Digitalization in the Packaging Industry Driven by Sustainability Needs
Sustainability is a trending topic in the packaging industry. At its core, companies are talking about how to make the circular economy more efficient and reduce waste. For the consumer, the optimization of packaging is often brought into play with new raw materials, fewer materials used in package composition, or completely new approaches to reusability – creativity knows no bounds. It’s clear that the packaging industry is already putting forth effort today to develop and produce more sustainable solutions.
But is there a sufficient view on the problems? The United Nations has defined the term sustainability more broadly and has drawn up 17 development goals for sustainability (https://sdgs.un.org/goals), topics that are worth taking a closer look. For the packaging industry, goals such as “Sustainable Consumption and Production” or “Climate Action” can be quickly grasped here. However, goals such as “Reduced Inequalities”, “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” or “Partnerships for the Goals” provide opportunities to do business more sustainably.
How can digitalization support?
A question arises: What are the main goals of digitilization? Answers such as automation or competitiveness are often mentioned here. Not wrong, but too abstract.
By using an example, the possibilities and challenges become a clearer. This example is by no means complete but allows for finer facets. The scenario begins with the customer of the packaging manufacturer, which is normally a company that already has requirements from an end consumer.
The packaging manufacturer’s customers are looking for a packaging solution for their product. In the best case, the customer is already in contact with the manufacturer. Here, it makes sense to start via product design in conjunction with the CAD department. Once a design has been constructed, the feasibility of the product design is put to the test. Across various departments, when the product can be produced using which machines must be clear. The various materials must meet the technical and quality requirements, and ultimately raw materials and semi-finished goods must also be available at the time of production. And the price? It should be competitive, have a good margin, and be available quickly before the customer decides to inquire with a different packaging manufacturer.
Another inquiry option that is new and uncharted territory for the B2B world – the customer researches his options without direct contact to the manufacturer and then wants to place his order in a straightforward manner without human interaction. This has already shaped buying behavior in the B2C environment, however, is hardly used in the manufacturing industry. The complete data transfer to the front end of a website seems too complicated for the manufacturer and is often only utilized for standard products that do not do justice to the possibilities for individualization. Ultimately, however, all parameters for production and delivery must be recorded here as well.
However, before all information is recorded and processed manually, digitalization can make an enormous contribution. Product features can be outlined for a wide range of variants at a granular level and saved as retrievable product configurations. In connection with this, production and setup times can be assigned to the various product characteristics. Time optimization can be captured by machine data, e.g. from machine sensors, and lead to new machine production considerations, which in turn enable extended planning, e.g. for scrap reduction. Alternative production routes are automatically determined so that production times and intermediate routes are optimized, especially across multiple production plants and warehouse locations. The availability and quality of raw materials, tools, and semi-finished goods can be checked automatically in the warehouse, alerting the purchase department in advance when material need to be procured, avoiding disruptions in the supply chain. Routes in the warehouse or in production can be supported by automated floor conveyor systems to reduce heavy manual work. Last but not least, the shipping department can significantly support the reduction of a product’s carbon footprint with loading space and route optimization.
Imagine that you bundle the data from the various departments and transfer it to a machine learning model that gives that will analyze suggestions for new optimization, and let the optimized results flow automatically back into production.
Where does that leave your own employees? Complicated expertise can be digitized, and rule-based automation can reduce the level of demand on an employee. Systems can be made simple and even assist with data entry. Repetitive tasks can be automated. So actions that were previously handled by different employees in different departments can be delegated to one employee, without the employee themselves needing the detailed expertise to do their job. Employers can therefore reduce entry requirements through digitalization.
The basis for these opportunities is an end-to-end digitization strategy that takes all relevant data into account. The entire supply chain must be considered. If one action is disconnected, clear implementation would be in jeopardy due missing important.
Digitalization does not end with one scenario. Technologies such as blockchain theoretically allow traceability from raw material to recycling in conjunction with development in machine learning. It is only a question of time when digitization will provide new tangible scenarios.
An event dedicated to the digitalization of the packaging industry
The Aicomp Summit will present digitalization for the packaging industry – An event created by the Aicomp Group to enable a platform to exchange knowledge for packaging manufacturers and digitalization partners.
This year, for the second time, the Aicomp Summit will be held virtually during the week of September 12-16. The first Aicomp Summit in 2021 was reserved for selected partners and Aicomp’s customer base. However, this year, the Aicomp Summit will be open to all interested parties. This is the first time that the initial idea of establishing an industry-specific event with a high level of practical relevance for the entire packaging industry will be fully implemented.
Although initiated by Aicomp, the Aicomp Summit is not intended to be a one-sided product show. The focus is on numerous requirements of the processes and products of packaging companies that can experience optimization through new and established digitalization options – from customer inquiries to production and controlling.
The Aicomp Summit features numerous speakers with years of professional background in the packaging industry, who bring the necessary understanding of the processes and software solutions specifically for this industry. Simultaneously, Aicomp is also focusing on the continuous expansion of its partner network according to the motto “Together we create more.”
This year, various partners are supporting the Aicomp Summit with their professional know-how. T.CON, for example, shows how production optimization works through detailed planning. Lupus Consulting creates new clarity through modern BI solutions. Ortec illustrates how transport optimization can make the supply chain more resilient. And SAP, represented by Kai Aldinger, will be there to present the latest focus areas for a successful cloud strategy.
But of course, we at Aicomp will also play our part and contribute industry-relevant content surrounding core topics of price and data optimization as well as product configuration, paired with trend topics such as machine learning and cloud computing.
Expect live presentations to get a first look at new topics, live demos of software systems to show what’s already available, and discussion panels to deepen your understanding of new technical innovations and trends.
In addition to knowledge transfer, networking between all participants and attendees is an important aspect of the Aicomp Summit. On the website summit.aicomp.com, we not only offer access to the individual sessions, but also the possibility to communicate directly with all participants, which will make it easier to shape an exchange according to your own needs.
Participation in the Aicomp Summit is free of charge. All you need to do to participate is register on the summit.aicomp.com website.