About 370 delegates registered for this meeting despite its “off the beaten track” location’ and others arrived to take part in the numerous private meetings set up in the same hotel. EDANA had courageously invited 2 key speakers with decidedly anti-disposable views and these added a dimension not experienced at earlier Outlooks.
Professor Michael Braungart of Buro Braungart (Germany) is the co-author of “Cradle to Cradle”, a book propounding the need to abandon attempts to minimise the impact of products on the environment. Instead it advocates developing new products and processes which are beneficial to health, the environment and nature.
“Minimise-impact” thinking leads to the conclusion that economic growth is bad and ultimately to the conclusion that population must be controlled. Minimising their impact is an admission that products were badly designed in the first place so using less becomes good. Using less to reduce environmental damage is no better than travelling more slowly in the wrong direction rather than turning round and heading in the right direction. “You don't protect the environment by destroying it more slowly”.
So what is the right direction?
· Design products with a beneficial effect on the environment so that using more does more good.
· Such products must fit into the biological cycles and/or the technical cycles. The carbon-cycle is the main biological cycle and the technical cycles are those which recycle metals, glass, plastics etc.
· “Waste is Food”: Cradle-Cradle implies the used products either biodegrade to carbon-dioxide and water for reuse in the carbon cycle, or are taken back by the manufacturer to be reprocessed into new products.
· “We need to be as intelligent as ants”: Ant biomass weighs 4 times the human biomass but they live in harmony with the environment.
· We need to convert to renewable energy, especially solar power for all our energy needs.
Other examples of doing good rather than trying to do less bad included avoiding the use of the many chemical not yet banned but now known to be harmful to human health. His list included: EDTA, Long-chain Parabens, D4 (octamethyltetrasiloxane), Kathon (methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylchloroisothiazolinone), Nano-Silver, and PEG Fatty Alcohol Ethers. Harmful plasticisers such as phthalates (DEHP) were now found in all German children's urine.
C2C certification has been developed to replace eco-labels which tended to put people off buying. C2C certification implies the more you buy the more you do for the planet.
With regard to current hygiene products, Prof Braungart thought disposable diapers were “pretty stupid products” which were a product of optimising the wrong things. They needed redesigning to have a positive ecological footprint, but no concrete suggestions emerged. Asked what hygiene products would be likely to get C2C certification, he said toilet paper and tampons. The slide of companies already having C2C certificates included Gdiapers, the Australian makers of a two-piece product with reusable pants and flushable inserts.
Julia Hailes, a Sustainability Consultant and Author (UK) anticipated a backlash against disposables, pointing out that most consumers regard disposables as less green than durables.
· The disposable diaper mountain in landfill is a problem and will remain a problem even if methane-to-energy schemes are installed. More composting and anaerobic digestion is needed to deal with diaper waste.
· Biodegradability claims on diaper packs are misleading.
· P&G's claim that 90% of its total energy use comes from its tissue plants in the USA was misleading.
· Disposable diapers did reduce diaper rash compared with durables, but maybe wouldn’t if durables were changed more frequently.
· Life cycle analyses comparing durables with disposables were flawed: the studies should be done not on a per-diaper basis but on a per-baby basis over its lifetime in diapers. (Those on durables get potty-trained earlier?)
· Promotions of disposables in e.g. Africa must take account of the local waste disposal infrastructure. (Used diapers are already a litter problem in Kenya)
· Disposable hygiene products are becoming more of a problem in waste because their proportion is increasing as other waste gets diverted into recycling or composting schemes.
· Disposables sales need to be reduced.
With regard to labelling schemes:
· Eco-labelling stifles innovation because its too prescriptive and needs a huge budget to stand any chance of changing consumer habits.
· Carbon-footprint labelling can be very confusing. It is over simplistic, misunderstood, inaccurate and will not change behaviour. It just makes the consumer feel better about buying. It is fundamentally flawed and will not take off!
· Green promotions are almost inevitably misleading. (“Greenwash”)
· BOGOF promotions: Buy one and throw the other away.
