ProcuRising Fall 2021

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I NSIGH TS FOR TODAY ’ S PROCU R E MEN T LE A DER S

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Also in this Issue:

The Big Promise Not Yet Fulfilled: Too Many Procurement Solutions Still Fail Users’ Needs

How Predictive Sourcing Will Help to Revolutionize Procurement

The Predictable Unpredictability of

Popcorn Packaging: A Viable Alternative to Polystyrene

Featuring

TIM MAGES

President, AccuFlex Packaging

Cannabis Packaging


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ssues. We´ve all got ´em (some more than others… but that´s a rabbit hole we won´t dare go down). And while we can´t help with any personal issues you´re tackling (mea culpa), we certainly can assist you in addressing some of the procurement issues that are staring you down. Simply put: Everyone is looking for that golden solution to squash whatever snag we have hit this past year, to overcome whatever obstacle is stubbornly standing in our way today, or to pave the way for a smooth and brighter future ahead. We´ve gathered four such instances in our own industry of professionals to bring you insights about how they are pinpointing issues, then utilizing out of the box thinking and finding creative, proactive solutions to fill their procurement needs. First off is Linda Chuan, who is the Head of Strategic Sourcing & Procurement Ops at Box, a California-based Content Cloud company. Linda shares with us her frustration over procurement software, specifically voicing her chagrin over the issue that even among a plethora of procurement “solutions,” these fixes are misnomers that still fail to fulfil users´ utmost needs. Writer Ron Hedley then dispels the myths and gets to the truth behind the “smoke” and mirrors of the cannabis packaging world with Tim Mages, President of Mages of AccuFlex Packaging, who shared how he discovered this interesting niche and was motivated to look into the possibly of expanding into the cannabis arena. We then sit down with Professor Dr Kharazipour from the Büsgen Institute at Georg August University at Göttingen, Germany, to discuss how one night of snacking at the cinema led to a whole new chapter in his quest to save the world with smart (and viable) alternative packing solutions. Hint: It “popped” into his head as an ingenious stand-in for Polystrene. Eric Buras, Head of Data Science and Machine Learning at Bid Ops, then shares how adopting a predictive sourcing strategy is the solution that will save us. The key? Staying ahead of the disruption. Speaking of disruption, we´re proud of you for weathering the storm that was 2020 and has been 2021 thus far, and we want you to know we are right here battening down the hatches alongside you. Just remember what English historian Edmund Gibbon said: “The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.” Fair Winds and Following Seas.

—Andy Beth Miller Editor-In-Chief

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Editor-In-Chief

Andy Beth Miller Writers

Ronald Hedley Kayla Graham Advertising

Sarah Scudder 510-736-7216

Visit us @ Procuring.com No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission for the publisher Real; Sourcing Network (RSN). This publication is intended to provide accurate, authoritative, and detailed information in regard to the subject matter covered. All written materials are disseminated with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal advice or other professional services. Under no circumstances should the information contained herein be relied upon as legal advice, as it is designed to be a source of information only. ProcuRising strongly encourages the use of qualified attorneys or other qualified experts with regard to the subject matter covered.he publication does not guarantee the accuracy of the information, it is therefore not liable.

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he Predictable T Unpredictability of Cannabis Packaging

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The Big Promise Not Yet Fulfilled: Too Many Procurement Solutions Still Fail Users’ Needs

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How Predictive Sourcing Will Help to Revolutionize Procurement

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Popcorn Packaging: A Viable Alternative to Polystyrene


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FEATURE

STORY

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The Predictable Unpredictability of Cannabis Packaging by RON A L D H E DL E Y

