What is Sketch to Scale and how can this concept improve product packaging

Interview with Leandro Santos, Managing Director & Vice President of Flex Brazil

Flex has positioned itself as a supplier of advanced and innovative solutions to the world. Sketch to Scale is part of the company's services concept to allow customers to rethink business, digitize and create products from the analog world and migrating to digital. This involves innovation and renewal in manufacturing, sales, logistics, sustainability and, now, the Web Economy.

Smart packaging is part of the strategies that Flex offers to its customers, where they provide interactivity between products and systems and also products and people, favoring the entire Supply Chain. Solutions that can be enabled include, in addition to Identification and Tracking, Product Authentication, Innovative Experiences for Customers and Sustainability.

For Leandro Santos, General Director and Vice President at Flex Brazil, smart packaging is the missing link to make the corporate world more digital, bringing important services and information about products to consumers. Today, many companies that are part of the Flex Ecosystem are planning their products with smart packaging and making the benefits of Smart Packaging tangible for manufacturers of electronics, beverages, medicines, etc.

Leandro Santos presenting Flex's strategy to ABINEE's Loss Prevention Committee at Sincpress

Some demands, according to Leandro, involve the need to improve the brands' contact with the final consumer both quantitatively and qualitatively. Another important and relevant point for Flex, is the concern with Sustainability: “We are concerned with making all these technological advances adequate to the needs of the environment”, he concluded.

Read the full interview.

Leandro Santos - Managing Director / Vice President at Flex Brazil, the world's leading Sketch-to-Scale ™ solutions company

Laís Garcia: Can you quickly define what Flex's Sketch to Scale concept is?

Leandro Santos: Flex has always been an electronics manufacturing service company and we normally manufacture products for customers in this sector. Even so, the name before was Flextronics. Six years ago, Flex realized the changes that the world was experiencing, and that it is difficult for you to create differentiations between the more digital world and the less digital world. In the past, there were industries that were very analogical, that is, that had no technological content, and others, to a lesser extent that already had technological content. Today, that difference is over. Today it doesn't matter if the company makes a cement block or a supercomputer; it needs to participate in this world that is ultra-connected to the supply chain, customer relations, sustainability and the way it interacts with society. So Flex positioned itself as a solution provider for companies that need to transact from this world, which was an analog world for this new world, which is the ultra-connected and digital world, where people communicate much faster and which decisions are taken based on data and connections.

Sketch to Scale allows any company, from any market, to use Flex as a partner to enter the digital age, to make this conversion and actively participate in this new world.

For more traditional customers, we participate in the co-innovation of the project until it is placed on the market. However, for customers who were not “traditional- Flex” in Brazil, that is, in the electronics industry - and there are several examples in the automotive world, in the medical world, we help to rethink the business from the digital world and also the co - innovate in the product, transforming and placing digital content or creating new products and, from there, to commercialize worldwide, in an integrated manner.

Here in Brazil we are one step further. Here, we provide not only the Sketch to Scale question, but we add “circulate”. In other words, we do Sketch, Scale and guarantee that within our ecosystem nothing remains to be used. We were able to bring this product back to the chain when it is no longer used and turn it into raw material, in order to produce another equivalent product, closing the circular economy cycle also within Flex's ecosystem in Brazil.

This is Sketch to Scale, the help that companies need to participate in this new, digital and connected world, from the moment they think or rethink the business, the product, the market, until the sale and the circular economy.

LG: How do you see the Smart Packaging market here in Brazil and worldwide?

LS: In reality, when we talk about Smart Packaging, we need to classify what it is, and what it brings about innovation. In other words, “what is the innovation of Smart Packaging?”. Packaging has always been a passive component of the product. It was made to protect or to communicate some information where, for the most part, they were “insured”, that is, the manufacturer's obligation to place the information for the final customer in the packaging. Some companies already had something of intelligence to attract the consumer with that different packaging. But still, the packaging was passive. Someone needed to go there, pick it up and "read" it. Someone needed to go there and do something with it. Smart Packaging has a feature that allows the packaging to be active in the relationship with a product.

LG: And how was that created?

LS: Every electrical and electronic product, or at least the vast majority, has a unique code just like a human being. The human being has a unique DNA and each person also has the RG and / or CPF. The cell phone has an IMEI. The computer has a MAC Address. And now the packaging has its own unique identification. So there are no two identical packages. You get through a code that can be printed on the packaging itself to identify it in a unique way, and also make this digital technology available to connect and feed the entire database with information and possibilities for the packaging to interact with the product and the final costumer.

So, first, it can interact, increasing the availability of information that is already mandatory and transforming the trivial to take advantage of any market, any product, anywhere in Brazil, expanding.

Today, brands are able, for example, to put augmented reality solutions so that the product speaks to a supplier as part of what the sales representative would normally do, or to make the cashier communicate with the product and the consumer to ensure that has its origin identified. I conclude that, Smart Packaging enables a series of solutions, which bring from a unique identity, brand protection, supply chain traceability to user experience and all the data analysis and treatment that can be done from that.

