When customers are king: personalised products with a batch size of 1 are increasingly demanded by consumers. The packaging industry has versatile solutions ready to respond to these customer wishes. Photo: B&R Automation
Mass products as one-off pieces?
Safety in numbers – this is what many industries felt. The production of a maximum number of pieces was also considered a guarantee for economic success in the fast-moving consumer goods industry and its associated packaging firms and suppliers. This may still be true in some cases but customer wishes have changed in the meantime. The demand for personalised products is increasing and this in turn calls for flexibility in the machinery pool.
The automotive industry has long since responded to individual customer’s wishes. Which colours should your seats have? Do I want a heatable side mirror, aluminium wheel trims or steel? Few wishes go unfulfilled; customers are king when it comes to configurating their dream cars.
But other industries are also starting to respond to the demand for personalised products and a wider choice of versions. As a result, many manufacturing processes are changing – and companies have to be prepared for this.
For transport system Acopostrac the flexibilisation and digitalisation of production are centre stage. Photo: B&R Automation
Flexible and digital
As a global premiere in this area B&R, the experts in machinery and factory automation, recently launched a new system that is said to fuse mass production with batch sizes of 1 in an economically viable manner. At the same time, the flexible transport system ACOPOStrak promises good total system effectiveness, high ROIs and processes with short times-to-market. The individual track parts can be combined openly and therefore fit many machines or lines.
Individual shuttles transport products and product components fast and flexibly from one station to the next through the machine or line. The Krones company, one of the leading producers in packaging and filling technology, has already integrated ACOPOStrak in its lines on a trial basis. This feature is to make just-in-time filling of micro batches possible; beverages and packaging are to be personalised and the set-up times for product changeovers improved thereby enabling the production of mixed palettes without storage and picking.
The track shuttles are equipped with a solenoid bracket and can therefore easily be attached and removed. Photo: B&R Automation
Based on a grid structure various open and closed track forms can be relocated with a maximum speed of more than four metres per second. The minimum product spacing is as low as 50 millimetres. Thanks to a 100% electronically operated high-speed shunting system product streams can be distributed to different stations working in parallel and aggregated again afterwards at high speed. This means that personalised packaging such as six-packs can be assembled with different bottles, in real time and in diverse combinations and time-critical processes can be accelerated. With the help of this shunt defect products can easily be sorted out even at high production speeds. Product changes can be performed completely without any machine standstills.