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Plasgad’s solutions are here to stay

Ofer Karmon, Plasgad CEO
Ofer Karmon, Plasgad’s CEO

 

Sustainable Logistics blog held a festive interview with Plasgad’s CEO, Ofer Karmon, to hear from him how the Israeli industry is coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

What is sustainability to you?
We have limited resources at our disposal for manufacturing, industry, and sustenance. The natural resources we consume can’t just get respawn on their own, which will eventually lead to shortages.

Today, we all realize that it is possible to use our planet’s natural treasures more wisely and efficiently, to preserve these natural resources for future generations. Therefore, all people, and particularly the industry leaders have to be committed to maintaining the balance between environmental protection and ecology, on the one hand, and the need for development, welfare, and prosperity on the other hand. To me, maintaining this balance is what sustainability is all about.

To what degree is sustainability a part of Plasgad’s management strategy?
Sustainability plays a major role in Plasgad’s strategy. We develop and manufacture reusable plastic packaging solutions. All our products are recyclable, which makes us an integral part of the “circular” economy. Plasgad’s packaging solutions provide a cost-effective, efficient, and practical alternative to the environmentally unfriendly disposable packaging. As an example, I would like to mention a project we worked on with Milopri, a part of the Milouot group, which is a leading agricultural corporation. We developed a reusable plastic crate specifically for them to replace the disposable cardboard packaging they had been using. When our packaging is no longer used, it is shredded and turned into raw material. We invest a lot of time, energy, and “outside-the-box-thinking” in this kind of process for the benefit of our customers and of the environment.

Can you tell us about the sustainability benefits of switching from disposable packaging to reusable packaging?
Our packaging solutions are designed for reuse and are part of the circular economy. Our crates and pallets are used for multiple work cycles, and when they are no longer needed, the packaging is not destroyed like a cardboard box or a wooden pallet would be. Instead, the product is either reused or shredded and turned into raw material. This is not possible with disposable packaging. Reusable plastic crates eliminate the need to perpetually produce more and more disposable cardboard boxes, which cause long-term damage to the environment. In that way, using our solutions can considerably reduce the packaging’s environmental footprint. When a plastic crate reaches the end of its working life, e.g., when it becomes worn out or unusable, it can be sent to Plasgad for recycling and re-manufacturing.

Do you have any interesting customer success stories?
Of course, for example, the Milopri project. Milopri is one of the largest avocados and lychee packaging shops in the country. It packages approximately 25 tons every year, most of it for export, primarily to Western Europe. In the past, Milopri exported and marketed its produce using cardboard boxes. We developed our Breeze Crate especially for them.
In recent years, as part of their efficiency strategy, Milopri realized that switching to plastic crates would be advantageous in terms of protecting their produce, cutting costs, and contributing to environmental protection. So, they came to Plasgad to design an efficient packaging solution that would meet their specific needs. Together with Milopri, Plasgad has developed the Breeze Crate – a plastic crate designed specifically for shipping unripe fruit. The crate is designed to ensure maximum ventilation and preserve the produce. Our R&D department designed this disposable crate to be lightweight, yet robust, and durable. The solution features a special sampling door at the front of the crate, which is used for inspecting the produce in the field without having to pry the crate open or unload the pallet. Plasgad’s has patented this sampling door solution. The savings this crate provides and the fact that the crate can eventually be shredded and recycled is an example of the tremendous sustainability and environmental protection advantages we help our clients realize.
The advanced solution developed by Plasgad supports Milopri’s strategy of improving efficiency and protecting the produce at all stages of the supply chain. It lets them perform ongoing quality control and save costs while protecting the environment.
Of course, there are many other customer success stories from Israel and around the world in the fields of agriculture, food, retail, and industry, where the success is achieved by switching to reusable packaging and freight solutions by Plasgad. The transition to using foldable crates or nestable plastic pallets for distribution and storage improves ROI and streamlines the supply chain processes.

 

What is your view on the relationship between logistics and sustainability? Is it a conflict or an opportunity?
It is absolutely clear that it is an opportunity, from which everyone can benefit. Companies that make the transition to reusable packaging solutions are able to implement more efficient and cost-effective workflows, which are also 100% beneficial in terms of sustainability and the environment. Logistics based on the circular economy model generate real savings in the use of natural resources and reduce environmental waste.

