The German Folding Carton Association “Fachverband Faltschachtel-Industrie e.V.” (FFI) launches the implementation of an online cardboard database that will be available in German and English.

This database is intended as a repository of all folding carton boards used in the industry together with their corresponding specifications and certificates. Based on the principle “one data record per supplier item per grammage”, the database will provide the publicly available specifications for each folding carton board, such as bending stiffness, thickness, moisture, whiteness etc., in a systematic and up to date manner. These technical criteria or any combinations of them can be used in the search function to list and compare products.

The database is not meant to hold data relevant for business administration or calculation, such as pricing, T&Cs, delivery times or inventories. It also contains no information that was mutually agreed between two partners (cardboard producer, folding carton manufacturer). Each data record will be complemented by technical data sheets, clearance certificates or factory certificates of the respective folding carton board.

Cardboard Database Reduces Supply Chain Costs

The current start of the implementation stage was preceded by an almost two years’ period of concept and discussion within the FFI committees and with the project partners as well as an extensive legal assessment. The project was triggered by the observation of the FFI Procurement Committee that central and online-based material databases had been established in many other industries for a long time, but not in the folding carton industry. According to estimates, the European folding carton manufacturers maintain around 300-500 files or databases with product information and certificates on the cardboard types employed in the folding carton industry. The folding carton manufacturers take great administrative efforts to maintain their individual databases. This is driven by their need to evidence at customer audits or quality certifications that their clearance certificates are up to date. As a result, folding carton manufacturers tie significant staff capacities not only in their purchase organisations but also their R&D or Quality Assurance.

At the same time, the cardboard manufacturers provide all their clients routinely or upon request with product related specifications and certificates in various sources, formats and types, thereby also tying significant staff resources of their internal sales force. From an economical view, the current practice of the supply chain partners in the cardboard and the folding carton industries is irrational.“The central ‘multi-to-multi database’ therefore aims to reduce inefficiencies and administrative costs – both on the side of the cardboard producers and the folding carton manufacturers – for the countless number of responses to customer requests and the multiple control and maintenance of raw material related information”, explains Christian Schiffers, FFI Managing Director. He adds that the database also increases the market transparency for both sides with respect to the technical properties of the offered products. Finally, the database supports the folding carton manufacturers with their audits, because the automated maintenance reminders to the data suppliers with tracking ensures that the data records are always up to date (Secured Replenishment). The system automatically informs the database users of any changes of data records or updates of certificates (Product Change Notification).

Tired Use Concept

The subsequent design phase was accompanied by legal counselling to ensure that the database complies with competition law requirements and that FFI as the host of the database is exempted from legal liabilities with regard to content and validity of the data populated by the cardboard manufacturers. Therefore, FFI will conclude license agreements with each data provider (cardboard manufacturer) and each data user (FFI member/folding carton manufacturer). In its utilisation concept for the database, FFI plans to offer access to the platform to all relevant actors. For example, it is intended that not only all participating cardboard manufacturers can make full use of the database but also the members of other national folding box associations within the European Carton Makers Association (ECMA). And even non-members of FFI will not be excluded, as they are also offered limited access to certain functionalities of the database.