LG: How do you see this new technology? So do you believe it is a potential market?

LS: I see enormous potential, in addition to being a new technology, we are investing a lot in this here in Brazil because we want to be in front of this market and to be able to help companies within this Sketch to Scale model, to participate in the digital world in a way much more integrated, fast and simple.

LG: So you assume that to connect Flex, Sincpress and the concept of Smart Packaging with Sketch to Scale, it would be through innovation, correct?

LS: Sincpress is a center of excellence in technology that will enable knowledge, information and create connections. It is integrated with the Flex Institute of Technology, FIT. Then it will also enable access to other technologies that are integrated with RFID, for example, allow you to exploit as much as possible other technologies at different times, such as when integrating the product into the packaging design. After that, Flex enters all part of production, distribution and after-sales.

In summary, I believe that Sincpress is an extension of this model to include Smart Packaging within the Sketch to Scale and “circulate” solution that we have here in Brazil in an integrated manner.

LG: Do you see any changes in the supply chain due to the implementation of Smart Packaging?

LS: I imagine that many of the companies' wishes for quality real-time information are starting to become closer to reality. Because the moment the packaging becomes a fundamental part of the product, interacting, being active, being able to transmit information in a much safer and much faster way, this will enable many of the difficulties existing today in controlling the flow and originality of products and even traceability, will become something much simpler.

Smart Packaging and technologies allow the product to make a digital leap within the supply chain and in the interaction both with internal systems, as well as in the interaction with the customer and the external market, enabling an extremely welcome innovation at a time when the world is scanned. It is as if it were the missing link in a chain to close part of these demands that companies must have more information, more speed and better understand what is happening with their product

For example, why for the product that already has IMEI (cell phone). Can you do that. MAC Address (computer and / or notebook) if it has a network too, but what about a product that doesn't? This is how smart packaging allows this traceability for any other product. Obviously, today it is very viable for products with higher added value that does not have a unique identification, giving identification to the product, but over time, with technology becoming more accessible, it should dominate all branches of industries and products.

LG: Taking advantage of the fact that you talked about making technology more accessible, which customers are already benefiting from this technology from Sincpress in the Flex ecosystem?

LS: Today there are two groups of customers who already use it. One, HP, which is also part of the solution, as it has developed some of the technologies aimed at digital printing and with its printers allow anyone to use them. Where a good part of its portfolio in Brazil already uses smart technologies to facilitate implementations of Industry 4.0 and that can bring digitalization and relationship with the consumer in a very advanced way.

The second group is the PIC (Product Innovation Center) customers. Every customer today who enters the PIC can now leave with an integrated intelligent packaging solution for his product. In this scenario, we have two startups working with us, in their projects the product packaging is already being designed with the enabling technology for smart packaging and also within a circular economy cycle.

Of course, at Flex itself, the products we develop internally also already use smart packaging technologies.

Speaking of the other customers, we are starting to present a solution so that they can use what is faster and more suitable for their products when we talk about the possibility of the packaging acting together with the product transmitting information. Today, many of the consumer goods customers do not have an immediate interest in traceability and originality, but for others, we are beginning to expand the relationship with the intention of presenting this solution later this year 2020.

LG: The last question is whether you saw the potential for Smart Packaging for other Flex customers, but it was clear. I would just like to know how you and Flex intend to attack, or rather, reach these customers.

LS: We have two lines of work. One is to show the advantage of Smart Packaging based on the implementation of technology in packaging, that is, it is to make the packaging part of the active solution that the product needs, eliminating the passivity of the packaging, transforming it to be active and communicate through combined technologies. Today I see that all Flex customers could take advantage of this change.

There is a second group, those that are not traditional Flex customers because they are not in the electronics manufacturing industry. Those from markets where you have products with high added value and that require security solutions that are not available today. For example, manufacturers of high-value beverages, manufacturers of medicines, who today have difficulty guaranteeing the origin of their products. We are looking for partnerships for these areas with some industries or manufacturers to together design technologies that solve the difficulties they have.

I take this opportunity to say that some surprises have arisen in the meantime. One was that some consumer relationship demands, which were not our focus, but which are already starting to interact, appeared. And the second, was the contact of companies that want to automate the point of sale to deliver a positive user experience at the time of purchase or whatever the customer's need at the point of sale itself.

Finally, I think that within this ecosystem it is important for us to say that everything we do here is thought about how to integrate into this new world, which is not just a matter of business. When we talk about Sincpress, we see that it is inserted in an ecosystem that values ??a healthy, technologically advanced business and that benefits both those who implement it and those who enjoy the final product or service. Where this technology is integrated within a context of responsibility to human beings, a responsibility that ensures that people who participate in our ecosystem are treated fairly, that they can make a difference. This can mainly grow and set an example for society in the cities where we operate. Also, we are concerned that this is good for the environment, not only because it reduces the environmental impact, but because it preserves the environment.

Sincpress is part of this ecosystem that translates more than technology, connectivity, but a responsible future, of sustainable and human growth.