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n 2019, AccuLink Packaging President Tom O’Brien invited Tim Mages to come to his office to discuss a business idea. O’Brien was looking to expand and diversify his print-on-demand business that he had started out of his garage in 1980. He had recently been introduced to O’Brien through a mutual friend in the industry. Mages was willing to listen. He kissed his lovely bride goodbye, promised to be back in time for dinner and drove the four hours from his home to the AccuLink headquarters in Greenville, North Carolina. Mages had worked for over 30 years in flexible packaging, and his career was winding down. He still enjoyed dabbling a bit in consultant work because he still was free to choose his hours, spend more time with his family, and perhaps even write his first novel. So why did he take the meeting with O’Brien? Was he looking for a new challenge? Did he miss the human interaction: getting to know his colleagues and their families working on site? Read on to discover Mages’ why. The meeting with O’Brien went well. So well, in fact, that Mages completely lost track of time. At 6 pm, while the two of them were scratching out busi-

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ness plans on a 12 by 15-inch envelope in O’Brien’s office, Mages’ phone rang. It was his wife. He had lost track of time. He would not be home in time for dinner. But the meeting had been a success. Armed with his father’s work ethic and love for a challenge, Mages shook hands with O’Brien and agreed to become President of AccuFlex, the newest division of AccuLink. Mages reflected on his decision, “I felt like Tom felt. There was a need in the market for that short to midsize flexible packaging, to really service the new and up and coming companies and the emerging brands. I put the plan together and sold it to the bank. Subsequently, I put in a proposal to the state of North Carolina, and they chipped in with funding. In January of 2020, we started in the building I am in now.” “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” —English Proverb Just 45 days later, COVID-19 hit. Mages reflected on the effects of the shutdown. “In hindsight, the timing [of COVID-19] couldn’t have been worse, but we persevered. I believed in what we were doing. There was a need in the market. The biggest COVID-19 challenge was getting our name in front of people.”

ProcuRising » Insights For Today’s Procurement Leaders

Cannabis Packaging

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ccording to the AccuFlex website, “Our customer focus will be on the manufactures of snacks, confectionary products, coffee and granola/ cereals. Opportunities within the pet food arena will be explored.” There is no mention of cannabis packaging. When I asked Tim about it, he explained, “We weren’t even thinking about cannabis packaging in 2019. Cannabis packaging was not on my radar. I had identified a list of 40 companies in the Southeast as potential targets [for our business]. We started by going out and talking to people or emailing. At some point, we had people approach us from the cannabis industry. There are a lot of opportunities out there.” Mages shared how this newly discovered interest motivated him to look into the possibly of expanding into the cannabis arena. “We explored [the cannabis market], and then we started to explore child-resistant zippers. We learned that there is much opportunity out there in a very fragmented market. Each state has their own rules and regulations. These cannabis companies [were and] are looking for people like us who can manage short run, quick


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turnarounds, not huge volumes. They are all starting their own little brands, and they want that CR zipper. Mages also discovered that the cannabis industry is a bit like the Wild West. “There are no national packaging standards for cannabis. California and few others have mandated that the minimum thickness of the flexible pouch must be 4 Mils (one Mil equals .001 inch) or greater. It is about the thickness and the robust tougher feeling for child protection. Other states have followed suit, but nothing is in writing.” Despite the gun-slinging reference above, Mages does not regret his decision to lead AccuFlex into the cannabis arena. “We started with just a few small companies, and others started calling us. Now, I am dealing with brokers who are bringing new people to me. Most are state focused, small distributors. Today, 50-60% of what we do is in the CBD (medicinal marijuana) or cannabis packaging niche.”

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“Today, 50-60% of what we do is in the CBD (medicinal Sustainability marijuana) T or cannabis packaging niche.”

a child resistant zipper.” Mages added, “We’re a startup. We have been in operation a bit over 11 months. Our long-term goal, when cannabis is legalized federally, is to have certified pouches for production. Most companies aren’t certified because the regulations in the states are all over the map.”