Jean-Albert Nyssens of McKinsey & Co., (Belgium) described the recession as unique and of unprecedented severity. It was affecting different sectors in different ways but people were spending less and shopping differently. Replacement of major items was being delayed, larders were being destocked, and people were only buying what they would eat . Do-it-yourself was on the increase, and this included cooking at home rather than eating out.
The mindset had changed: people were shopping smarter and this was a trend which would develop and stick:
· 69% admitted extra control of expenditure in the last 3 months
· 72% would take advantage of any promotions which saved money
· 74% said they would now buy private label to reduce grocery bills.
· 44% would adopt do-it-yourself solutions to home maintenance
· 38% would postpone buying new electronics.
· Discounters are gaining share and the supermarkets are introducing discounted ranges in plain white packs in response.
· In the UK, Aldi, Iceland and Lidl chains were showing double-digit growth (units rather than revenue, Q3 2007-Q3 2008).
· Traditional retailers and FMCG brands suppliers were rapidly adapting ranges to compete better with private label with both volume and price tactics.
· They were launching an “all-out war” towards better value and targetting discounters directly.
· Tesco claims to be developing an “Aldi within Tesco” range now that 1 in 4 of its customers are targeting value.
The overall messages for retailers: “get aggressive not defensive”, “don't waste a good crisis: reorganise to reduce costs”, “redesign products – especially packaging to reduce costs”.
Examples of action by FMCG suppliers included the following to counter the shift to private label:
· P&G's “Baby Basics” diaper range tested in Belgium during 2008 and now about to be rolled out globally. (0.22 EUR/diaper c.f 0.45 EUR/diaper for the “Active Fit” range).
· Colgate were maintaining “share of voice” by taking advantage of lower advertising costs to strengthen their emotional appeal. They were promoting value products like “Total” (toothpaste) to prevent switches to PL and continuing to introduce new products such as the “Wisp” disposable toothbrush.
Asked if brands would die as a result of the recession, Mr Nyssens thought not. Superior innovation and marketing would see them through. Could sustainable products gain in the current climate? Retailers thought so, but only if they did not carry a premium. “The best sustainability actions save cost”.
Elaine Devenish of Deutsche Bank (UK) argued the origins of the current problems were back in 1976 when Chairman Mao died. The resulting modernisation of China sucked in an unprecedented volume of commodities. 2004-5 then saw the complexity of financial products increased, allowing the sub-prime debacle. This affected all leveraged loans and spilled over into the money market. The Fed acted to stabilise the situation giving a partial recovery in 2007 but then Northern Rock, Bear Stearns, AIG and finally the Lehman tipping point came in September 2008.
Now cash was king, and borrowing to invest had really gone out of fashion. China was importing again, and their trade surplus had fallen from $100bn to $20bn since Q2 2008. Chinese consumers were increasing spending, but the export market had fallen sharply. Chinese investment had been static from 2004 to 2006 but was on the rise again. Business investment in the West had declined since mid-2006.
Thoughts for the future?
· Machinery suppliers are in for a tough year
· “Now is the time to increase R&D and revise your strategy.”
· Incentivise the workforce based on cash not revenue.
· People will trade down and private label will grow.
Bruno de Wilde of Organic Waste Systems (Belgium) examined the issues involved in making biodegradable diapers. In fact he meant compostable diapers and reminded us that biodegradation, “photosynthesis in reverse”, was only part of the problem. Diapers would have to disintegrate through physical or mechanical degradation to a size where biodegradation could occur within the time allowed in the composter. Then the residual compost must be good enough to grow food-crops, summer barley being the crop specified in the standards.
Early attempts at composting mixtures of waste failed because the compost proved unusable: it was just mixed waste in a finer form with the CO2 and water removed. Source separation had solved this and Green Bin waste now gave good compost. So, any future biodegradable diapers should be disposed of in the Green Bin. In future, disposal of any organic matter in landfill would be banned and then diapers of the current construction would only be disposable via incinerators.
