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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 18-Sep-2019
Posted by: Angela HENGSBERGER

How Industry 4.0 inspires the packaging industry in three dimensions

The smart factory can do a lot. For example, to produce an individual product tailored to the customer's needs at the price of a mass product. The prerequisite for this is that machines and products are networked and can communicate with each other completely autonomously. In this blog post you can read about the impulses that industry 4.0 is generating for companies in the packaging industry and the opportunities this presents.


The Internet of Things in Production

In the new production world of industry 4.0, every machine and every product has a small brain - for example in the form of an RFID chip. This would not be revolutionary in itself, because the controls of the systems were already "intelligent". What is new is that the individual components communicate with each other. Industry 4.0 is, simply put, the Internet of Things in production. This can control and organise itself completely autonomously through networking:

For example, a machine "knows" that it will be down for a few hours in 6 weeks due to maintenance work, and the other systems can "adjust" to this and take over their tasks or bypass the work step. Or: A workpiece knows its location and can tell a transport robot where it has to be taken in order to be processed further. Networked production is not only more efficient, it can also produce unique products in large quantities. So far a paradox.


Uniques are now running off the assembly line

The startup MyMüsli shows quite clearly how this works: the customer can put together and order his individual muesli from over 80 different ingredients. The mixing machines of the company founded in 2007 by Max Wittrock, Hubertus Bessau and Philipp Kraiss can prepare 566 quadrillion different organic muesli variations. These can also be individually packaged. The company, which now has 600 employees, linked the customer's order process directly to its production. This enables it to produce unique pieces in an automated mass production process. Everyone gets his own muesli, which is packed fully automatically by machines.

Trend Collection Packaging


More sales to industry 4.0

According to a recent study by the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom), more than half of German industrial companies expect the Internet of Things in their factories to boost sales. According to the Bitkom study, one in eleven companies even expects an increase of more than 10 percent.


Industry 4.0 brings 3 important impulses for the packaging industry

The much quoted Industry 4.0 actually offers the packaging industry several opportunities for further development. After all, networking not only affects production, but also the packaging itself. Three important developments are already foreseeable:


  1. Industry 4.0 makes packaging machines more efficient

How this can work is demonstrated by a plant which Sick AG demonstrated at the Hannover Messe Industrie last year. The manufacturer of sensors and sensor technology showed there how a plant can carry out an automatic batch change via self-controlling components without manual intervention. The sensors detect the changeover from pre-packaged 0.5 litre bottles to 1.5 litre bottles and report this change to the control system. This adjusts the system so that the matching carton can be erected, the bottles fed and the carton can be correctly labelled and removed. If the sensors report an incorrect product, the system sorts it out without stopping.


  1. Networked packaging machines can economically produce very short runs right up to unique packaging

One example of this: KHS Innoprint, a subsidiary of Salzgitter AG, has developed a process that prints PET bottles individually on all sides. Only text and image files are required. The system can produce up to 36,000 units per hour. One possible application: Bottles can be printed directly after a football match with the picture of the winning team and the result of the match and placed in stores at very short notice.


  1. The packaging itself becomes intelligent

"Digital finishing creates intelligent products, so-called smart products, which, for example, have their intelligence in the packaging. This enables them to react to environmental stimuli such as temperature, humidity, acceleration, mechanical stress, etc.", said Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, Technical and Scientific Director of the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence at the Packaging Days 2014, where food, for example, can provide information about their individual production process - keyword "farm to fork". Or even provide information in real time. This is the promise of sensor label technology developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Modular Solid State Technologies (EMFT). This means that an abundance of sensors can be integrated into the packaging. They permanently monitor the content and thus inform about its condition. This enables the consumer to see at the time of purchase whether a laptop has fallen off the pallet during transport. The researchers at the Munich Institute even consider it possible that this packaging makes the best before date superfluous. Thanks to intelligent packaging, the product "knows" even if it is spoiled.


Conclusion: Industry 4.0 in the packaging industry

The Internet of Things in Production offers the packaging industry many new opportunities: It makes production more efficient, allows the production of unique products and makes packaging intelligent through printed electronics or RFID radio labels. The latter option probably offers the most development opportunities. This enables packaging to monitor the condition of the content or communicate with users and consumers. For example: A medication package reminds a patient to swallow a medicine as well as its correct dosage, and can also inform the doctor and pharmacist about the successful ingestion. Networked and smart.

Trend Collection Packaging


Born and raised in Vienna. Since 2012 she has been in charge of Business Development at LEAD Innovation with the functions marketing, sales and communication.

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