Packaging 360 with cutting-edge technologies: a must for the packaging industry
The future of packaging manufacturers is digital
Study findings and forecasts all point in the same direction: After sustainability, e-commerce and digitalisation will be right at the top of the packaging industry’s agenda in the years to come. Whilst 24/7 internet orders are booming and the use of barcodes is already widely spread, 3D printing and robots that guarantee Packaging 360, 365 days a year, have yet to advance.
24/7 DELIVERIES, 365 DAYS A YEAR
Global online trade is booming. According to a recent study, in 2019 more than every eighth euro went into e-commerce instead of stationary retail – among others to the three largest internet retailers, Amazon, Otto and Zalando. Among other reasons, this is because these three meet the customers’ demand for particularly fast deliveries, namely same-day deliveries.
But shipping 24/7 requires high logistic efforts and poses great challenges for the e-commerce sector. Innovative solutions from the field of Industry 4.0 allow goods to be stored in the right locations, which is an essential factor, 365 days a year. One central element is optimised order picking, i.e. putting various goods together for shipping. Whilst warehouses without Industry 4.0 require goods to be taken off the shelves by hand and documented on paper, modern Industry 4.0 systems provide for significantly more efficient processes – among them, augmented reality (AR) solutions. By interconnecting digital and real data, order picking processes can be performed with the aid of Pick-by-Vision data glasses. In 360-degree mode, these display the storage locations, articles and quantities throughout the warehouse. This reduces sources of error for employees whilst at the same time increasing customer satisfaction.
Many companies see the value of using smart, fully-automated packaging lines and digital value chains. Currently, however, Industry 4.0 is still largely theoretical. According to a recent study by market research company IDC, the number of corresponding pilot projects is increasing, but too few are actually implemented. A study carried out among Austrian, German and Swiss packaging manufacturers showed that of the participating companies:
80 percent view digitalising machine manufacturing processes as extremely important
70 percent have nonetheless not implemented the necessary digital components
60 percent are not able to clearly define the term “Industry 4.0”
50 percent of the respective managers assume that Industry 4.0 will play a role in their company in 2021 at the latest
The term Industry 4.0 includes a wealth of technological innovations, some of which are of particular interest for the packaging industry. Photo: Pixabay
Robots as packaging aids
According to figures issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), sales figures for robot units – i.e. machines that can carry out complex tasks automatically – achieved a global record of 16.5 billion US dollars in 2018 and thus a growth of six percent compared to the previous year. The report states that these robots that are ready for action 24/7, 365 days a year are mostly used in the automotive and electronics industries.
The packaging industry increasingly uses robots for collaborative actions performed by humans and machines in the same working area. These cobots can carry out changes on a production line during the packaging process and are able to pack large amounts and fragile goods. These special Industry 4.0 robots are popular tools when it comes to automated packaging, palletisation and stacking.
IFR states that the number of packaging robots installed worldwide rose fifteen-fold between 2007 and 2017, to around 32,600 units. From 2017 to 2018, this number increased by a further 23 percent. In the palletisation and order picking application fields, this value tripled to almost 10,000 units in the same period.
It may have been around for quite a while, but 3D printing only now seems to be entering private households, and the packaging industry, allowing users to print their own products 24/7. A Swedish innovation now aims to meet the demand for customised and easily made packaging: The desired packaging is made on demand using wood-based ink. This special Packaging 360 solution is also considered a sustainable alternative to food packaging made out of plastic and metal. The 3D printing process with wood-based ink imitates wood’s natural cell architecture: Whilst the natural material doesn’t melt and can’t be shaped as easily as plastics and metals, this new technology combined with 3D printing allows users to turn wood into any shape imaginable.
Look at the product from all sides and then print it in the comfort of your own home. Photo Pexels