustainable solutions, we need to take a much closer look. It is not enough to deal with the obvious issues. 

I am convinced that the topic of sustainable packaging and logistics will become increasingly important to consumers. Legal regulations are also increasingly moving in the right direction and presenting the industry with new challenges: Sustainable solutions that have to be implemented without significantly increasing costs require innovation. 

For PackEx, I hope that we continue to grow sustainably and maintain our core values. To do this, we have to remain agile and curious, keep an eye on the market and respond to trends.

What headline about PackEx would you like to read in Marketing4eCommerce in a year?

PackEx: Future packaging for a future world

Image: PackEx

 

 

 

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