The olefin, adhesive and tape components of diapers would be a problem. Oxo-degradables, polyolefins with additives to promote disintegration, just disintegrate without any chemical degradation and would fail the biodegradability aspect of composting. Biodegradable thermoplastics would be needed. The woodpulp would be fine, but this is now in the minority. The SAP which replaced the pulp and the elastics would be major problems. The excrement would be fine, but there may be an issue with pathogens in faeces escaping from the process. Maybe anaerobic digestion would be a better option and would allow the recovery of energy.
The overall conclusion appeared to be that biodegradable diapers don't really make sense. Apart from the technological problems of achieving biodegradability without compromising price, performance or convenience, it transpired that there were moves to ban labelling any product as biodegradable in California and Belgium.
Prof Xavier Gellynk of Ghent University (Belgium) has studied the collection of waste in Flanders. Of the 800,000 tonnes of household waste, 82,000 tonnes are disposable diapers or incontinence pads. In addition to this, the Social Services sector produces 28,000 tonnes of the same soiled products. Prof Gellynk is therefore looking at the best ways of collecting and processing this waste in future.
He has considered 3 different collection scenarios:
· Kerbside Selective (ie. Disposables with Food and Vegetable waste)
· Kerbside Non-Selective (With residual waste)
· Drop-off center
and 5 different treatment scenarios:
· Incineration with residual waste and with energy recovery
· Separation and Biological drying (SBioD)
· Anaerobic Digestion with food and vegetable waste
· SITA process (Incineration in cement processing - under development)
· Thenegro-Knowaste processing (under development)
to construct 13 different treatment scenarios to compare with a theoretical reference scenario involving fortnightly collection without source separation, all waste being incinerated.
The routes have been modelled to allow various scenarios to be costed in different regions with different economic, ecological, legal, and social assumptions. Sensitivity analysis was used to check the effects of disposables with different energy values, or different rates of digestion but these were of no importance to the results. Use of the model allowed the following conclusions to be drawn from the set of inputs chosen for the 6 million people in Flanders:
· Compared with the reference cost of E134m, the 13 different treatment scenario costs fell in the range of E136m to E170m per year.
· Collection frequency correlated strongly with cost increase.
· Separate collection of diapers at drop-off centres was both ecologically and economically favourable. (But did he assume no extra car journeys for drop-off?)
· Digestion was the cheapest treatment, followed by incineration, Knowaste processing, SITA, and SbioD.
· Knowaste treatment was the most ecologically favourable route, followed by Digestion and SITA.
So, the ecologically best disposal route for diapers was drop-off centre separate collection followed by Knowaste treatment, and the economically best route was fortnightly collection with residual waste (as at present?). If equal weightings were given to ecological and economic factors, diaper disposal in the residual stream, collected fortnightly and processed by Separation and Biological drying was (surprisingly) the best route. But, its up to you to put in your own data and interpret the conclusions for your own region and its parameters!
Ioannis Hatzopoulus, Manager of External Relations (EMEA) for P&G (Germany) reviewed the EU Commission initiatives aimed at improving the environmental performance of products, boosting the consumer demand for greener products, and helping consumers choose more sustainable products. These initiatives included a Retail Forum, Eco-labelling, and Eco-Design.
The Retail Forum is not a decision making body but would exchange best practises between the European Retail Round Table of 24 major retailers. The EC regards these retailers as the gatekeepers of sustainability to protect the consumers and is attempting to trigger them into promoting sustainable consumption. Mr Hatzopoulus was concerned that suppliers were only expected to make a minor contribution to this forum.
The EU Eco-labelling directive was being updated to include an LCA of the use-phase and to include energy-related products such as windows. This remains voluntary and is expected to include only the top 10-20% of environmental products. The Eco-Labelling Board would negotiate criteria for the various product categories.
The Eco-Design directive would be also be expanded to include energy-related products as well as energy-using products, and would set minimum mandatory standards for all products as of 2012.
Instead of asking questions, both Prof. Braungart and Julia Hailes wondered why the EU was bothering with all this. The EU were only considering cradle-gate aspects of consumer products, and there would be little of use emerging until their disposal was added to the analysis.