What degree of sustainability and corporate social responsibility do you see in Israel? Why is there so little of it?
I have actually noticed a growing awareness of this issue in recent years. Plasgad is a partner in a considerable number of projects and collaborations with some of our largest Israeli customers. These companies are transitioning from disposable packaging to various solutions offered by Plasgad. A combination of regulation, awareness, and promoting a culture of sustainability will result in a situation, in which corporate social responsibility and sustainability will become inseparable. I believe that over time, organizations that fail to acknowledge these trends and take measures in this direction will lose their right to exist.
Has the awareness of the issue of sustainability increased following the coronavirus crisis? And what will happen afterward – will it be forgotten?
The coronavirus pandemic is a warning sign to all of us. It has taken a toll on each and every one of us, affecting our personal lives, health, family, employment, and business. The pandemic is a challenge that requires us to rethink how we do things, be creative, and acknowledge the fact that we can and should change our behavior. We can manage with less travel and fewer flights and physical meetings, and we must constantly keep our environment cleaner hygienically sound. From the business perspective, the pandemic has made Plasgad’s solutions more relevant than ever, especially since our packaging products are more sterile and hygienic than wood or cardboard solutions.
I do not believe this will be a short-term trend. The coronavirus is here to stay, and we are learning to live and function alongside it. The adjustments that are being made are welcome regardless of the pandemic, and once we become accustomed to the changes, they will become an integral part of our daily routine.

How has the pandemic affected Plasgad’s business?
Like everyone else, we had to make adjustments, including a partial switch to remote working. We have seen reduced business volume in certain segments that have been economically hit by the crisis, but at the same time, the pandemic has also accelerated the development of some industries, such as the transition to online shopping. During the pandemic, we have come to realize that we must expedite the process of building a rapid, efficient foundation for online sales for our customers around the world, and we will soon be launching our revamped website, addressing those needs. Overall we are doing quite well, and I’m pleased to say that our solutions continue to gain popularity even during the pandemic, so our business has not been seriously affected so far. Customers are just as interested in finding solutions that are tailored to their needs and in using our reusable packaging as they were before the pandemic – maybe even more.

Which areas would you recommend for logistics students to develop?
I can think of a few areas:
Knowledge and understanding of production logistics – understanding of raw materials, smart inventory management, and a deep understanding of production processes.
Advanced technologies and how they fit into the supply chain.
Developing additional skills beyond the technical fields, such as negotiation skills or learning additional languages.
Extending their knowledge on the work environment, in addition to theoretical studies, will help prepare students for the next challenge.
But most importantly – study!

A philosophical question:
Sustainability relies on national state-funded programs and donations. Governments implement sustainability through regulation, taxes, and budgets. By contrast, the world’s leading corporations promote high-impact sustainability changes: On the one hand – they use sustainability to raise their profile, in order to increase their efficiency and profits. On the other hand – they make astronomical amounts of money from us, their customers. Amazon is an illustrative example: it has a revolutionary sustainability program while maintaining differential pricing models for various business, geographical, and time segments, as well as brutally crushing competitors. So the corporations gain global power, and the ability to contain them is limited – but at the same time, they are the ones responsible for the significant change in the perception of sustainability worldwide.
Should we entrust the future of our planet to the hands of global corporations?
This philosophical question certainly raises many questions regarding the right strategy and the effective measures that would help implement sustainability.
In my opinion, it would be wrong to leave this issue entirely in the hands of major corporations. For example, if tomorrow the issue of sustainability becomes less “trendy”, what will happen then? The corporations will abandon it and focus on the next profitable target, new trends will dominate public discourse, and sustainability will become irrelevant. There is no doubt that major corporations have strongly influenced the perception of sustainability, and Amazon is indeed an illustrative example. On the other hand, we must not forget that as well as the brutal crushing of competition, those corporations have a negative impact on the environment. Paradoxically, some of the corporations that advocate environmental changes – for marketing purposes, among other considerations – constantly exacerbate the situation by increasing consumption, generating waste, etc. It is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive approach, involving governmental bodies, including the regulatory ones. If the past has taught us anything, it is that significant global changes occurred only following a concentrated effort by governments and multinational collaborations. Europe is an excellent example. Despite various problems – economic, political, and others – it is undeniable that the European countries are world leaders in sustainability and environmental protection. This has been achieved partly through multinational collaboration and aggressive regulation in EU countries. A possible solution may be achieved through cooperation, dialogue, and a joint effort by all parties, both governmental and corporate, to promote sustainability and protect the environment.
That is the only way to secure the future of our precious planet, for us and for the next generations.