Why a Legacy Company Turned to HP to Disrupt Molded Fiber Packaging and Realize a More Sustainable Future
When the time came for Harry Pearson, founder of Pulp Moulding Dies, Inc. (PMD) in Ontario, Canada, to look for his successor, the search was over before it really began. His stepson-in-law, Troy Mutton, a packaging industry veteran in his own right who had worked at PMD on and off over the years, was the perfect person for the task.
In 2015, Troy assumed leadership of the now 41-year-old company with a clear vision to uphold the fundamentals of packaging science and good business Harry had taught him while also charting a new course—one that would push not only PMD but the entire molded fiber industry to be more innovative and sustainable. That mission led him to HP.
Working in partnership since 2019, Troy has been instrumental in operationalizing HP’s Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution, a first-of-its-kind method for digitally manufacturing high-quality tools that are durable, light, quicker to produce, less labor-intensive to install and more customizable than any tool on the market today.
HP recently spoke with Troy about where he believes the industry is headed and how this essential form of packaging is claiming new significance among future-proofing manufacturers.
HP: Where is the biggest potential for the molded fiber packaging industry?
Troy: What started as a push to avoid plastic straws and bags has grown into a much more concerted effort to drastically reduce plastic consumption. Here in Canada at least six types of single-use plastics will be banned by the end of 2021, and countries around the world are following suit. The need to have better options available to replace those plastic products is increasing daily, and for a lot of applications in industries ranging from food and beverage to healthcare to electronics and more, molded fiber was always the answer.
I know so many people who want to make products differently, but they think it’s hard to get a new toolset made and into production because that’s how it’s been in the past. I'm trying to close that opportunity gap with HP’s technology because it's just an easier process for everyone. We've always known molded fiber is the right path in terms of packaging, but that’s true today more so than ever before.
HP: What important considerations do you think customers are overlooking when it comes to molded fiber?
Troy: Back in 2017 or so, I was at a trade show, and I saw Carlsberg present a paper beer bottle they were developing. It was incredible and so innovative, but what I think people sometimes forget is that every single piece of packaging matters. Whether it's a prominent consumer product or the casing your toaster comes in, it all makes an impact. We have to be innovating the exciting things but also the everyday things.
HP: How has HP’s Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution impacted your customers?
Troy: There are so many benefits with this new technology. Efficiency is a big one. I would say on average, tools produced on HP’s technology are 80-90 percent lighter. When you think about the fact that some manufacturers are using actual cranes to lift traditional tools into place, but one digitally manufactured by HP can be quickly installed by a single person, that’s a massive operational efficiency. Another competitive advantage is customization. Not only can we achieve endless design iterations, but we can also bring a precision and clarity to the tooling and screens with 3D printing that was simply impossible before. From logos to complete sentences, a brand’s ability to personalize molded fiber products and have it look really crisp is more than a game changer, it's changing the game!. We’re utilizing the HP toolset in a whole different way, and we’re making these products faster, which means it’s cheaper and a new viable option for everyone.
HP: What inspired you to break from tradition and embrace new tooling technology?
Troy: When Harry brought me in to take over PMD, one of the most important lessons he modeled to me was that he would always go out of his way to help pretty much anyone. When people asked why he went the extra mile, he’d just say, “because it’s the right thing to do.”
Flash forward to today, and there are so many different products out there that need to be reimagined sooner rather than later, and frankly not enough manufacturers to meet the demand. That's where this HP technology comes in. It’s more efficient. It’s scalable. It’s more sustainable. We've proven it, we tested it, and it's the right thing to do because it's better.
HP: Has COVID-19 changed the molded fiber industry?
Troy: The pandemic changed every industry. One specific thing I’ve seen is more and more people saying, "Well, we just want to support local." That resonates with me, and it’s something HP’s solution can enable more than traditional tooling every could. People will ask me who my dream client is and expect me to say some massive company, but really, I’m interested in helping anyone who’s trying to do things better. Whether that’s a board game manufacturer in the UK or a construction company in Australia using molded fiber technology for cement panels. Often, it’s smaller operations doing more limited runs with thinner budgets that ruled out former tooling methods. Having the capability now to offer them an agile solution that can be localized, I mean, that’s the dream.
HP: What’s next for PMD?
Troy: PMD is expanding. We’re opening a production facility here in Canada that will utilize HP’s technology on an even bigger scale. I also recently bought eight acres in Brazil, and I’m working with a partner there to start producing a natural material from renewable non-forest crops that are grown locally. I’ll make the material available to manufacturers as a way to use plant material that would otherwise be burnt in a field or discarded.
HP: What are you most excited about for the industry in the next 12 months?
Troy: The fact is, the future of molded fiber will not be the same as it’s always been, and we don't need it to be the same. I started really thinking about how to advance tooling technology four years ago, but there was no company out there doing it until HP introduced its solution.
Understanding what this technology does differently and what’s unique about these new tools is something that manufacturers have to have their eyes opened to. But there’s no question the HP toolsets are going to be the new standard. I already know that. This is the way forward. Everything has to evolve for the sake of the environment and to meet consumers’ demands, and that's what PMD is doing with new this technology.