Karl-Michael Schumann, retired R&D Director of P&G (Germany) said P&G has revised its 2012 sustainability goals and was now targeting $50 billion cumulative sales of innovative sustainable products, up from $20 billion. For “Operations” a materials use reduction of 20% (up from 10%) per unit of production was now required. (Over the last 20 years P&G Baby Care had reduced material use in products by 45% and in packaging by 65%) For “Social Responsibility” the number of children reached would be 300 million (up from 250 million) and 3 billion litres of clean water would be delivered (up from 2 billion litres).
For future sustainable hygiene products, disruptive innovation would replace conservative innovation eliminating old markets and creating new consumer habits to speed up the change to sustainables. The next step, destructive innovation, which obsoletes the current asset base or supply chain to enable faster progress, requires more funds than most companies possess, but would enable pro-active rather than re-active developments. Such developments would have to be open and joint rather than secret and confined to one company. The definition of the supply chain would have to be expanded to cover the entire cradle-grave life of a product with consumers, government agencies, NGO's and the media all being considered. Such changes would favour new approaches to sustainability but no one will be able to go-it alone. The leaders must pave the way, but the core capabilities and unique strengths of the entire supply chain would need to be harnessed to achieve the desired sustainability goals. “None of us is as smart as all of us”. Clusters, maybe virtual clusters of innovators and associations in partnership with customers could be the key to progress. Maybe, despite the legal and economic constraints, EDANA could start a cluster?
Ken Strassner of K-C commented that these issues were the key to the industry's future, they involved much science and complexity, and they would not yield to incremental developments only. There will need to be disruptions.
As if to underline the potential for disruptive innovation, Christof Schmitz of Concepts for Success (Germany – ex P&G), introduced a new way of making diapers for both baby and adult use. He proposed achieving leakage prevention without leg gathers by adding snug-fitting legs to make a product more like boxer-shorts than briefs. The resulting product would:
· be anchored around the waist and thighs.
· hold the absorbent core against the body to achieve a slimmer fit. The bulging of the core caused by elastic between the legs would be eliminated.
· be more comfortable to wear and better for skin health. (No pressure lines)
· lie flat (no bunching up due to elastics) for easy application.
There were few visual aids and it was hard to follow the production process as described, but the following advantages were claimed:
· the product was made from 3 rectangles – minimising material wastage. (a body carrying the core and two legs)
· the core was laid in the cross direction and could be easily profiled. (this rectangle was rotated through 90o for fastening to the legs.)
· very low usage of elastic or glue
· the chassis is smaller
· production equipment is less sophisticated and smaller than current diaper lines
Asked if any wearer trials had been carried out, Mr Schmitz said only informal trials based on prototypes. The technology for the core rotational step had yet to be published.
Frederik Pieters of BASF Superabsorbents (Germany) observed that sustainability is now an important factor in long-term business success, and felt that only sustainable products would survive. He reviewed the progress made by diaper and superabsorbent makers.
· Diapers now weigh only 40 gms compared with the 130gms of the 1985 diaper.
· This is mainly due to superabsorbents replacing fluff pulp. If diapers used 100% SAP they would weigh only 25 gms.
· The SAP carbon footprint had been reduced to 3 (2007) from 5 (2000) and would reach 2.5 in the near future. 2 would be possible longer-term. (no units given)
With regard to methods for assessing sustainability, we really needed to use scientific quantitative methods, and those available were listed as:
· Carbon footprinting (Global warming potential, Cradle to gate or grave)
· Eco-profiling (Cradle to gate, based on multiple environmental criteria)
· Life cycle assessment (Cradle-grave, based on multiple environmental criteria)
· Single score eco-grading ( Cradle-grave, based on multiple environmental criteria)
· Single-score eco-efficiency analysis ( Cradle to gate, based on multiple economic and environmental criteria)
All of these were superior to qualitative methods and “Green Claims” or “Third Party labelling schemes”, but only Eco-efficiency analysis met BASF's criteria. This involved the comparative assessment of equally weighted economic and ecological aspects by consideration of the entire product lifecycle in a holistic approach. ISO 14040-44 is used for the environmental assessment and the whole methodology has been validated by Institutes such as TUV in Europe and the NSF in the USA.
· weight reduction is clearly beneficial for resource, emission and energy reductions.