—Tim Mages, President, AccuFlex Packaging

Federal Regulations

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he world of flexible cannabis packaging certification is, at best, discombobulated. Cannabis is not legal nationally and, therefore, not federally regulated. There are no universal standards that the 17 legal recreational cannabis states must adhere to or comply with. As a result, companies like AccuFlex are hesitant to get their packages certified. Mages ruminated, “If our package is certified in one state, will that certification be valid in another? And there are other concerns: 1. If cannabis is legalized nationally, will prior certifications no longer be necessary, or worse, deemed invalid? (Note: the Moore Act and the Safe Banking Act have passed the House and are now awaiting passage in the Senate.) 2. The cost can be prohibitive. To be certified in one state, it takes 10-15 thousand dollars per each size package. And the process takes multiple months. “One company spent the money to get a small and a large pouch certified. We are considering doing that because it gives you the

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bookends. But it is quite expensive,” Mages said. Furthermore, the requirements for opacity and labeling vary in each state, making universal packaging difficult. But there is one flexible packaging constant in all the states where recreational cannabis is legal. Mages explained, “All the pouches I have done today involve the child resistant zipper. There is not a national standard in the U.S., and the states do not require a specific film of production process, but they all require

ProcuRising » Insights For Today’s Procurement Leaders

here is a lot of work being done to bring sustainability to the flexible packaging cannabis market. Mages explained how his company is helping to lead the way. “We are really focused on being more sustainable. Part of it is using all polyethylene films, and the other part is the work we are doing with a number of companies in bio-based film and bio-based zippers.” But sustainable, flexible packaging for the cannabis industry is not yet a reality. Mages described the zipper-flexible-packaging dilemma: “There are two films that are used: one’s a nature flex, a cellophane based film that is made from pulp. The other is a TDS compostable sealant web. Those are laminated together with a compostable adhesive.” Therein lies the rub. Mages explained, “No one yet has a child resistant compostable zipper that will adhere to these compostable films. The regular polyethylene zippers, that I use on all my other structures today, will not adhere to the compostable film because there is a difference in the melt index. They are not compatible. They just do not stick to each other. None of the biobased films today work with a child resistant zipper.” But because cannabis companies are committed to being sustainable, there is hope. Mages explained, “Even if the package is more expensive, the emerging brands want to carry home that sustainable message. They are committed to it. They feel it is the right thing to do, despite the higher cost. As a result, there is a lot of work being done today to create a compostable film that is made from biodegradable plant-based resins that is also compatible with a compostable biobased CR


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zipper. I have done some trials, but they are not commercial yet. Everyone recognizes the need to get that package into a bio-based film coupled with the compostable bio-based zipper that has the child resistant ability.” Perhaps the AccuLink website says it best. “Our efforts within the flexible packaging market will be to focus on sustainable film options for the industry. Working with industry leaders and visionaries, we will help bring to market BOTH recyclable and compostable grades to the small and mid-sized manufactures.”

Work Ethic

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ages no longer sips tea under his proverbial magnolia tree enjoy-

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ing the semi-retired life of a consultant. And, according to Mages, he would have it no other way. “I love a challenge. Tom and I took a leap of faith outside of our comfort zones, and we do not regret a thing. It is fun and challenging running a startup. It is a lot of work, a lot of hours, but I am having fun. And I love working with people: whether it is the customers, the suppliers, or our small group here. I love getting up every day to interact with and lead the people here.” Mages believes that a leader needs to do more than work hard. A leader needs to also care about his colleagues and be committed to doing the right thing. Mages grew up in Buffalo, NY, and attributes this work ethic to his blue-collar roots and his father. “My

dad had a big influence on me early on. He worked in factories all his life. He worked in a brewery and then at Chevrolet. My summer job was working in the Chevrolet plant one year, and then I spent two summers on the loading docks in Buffalo.” As a result, he has a lot of respect for the workers in his manufacturing plant. Mages said, “Any time I work on an operation, I get to know everybody who works in the place. I call them by their name and look them in the eye. Any success I have had is really a result of the success of each individual that has worked for me. In the end, you do what you know is right deep in your heart.”

