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Industry 4.0: Is the packaging industry missing the digital connection?

Industry 4.0 with the guiding principle of holistic digitization and networking is gaining momentum thanks to innovative technologies. The packaging industry also offers numerous opportunities to drive digital change. But not only the packaging itself is becoming more digital, the production process and the entire value chain are also developing rapidly.  

One of the key success factors for Industry 4.0 is more mature technologies and solutions for the smart and connected factory.

Industry 4.0 of two speeds

The future lies in smart and intelligent packaging, fully automated packaging lines and digital value chains. I don't think there's a way around that. Those companies that invest in a corresponding competence development can generate a decisive competitive advantage.

However, a recent study by market research company IDC shows that industry 4.0 initiatives often get stuck in the pilot phase. Although the number of pilot projects is increasing, the number of initiatives implemented is stagnating. The detailed evaluation of the survey results also revealed that an Industry 4.0 of the two speeds between the factory equipment suppliers and the factory operators is emerging.

In general, machine and plant manufacturers are more open-minded and have a greater willingness to implement than production companies. This is reflected in a significantly higher number of 4.0 initiatives, the formation of industry 4.0 competence teams and the planning of corresponding budgets.


In addition, only about five percent of the industrial companies surveyed have a central data platform that links all areas along the value chain. Nevertheless, about two thirds of the companies were of the opinion that the concept of Industry 4.0 would prevail in production and engineering. However, this approach must overcome obstacles such as breaking down established structures and processes, selecting the right technologies and securing company and machine data.  

Packaging manufacturers still reluctant at present

A recent survey on Industry 4.0 in the packaging industry, in which packaging manufacturers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland participated, paints a similar picture: Around 70 percent of companies do not yet have the necessary digital skills and around 60 percent do not even know what Industry 4.0 actually means, i.e. which applications are possible and what benefits can be derived from them.

However, about half of the managers expect that the industry 4.0 innovations will be implemented in their company within two years. 57 percent of those surveyed expect production to be controlled on a real-time data basis in 2018. In addition, around 80 percent feel it is particularly important that the planning and production control as well as the machine manufacturing process of the packaging itself is digitized.

At the moment, there is still disagreement about the use of Industry 4.0 technologies to optimize the supply chains of packaging companies. While the linking of machines along the entire value chain is already well advanced for machine builders, the topic seems to be only slowly gaining acceptance among packaging manufacturers.   

Data security as an obstacle to comprehensive digitization

As already mentioned, the topic of data security could prove to be a hurdle for the comprehensive introduction of 4.0 applications. This view is underpinned by a study by the market analysis company PAC, which dealt with the topic "Internet of Things", which is relevant for industry 4.0.

73 percent of IT and business decision-makers from the manufacturing and transport industry in Austria, Germany and Switzerland prioritize investments in security over spending on sensors and networks. Concerns about the vulnerability of networked production facilities were raised for this - and with good reason.

Because the more networking, the greater the risk of cyber attacks. IT security and compliance must therefore play a key role, especially in the implementation of comprehensive digitization.  

Industry 4.0 - Solutions have matured

One of the most important success factors for Industry 4.0 is more mature technologies and solutions for the intelligent and networked factory. In recent months, manufacturers have increasingly brought industry 4.0 solutions to market maturity. The focus was also on cloud platforms and software solutions.  

Dassault Systèmes digitizes value-added processes

Dassault Système's central data platform 3DEXPERIENCE networks the complete added value "end-to-end" - starting with the customer's needs, through development and production, to positioning in retail and use in daily use.

All departments along the value chain are digitally merged. The platform thus enables an integrated, digitally supported added value throughout. Thanks to the platform, the packaging manufacturer WestRock was able to reduce the development time for packaging from 18 to 6 months. Siemens (TIA Portal) and Gerhard Schubert GmbH ( recently presented a similar concept.



Beumer Group: APP for mobile monitoring

With the Overall Operation Monitoring App, the Beumer Group has developed an application that gives employees via mobile devices an overview of all relevant key figures of the packaging lines at any time. The app displays all lines clearly and provides employees with important information on the availability, performance and quality of the line or the individual machines as well as energy and compressed air consumption. The customer can quickly evaluate all data and display it as a target/actual comparison or as a diagram. 

Wipak: Unique printing technology for short runs

Wipak has responded to the ever growing need for greater flexibility with innovative printing technology combined with an optimized digital ordering process, enabling the direct marketing of customizable packaging solutions on an industrial scale. The concept is ideally suited for the economical and sustainable production of short print runs. 

"Print images can be personalized and varied even during the process," explains Enrico Riechert, Business Development Wipak. "For manufacturers with a broad product range and regional brands operating in different markets, this is an enormous advantage. Thanks to ProDirect, you can now react quickly to trends, customer requests and competitors and also produce small batch sizes, for example for seasonal or promotional items, efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner. With ProDirect, our customers get exactly the quantity they need. This gives great planning security." 


Conclusion: Those who do not prepare themselves in time will be left behind

Digitization has covered all areas of the company - from purchasing, production, logistics to sales and marketing. The markets are undergoing massive change. Flexibility and speed with high quality and economy are in demand.

 "Companies are facing great challenges: By 2019, three quarters of industrial companies worldwide will have digitally transformed their value chain and thus achieve considerable productivity gains. If you don't get ready in time, you'll be left behind."

Andreas Barth, Managing Director EuroCentral of Dassault Systèmes



Paulinde Schmidt

Pauline has a holistic view of the future. With her qualifications in psychology and sustainable design, the researcher draws a clear picture of technologies, trends and markets. She converts the input from the experts into the next steps for your innovation project, both creatively and analytically at the same time.

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