· Replacement of fluff with SAP reduces the ecological fingerprint (but what about C-footprint?).
· PP and PE polymers give a better C-footprint than PET.
· 90% of the lifecycle costs are in diaper production and transport. Retailing and consumer use factors have a small effect.
Mr Pieters thought this was a nice sustainability story for consumers, but Julia Hailes who spoke earlier begged to differ, taking the microphone to say that these reduce-weight arguments were dangerous and the approach failed to reduce emissions. Mr Pieters disagreed so Ken Strassner (K-C), moderating, intervened and swiftly concluded the argument saying all the facts had to be balanced using good sound science.
Christel Davidson of Eurocommerce (Belgium) said sustainability makes economic sense and the EU's retailers, mainly small to medium sized businesses employing a total of 35 million people, are committed to it. The Retail Environmental Action Programme (REAP) is a consortium of the 20 larger retailers and the four federations of smaller retailers including Eurocommerce. At the EU Level, REAP comprises a Retail Forum (RF) and a Matrix of Action Points (MAP). Similar structures exist at National Level.
RF objectives include:
· identifying the barriers to sustainable production and retailing
· taking forward the action plan by voluntarily reducing the environmental footprint of the retail sector and its supply chain
· promoting the best products and informing consumers about them.
It advises rather than decides: the latter would lead to cartel problems. It issues reports on good practise, increases knowledge, enhances dialogue and aids better understanding of the priorities. EDANA is a member.
Ms Davidson commented that the uptake of sustainable products is slow, EU consumers being habit- and convenience-driven, buying mainly on cost without any research into value, and spending no more than an hour a week on shopping, on average. She welcomed the EDANA Flushability Code of Practice, and so did the Eurocommerce members.
Asked if there was any chance of consolidating the sustainability initiatives which seemed to be mushrooming at all levels (Global, EU, National, Trade Association and company) she thought not. Asked about eco-labels which had been condemned in earlier papers, Ms Davidson did not say she supported them, but felt they could provide a benchmark. She commented that people seemed to be strongly in favour or strongly against eco-labels.
John Guerin, Commercial Director of Weyerhaeuser (Belgium), a company with 20 million acres of forests made the case for increasing forestry under management as a global carbon store:
· 30% of land area is forested, but the tropical, unmanaged forests are losing area equivalent to 4 Belgiums every year.
· These losses account for 20% of the annual global GHG emissions.
· Consumers want reliable certification schemes to guide them to sustainable sources of timber and paper products.
· At present only 8% of forests are certified, 90% of these being in North America and Europe.
· Where they are most needed, in Africa, Asia and South America, certification schemes don't work.
· The two main schemes are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.
· Businesses using wood need to promote these schemes and focus attention on the 90% of uncertified forestry.
With regard to wood pulp usage:
· 390 million tonnes are used annually.
· 45% of this is new, the rest either recycled or non-wood pulps.
· Of the 177m tonnes of new or virgin pulp, 122m tonnes are used in integrated paper and board manufacture the rest being market pulp.
· 85% (54.5m tonnes) of market pulp is bleached Kraft, of which 4.3 million tonnes is sold as fluff.
Does certified wood command a premium? No, but it gains access to a wider audience.
Mike Smith, Director of Polyolefins for CMAI (Germany) warned that times were changing and 2010 would see a very different polyolefin supply/demand balance than 2009.
· World GDP would start growing again
· Oil prices would continue to rise after smoothing out the effects of speculative bubbles.
· Feedstock is 80% of polyolefin price and we need to understand the naphtha/natural gas situation to predict prices.
· Natural gas provides ethylene at 1/10th the cost of ethylene from naphtha, but ethylene is hard to transport so the polymerisation plant has to be “on-site”.
· Ethylene capacity is declining in the West but growing sharply in the Middle East (from natural gas) and in Asia.
· While the ME has tripled its Ethylene capacity since 2004, 2 million tonnes of capacity will close in the EU and USA.
· The ME's propylene capacity is also increasing: to 10 million tonnes in 2014 (from 1 million tonnes in 2004), and most of this will be converted to PP.