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DESIGN • REDESIGN • SOURCING • FULFILLMENT CONTACT US TODAY | info@rsnetwork.com | 646.790.8972 | rsnetwork.com Q2 2021 » www.procurising.com

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The Big Promise Not Yet Fulfilled: Too Many Procurement Solutions Still Fail Users’ Needs by K AY L A GR A H A M

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inda Chuan has a bone to pick with procurement software. Five bones, to be more precise. Linda is the Head of Strategic Sourcing & Procurement Ops at Box—the California-based Content Cloud company—and has over two decades of senior executive procurement-related experience. Her resume includes many “firsts”: first Head of Sourcing & Procurement at Genstar— GE Capital, first Head of Technology Sourcing & Procurement Gap Inc. corporate, first Head of Technology Sourcing at PeopleSoft, first Head of Value Delivery at Siebel Systems, first Head of Marketing Sourcing (and later included HW/SW categories) at Yahoo!, as Salesforce’s first Senior Director of Global Corporate Services & Strategic Sourcing, and as Vice President of Global Technology Sourcing for Thomson Reuters. When someone with Linda’s extensive experience in the procurement field has something to say, the companies that design and sell procurement software would do well to take notes. After many years of being “let down,” she’s feeling that these companies continue to fail their users, primarily by not listening to their customers. “I’m finding that all of these solution providers out there claiming they have the answer to fix the business problem

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that they’re trying to solve—they’re not really talking to the people who are actually using it, and they’re not really solving it. They’re coming at it from an engineer’s perspective and have not really spoken or taken in feedback from the actual end-users. I was really bullish on technologies and innovations from the procurement side catching up to the sales side a while back. However, over the last five, ten years, I have not seen it. I’m seeing offerings that forget so many fundamental functionalities in the solution they’re building.” Linda sat down with us to discuss her five biggest points of failure among many of today’s procurement solutions.

an established company who’s been around years. And even data companies ... Everybody still has data quality issues. Why? Because they haven’t eliminated the need for manual entry.” Even worse, many solutions encourage pushing out that data entry to enduser teams, decentralizing and farming out the work to those who aren’t motivated to ensure data quality. So you end up with multiple teams, each entering data manually, introducing data variations in addition to the usual typos. This is a recipe for bad data, and bad data inevitably means bad results. Garbage in; garbage out; no AI and actionable insights.

1. Data Quality

2. End-to-End Platforms

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iant technological leaps like machine learning are made possible by two things: processing power and data. To be useful, that data has to be cleansed and normalized. Unfortunately, most companies are relying on manual entry of data in their procurement systems. All the processing power in the world can’t compensate for dirty data. “Data is never clean. I’ve been practicing procurement for a while now and I see it at every company, every industry, and at every phase of the life of any company, whether you’re a startup, or

ProcuRising » Insights For Today’s Procurement Leaders

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he reality of the current procurement software landscape is there is no single “best of breed” solution. Instead, many have specific strengths, and customers end up using multiple products to get the results they want. However, too often, developers decide they want to be an end-to-end platform, locking in users and their data. This strategy appeals to investors, but it doesn’t work for users. Developers need to provide true end-toend interoperability with each of the modules within the platform—as it was “pitched” to the customers.


“Everybody still has data quality issues. Why? Because they haven’t eliminated the need for manual entry.”

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“They will tell you, ‘it’s not us, it’s you.’ A year and a half, two years later, we can’t connect these modules. It’s not because of our solution; it’s because of how you guys architected your environment.” —Linda Chuan, Head of Strategic Sourcing & Procurement Ops, Box

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Linda has frequently had to work with companies that have dropped the ball on the Open API front, and it is not an experience she relishes: “They will tell you, ‘it’s not us, it’s you.’ A year and a half, two years later, we can’t connect these modules. It’s not because of our solution; it’s because of how you guys architected your environment.” Years later, the platform solution still isn’t live to realize the efficiency ROIs.

3. Open API

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ecause the ‘platform’ solution doesn’t really work, we, the customers, are then having to weave ‘best of breed’ and ‘fit for purposed’ solutions together. In order to do this, we need open APIs to allow for integration with other solutions in the ecosystem. Then when asked if the solution providers have APIs available, their affirmative responses really only mean: “Yes, we have standard APIs available, which may not work with your requirements.” The customer needs to peel back the onion here and get to what the standard API truly means, because when providers respond yes to this requirement in the RFP, it could mean NO, when it comes time for solution design.

4. Scaleable

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here is no question that procurement solutions must be scalable. When customers grow their business, their procurement solution needs to be able to grow with them. This ensures continuity of data, keeps onboarding costs down, and eliminates the disruption of migrating to a new system. Linda Chuan’s ideal solution? Select a solution that has both small companies and large companies as their customers. “I can design the solution and process to grow with a company, from small mom and pop shops to enterprise giants, so that I can stick with the one solution. I will then have data from the beginning of history, beginning when that company started.”

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5. Mobile

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obile access is a pet peeve, and with today’s lifestyle, should be a built in capability and that includes being able to run an entire procurement sourcing team using a phone. But the current crop of procurement systems can’t always match that degree of mobile functionality. That’s a real shortcoming and especially hard to overlook when so many people are working remotely and wirelessly. “What happened?” asks Linda. “When mobile, scaleable, open, and social solutions were available over 10 years ago, it feels like we’re going backwards...”

And Finally, a Positive Note for the Future

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espite years of new procurement software that repeats the same shortcomings, Linda has hope. She describes herself as “cautiously bullish, or optimistic.” Perhaps it’s being based in the San Francisco area and being exposed to the enthusiasm of the 200+ startups in the area. “Yes, you can do it. As long as the entrepreneurs are keeping an eye on these foundational requirements, I’m looking forward to seeing a solution that truly meets the end users’ needs.”


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“I think procurement is one of the areas where there’s still a lot of impact to be made. Bid Ops’ purpose here is to really shoot for the moon in terms of changing the way big companies do their procurement.” —Eric Buras, Head of Data Science and Machine Learning, Bid Ops

How Predictive Sourcing Will Help to Revolutionize Procurement by K AY L A GR A H A M

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upply chain disruptions are nothing new. They can be caused by a wide variety of events, ranging from extreme weather to labor conflicts. However, 2020 and 2021 have seen disarray in global supply chains at an unprecedented level. Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, an ongoing semiconductor shortage, and then the blockage of the Suez Canal by a massive container ship have had catastrophic results that still echo throughout the global supply chain. Events like these will continue to happen, confounding sourcing professionals. However, there is a way to minimize the damage caused. Predictive sourcing is the key to minimizing the impact of supply chain disruptions. Made possible by advances in data analysis and machine learning, predictive sourcing leverages the reams of data that previously hid valuable information. With predictive sourcing, procurement gains end-to-end visibility and sustainability. This technology provides resilience that allows organiza-

tions to successfully navigate supply chain disruptions. In many cases, predictive sourcing can anticipate classic disruption scenarios (such as popularity-based shortages), helping sourcing teams avoid the crush altogether. In short, predictive sourcing is poised to revolutionize procurement. Eric Buras is the Head of Data Science and Machine Learning at Bid Ops, a leader in AI-powered procurement software. With a background in mathematics, Buras started his career in cybersecurity before moving to the logistics side of supply chain management. He worked on machine learning models used to track the location and progress of container ships and delivery trucks. The vast amount of data involved in procurement offers both opportunity and challenge. That is the kind of situation that attracts someone interested in complex problems in data science. Buras notes: “I think procurement is one of the areas where there’s still a lot of impact to be made. Bid Ops’ purpose here is