· China will add 4 million tonnes of cracker capacity for ethylene and 2 million tonnes for propylene, in 2010 alone.
· Global demand will be about 66 million tonnes in 2009, half of which goes into films
· Average demand growth of about 3.2 million tonnes/year is expected, mainly China and India,
· but, “A mountain of new capacity is on its way”. The ME will add 8.2 million tonnes of new capacity between now and 2014, and Asia will add a similar quantity.
· China will continue to import about 6 million tonnes/year of PE through 2014
· PE plant operating capacities will fall to ~75% in 2010 as the expansions come through (from a peak of about 90% before the recession)
· Prices will fall and remain at historic lows for 3-4 years.
· Global demand will be about 44 million tonnes in 2009, 16% of this being fibre.
· Average demand growth of ~2.3 million tonnes is expected, mainly in Asia.
· 5 million tonnes/year of new capacity is being added in each of the next 3 years in Asia and the ME.
· EU will close capacity (~1 million tonnes) and become an importer of PP.
· Prices will remain in the 800-1000 Euros/tonne range in the foreseeable future.
Jean-Jacques Vandenheede of Neilsen (Belgium) wondered why we’d pushed the panic button because Neilsen data is suggesting that most of the press reports have got it wrong:
· Most European countries were showing Q2 09 growth c.f Q2 08: the most impressive being Turkey, Poland, Sweden, UK and Norway (in the 6.7 to 10.8% Value growth range) Only Ireland, Slovakia, Spain, Greece and Denmark were showing decline (-5% to -0.4% range)
· Consumer confidence is rising following no more than a hiccup.
· Inflation will be more disruptive to FMCG consumption than the credit crisis.
· Crisis exit strategies are now needed.
A survey of the store attributes used by consumers to decide where to shop shows few differences when 2008 is compared with 2007. “Good value for money”, “good service” and “efficient checkouts” had risen a few places in the rankings and “wide range of fruit and veg”, “spaciousness” and “high quality brands” had fallen slightly.
· Value is more important than low price.
· Shoppers were on auto-pilot. The number of shopping trips, the spend per shop and the shop used had not changed.
· Habit and proximity were the main drivers for choosing a particular store.
· The share of market held by the Hyper-, Super- and Small Super-markets had not changed in 10years.
· Only Discounters were growing. Aldi and Lidl had opened 8 stores/week for the last 10 years and gained as much from proximity as from their low prices. (Discount store share growth was 93% correlated with store numbers.)
· Discounter value share has been approximately constant over the last 3 years.
· Private Label share shows steady growth from 2001 – 2008 but there is no upward spike caused by the crisis.
· Brands always seem to hold 30-40% of the market; PL now has 30-40% of the market, and the casualties are in the middle.
However, a fundamental change is occurring. The dominance of TV advertising has ended and consumers now use 3 screens to get information: TV, computer and phone. Advertising is perceived as false, and on-line communities are growing and gaining authenticity and trust. As a consequence, 10% of the consumers are able to influence the remaining 90%. A key question is still to be resolved. How will the brands connect with the consumers in the 3 screen world?
Magdalena Kondej of Euromonitor International (UK) provided the traditional update of the market situation.
· It's the worst post-war recession, but Germany and France are now emerging from it. (The UK and the USA are still declining but more slowly)
· In the last downturn in 2001, hygiene hardly suffered.
· 2007 levels of growth won't return until 2013
· Surprisingly, the hygiene market grew by 6% in 2008 but 2009 will be level at best.
· Consumers now want value for money and thrift is trendy.
· “Cocooning”: stay at home – it's safer and cheaper.
· “Nostalgia”: older brands are doing better, especially in the UK.
· Value brands are slowing the Private Label growth e.g. P&G's low cost “Simply Dry” diapers and “Simply Clean” wipes
· Most growth in 2007-8 was in the emerging regions
◦ Incontinence products do best, but Japan excepted where the old are affluent, this is still a niche market.
◦ Asia-Pacific is driving diaper growth: Chinese diapers grew 38%, and this appears sustainable (in the economic sense)
◦ Sanpro is declining: contraception is responsible. “Seasonale” is still a niche product but will slow growth further as the women who use it reduce periods to 4 a year.