to really shoot for the moon in terms of changing the way big companies do their procurement.” According to Buras, the events that were so disruptive to sourcing in 2020 and again this year may have people thinking they were once-in-a-lifetime occurrences. However, that is wishful thinking. “These big events, they seem like random, rare events to us, but I think they’re going to be more and more common, just because of the way the world works. Hopefully, not another pandemic, but there are always going to be events like Brexit, oil shortages, or ships getting stuck in canals. Those are just human issues.” Because supply chain disruptions will continue to happen—and perhaps on a larger scale than ever before—the old way of dealing with them isn’t going to work. Companies have traditionally dealt with these disruptions reactively. The eventual realization that there is a problem leads to scrambling to figure out exactly what is going on. That’s followed by a race to source an alternative supply. This approach is riddled with problems, not the least of which is the challenge of trying to lock down alternative suppliers when competitors across the globe have come to the same conclusion and are trying to do the same thing. The key is to be ahead of the disruption and use a predictive sourcing strategy instead of being reactive. Buras has thoughts on what this new approach entails: “Instead of reacting to these events, companies are going to need to be proactive, having supply on hand, or maybe just a plan B for sourcing locally. So, just getting a hold of all their historical purchasing data and diversifying their purchasing is really important, because you don’t want to run into these global event shortage issues again.” For many companies, this is easier said than done. Buras says he frequently sees procurement teams that are still trying to track their sourcing data locally; on spreadsheets and in email. Those files are typically going to be spread across multiple computers, multiple locations, and in multiple formats. It’s all but impossible

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for human analysts to make sense of this much data, let alone do so under a time crunch. Even advanced machine learning technology can’t spit out accurate analysis in these conditions. So step one is moving all that data to a centralized location in the cloud. That way, everyone on the sourcing team can access it. As part of the process of moving the data to a single repository, the data must be cleaned up and normalized. In these conditions, machine learning models are extremely effective. Bid Ops provides that centralized platform and data repository. Buras points out that companies adopting Bid Ops then benefit from low-hanging fruit, including data visualization. From there, basic analytics identify important metrics like supplier diversity. As this data is incorporated, Bid Ops then shows the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence, supporting the goal of predictive sourcing. Buras explains the transition starts with the computer finding patterns

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but then progresses to the point where Bid Ops can do the heavy lifting: “As the price from one supplier increases, we predict that the price from another supplier is also going to increase, but historically doesn’t rise as much as the competitor. So, go talk to the alternative supplier, and we predict you’ll get a better price there.” While pressure is always on sourcing teams to reduce costs, there are other factors at play. Strategic issues, including sustainability, environmental impact, and carbon footprint, are increasingly important. Predictive sourcing can be applied here as well. Whether a procurement team is being measured by cost savings, the impact of their decisions on a company’s carbon footprint, or a combination of factors, being reactive just won’t cut it. Bid Ops has been designed to fully support predictive sourcing: “Letting a computer predict the price and make a recommendation and just reduce manual effort is the gold stan-

dard we’re shooting for. Enabling their teams to focus on the most strategic sourcing initiatives and letting a computer handle lower value POs or more tedious transactions is what we’re trying to accomplish.” At the end of the day, while Eric Buras works for Bid Ops and would obviously love sourcing teams to adopt the product he’s put so much into, he has a wider goal: “More people working in this space is better, even if they’re competing with Bid Ops. More visibility into what can be done in this space will help all of the companies competing here… ‘A rising tide lifts all ships.’ Just having more and more work in this area will enable all of our customers to see the value in it and lead to better things for all of us. So, I’m just trying to increase visibility in the analytics and data science space in procurement. Because I want other smart people to work and help improve procurement.”