◦ Household and deodorant wipes show no growth.
◦ Baby wipes were up 5% and could be being used for general freshening up.
◦ Fem Hy wipes were nevertheless up 8%.
· Global growth rates for 2008-13 were estimated: Light incontinence products, 6.5%; Fem Hy Wipes, 5.5%; Incontinence pads, 5%; Diapers and pants, 4.8%; All-purpose wipes and baby wipes, 4%; Sanpro pads, 3%; Pantyliners 2%.
· The growth would be mainly in Asia Pacific – now the biggest market for hygienic disposables - expected to reach $24 billion c.f. Europe's $17 billion and North America's $15 billion, by 2013.
· Within the emerging regions, diapers/pants would grow at 38% per annum in Vietnam, and double digit growth was expected in the UAE, Ukraine and Rumania.
· The recession aside, the long term drivers remain the same: Sustainability, Health and Wellness, Ageing Population, and Online Buying linked to Social Marketing.
Floris Kleijn of CHEP (Holland) observed that RFID labels had not been widely adopted by the supply chain despite obvious benefits:
· It works
· Standards have emerged
· Its an automated process: zero human intervention cuts down mistakes
· Products and promotions can be tracked though the extended supply chain
· Improved return of reusable packaging.
Why hasn’t it taken off?
· It's expensive (upfront capital)
· The costs are unevenly distributed in the supply chain
· Scalability and hence risk issues – Pilot schemes work, but problems arise at full scale.
CHEP, part of the Brambles Company, is a supply chain enabler with extensive experience of RFID implementation. Their main products are pallets and containers, but they also offer a records management service. They are now offering a Materials Intelligence™ service to help move RFID beyond its current status as an interesting technological experiment. CHEP will install and own the RFID infrastructure throughout a supply chain and charge a monthly fee for operating it and providing the data. Schemes are now operating in a Europewide automotive manufacturer, REWE Distribution Centres and Stores and in Coca Cola (Germany).
Anne Forbrot of SCA Hygiene Products (Sweden) provided an update of the EDANA product performance testing project. Here the mannequin method developed by TEFO in Sweden in the 1980's and used by many companies (including Marketing Technology Services in the USA) is being re-evaluated to check how it compares with user trials on today's incontinence products. The current ISO method, the Rothwell or “Dunk and Drain” method is now regarded as misleading because it takes no account of the advances in leakage prevention made by leg gathers and elastication. Round-robin testing to leakage using the mannequin method on 15 different products has given good reproducibility between 6 different labs. There was a learning curve, results getting more reproducible as the operatives gained experience.
Wearer trials carried out over 2 weeks with 45 heavily incontinent bed-ridden people resulted in 9400 pads for weighing and correlating with both the mannequin and Rothwell methods. The new method does indeed show a higher correlation coefficient with real-life use and can detect the benefit of leg gathers. Furthermore despite the very great increase in test complexity (c.f. Rothwell) the mannequin method appears to be equally reproducible once operatives were fully trained.
Work continues with different sizes and ambulant sufferers. Correlations with skin health will also be made. Would light incontinence products be evaluated? Yes.
Sten Bjornberg, Consultant, KBS Development (Sweden) noted that as hygiene absorbent products advance, further improvements get harder to achieve and test methods have to get more sophisticated to detect the ever smaller improvements. The rewet test could be improved by using 8 layers of collagen instead of filter-paper and the collagen test gives much better correlations with skin wetness than the filter paper test. Skin wetness was determined by pressing pre-weighed sections of wet diaper core against forearm skin for 2 minutes with a force of 2 pascals and measuring the weight loss, which was assumed to have transferred to the skin.
In questioning, Frank Courtray pointed out that the collagen method had been patented by P&G and then laid open so that anyone could use it. Asked if the past use of filter-paper rewet tests had led to some of today's products being wrongly designed, Mr Bjorberg thought it would indeed have led to the rejection of some coverstocks because they would appear too wet. Why use 8 layers of collagen when only 2 ever get wet? Mr Bjornberg feels the water does penetrate through more than 2 layers.