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Popcorn Packaging: A Viable Alternative to Polystyrene by RON A L D H E DL E Y

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ecessity is the mother of invention.” –Plato Every year over 10 million tons of polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) are produced worldwide. It comprises almost 30% of total landfill volume and an estimated 20% of all Styrofoam produced ends up in our water ways. Styrofoam releases microscopic particles into the ground and our water supply, and it takes centuries to break down. It also endangers human health, having been linked to neurological effects and increased cancer after prolonged exposure. (greendiningalliance.org) Prof Dr Alireza Kharazipour has made it his life’s work to do something about the polystyrene problem. Over 40 years ago, he completed his doctorate on the topic of natural binders (bonding agents). Since earning his PhD, Dr Kharazipour has dedicated most of his studies and research to finding solutions to the world’s land pollution problems. He explained, “After that day, to this day, I mainly work with renewable raw materials. I have published numerous publications in international journals and now have over 100 patents worldwide. The idea of using innovative materials from renewable resources originates with me.” Prof Dr Kharazipour’s popcorn packaging epiphany came to him

serendipitously. Ten plus years ago, he was having no success in his research finding materials to replace polystyrene. He decided to take a break one evening and attended the cinema with his wife in Göttingen, Germany. While there, Prof Dr Kharazipour decided to purchase a bag of popcorn. As fate would have it, the tasty, feather-light popcorn granules he consumed that night would change his life. “In the dark of the theater, the popcorn felt as light as Styrofoam balls. I was inspired to try and produce feather-light granules from popcorn. The next day I bought some kernels and popped them at home in a pot. After, the whole house smelled like popcorn, so I moved my experiments to the laboratory at the university.” The rest, they say, is history. Prof Dr Kharazipour’s laboratory is at the Büsgen Institute at Georg August University at Göttingen, Germany. Since 2008, led by Prof Dr Kharazipour, the Chemistry and Process Engineering of Composite Materials group there has been working in the renewable raw materials field. The group has succeeded in developing three-dimensional formto-fit packaging made from popcorn granulate (worldofprint.com). Prof Dr Kharazipour is proud of his team’s work. “I and my team at the Büsgen Institute have developed around 40 products that consist of 100% crushed

popcorn granulate and proteins (as binders). Our aim is to replace the polystyrene products with our popcornbased products. The processes for making popcorn-based products are remarkably similar to the process for making polystyrene products. We work with vapour-free processes, such as radio wave frequency technology,” he explained. Prof Dr Kharazipour then explained how popcorn is converted to packaging material. “The grain maize is mechanically shredded into so-called maize scrap. The crushed corn is then expanded into granulated popcorn using a steam pressure process. The products are exceptionally light because popcorn granules are filled with air-like honeycombs. When grain maize expands into popcorn, the volume increases by 15 to 20%. One cubic meter of our popcorn granulate weighs approx. 65 kg / m³. By-products from the corn industry, for example broken corn, can also be used for popcorn products.” The granules are then pressed together to form sheets or panels. The bonding agent is made from plant proteins that are compostable. It is so eco-friendly that it can also be used as animal fodder. And they perform better than polystyrene. According to the YouTube video: A Natural Substitute for Polystyrene, “The popcorn panels

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“My longterm goal is to learn from nature and to imitate it.” —Prof Dr Alireza Kharazipour

absorb heat better and performs better than polystyrene in the flammability test. When exposed to flame, the polystyrene panels melt, releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere, while the popcorn panels barely catch fire.” Popcorn technology is not limited to packaging. Prof Dr Kharazipour explained. “The products made from popcorn granulate can be used to produce biogas or can be mechanically shredded and produced again. The material can be reused or even composted at home.” Göttingen University recently signed a license agreement with a company to process and produce their environmentally friendly popcorn products for the packaging sector in Europe. Prof Dr Kharazipour hopes this is only the beginning. In fact, he shared how his

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goal is to expand his popcorn packaging concept globally. “My industrial partner wants to manufacture various packaging products soon and, hopefully, not only market them across Europe, but also world-wide. Another industrial partner wants to produce insulation boards from popcorn to insulate the inside and outside walls of houses. I think this is my contribution as a scientist for a clean environment, free of plastic-based products.”

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