Packaging is an essential segment of any business. The demand for packaging has been rising exponentially with respect to the interesting design and quality of the packaging, which have a significant impact on a product’s success or failure in the market. In the current era of the high demand for consumer products, the packaging of the products is done on high throughput and high-speed machinery. These machines are designed to prepare different sizes of packages as per the product requirements. 

Packaging machines are widely used across various industries such as chemicals, electronic devices, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, personal care products, and so on. Filling, inspection, wrapping, sealing, and labeling are some of the major applications of packaging machines. Today’s expanding retail outlets such as supermarkets, supercenters, convenience stores, and others are all creating a variety of marketing challenges and new opportunities for innovative packaging introductions. Further, the cutthroat competition from the e-retail sector is also driving the demand for an innovative packaging solution to attract customers, thereby buoying the need for advanced packaging machinery.

Smart Packaging Machines - Challenges and Drivers

Implementation of smart packaging machines supports the end users to increase their packaging operations and addresses the business needs in several ways. 

  • Improves productivity and efficiency
An addition of advanced software is proving to be helpful to improve the control and connectivity of the packaging machines. This is also creating new ways to expand production capacity through smart manufacturing techniques. Usage of remote monitoring can be useful to keep a timely check on the performance of real-time tasks and troubleshoot problems. For instance, Premier Tech Chronos, a company which delivers bag-packing equipment, came up with a cloud-enabled, remote-monitoring solution for its packaging equipment.  This wireless solution allows for sharing vital diagnostic information with customers to enable predictive and preventative maintenance activity. It also has functionality with mobile access to machine status.

  • Increases flexibility
Substituting old mechanism with new software will help increase the speed and flexibility in a wide range of packaging applications. The present machine system uses a multi-axis linear servo technology, which helps to eliminate delays associated with traditional collations. For example, Delkor Systems a food packaging machine manufacturer uses an intelligent track system on its HSP-400 case packaging system for flexible pouches. This track system maintains product movement three times faster than the average speed of other case packers with precision.  The beauty of HSP-400 system is the machine functions in running multiple packing formats in a single line with consistent speed and simplicity.

  • Reduces design complexity
A smart machine is a combination of multiple sub-devices, built by multiple manufacturers. To configure and get those devices to communicate and operate with each other is a challenge. Addition of a controller device helps to address these challenges. A Logix- based controller automatically retrieves the data integrated sub-device in Logix-based control architecture. This smart controller system also has library management, device mapping and configuration, and tag-aliasing capability. The device allows packaging machine manufacturers to store, manage, and reuse code from their series. This can help reduce the development time and build on the outcomes of their successful ventures. 

  • Addresses workforce challenges 
Unskilled workers in the Middle East and African regions can cause serious harm to the production process due to lack of knowledge. This can actually lead to accidents or delay in the production line. Considering this to be a vital issue, the developers of packaging machines should design easy operated machines for inexperienced workers, while also improve the workers’ safety and productivity. Human-machine interface with system diagnostics and easy-to-understand display screen can help the beginner as well as less knowledgeable worker detect issues and ease troubleshooting. 

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Recent Developments

  • Netherland based company PWR Pack, a manufacturer of robotics food packaging, announced its adoption of 3D technology to help expand their production facilities. The advanced intelligent vision systems that use 3D vision technology monitors the products accurately, and takes care of label placement, and keeps quality control in check. 
  • AlliedFlex, a North America based supplier of pouch making machines, recently launched FLX Spoutfill, a packaging machine used to fill liquids in spouted pouches. 
  • Wraptech, another leading manufacturer and exporter of bagging machines launched a new tube filling machine called WMTF 80. The machine is an upgraded version of MB250EV bagging machine. The new tube filling machine is designed to fill the aluminium, laminated, and plastic tubes at a maximum speed of 80 tubes per minute.

Companies’ Comparative Analysis

Some of the leading shareholders in the packaging machinery sector are Krones AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, Illinois Tool Works (U.S.), Coesia S.p.A (Italy), Tetra Laval Group (Switzerland), Industria Macchine Automatiche S.p.A. (Italy), and so on. These firms account for maximum shares in global equipment sales. However, the market is somewhat fragmented, especially in developing countries. A great deal of the production capacity consists of small companies that produce a few types of basic units and aftermarket parts. 

Deep analysis of the high-end technology based packaging machines will coordinate with each other and take helpful action to uphold maximum uptime. Implementation of smart controller devices in packaging was a clever move towards maintaining a proper workflow of machines. The next level of advancements is the implementation of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies solutions within the packaging machinery. This technology will open up new ways for machine-to-machine (M2M) connection as well as machine-to-operator and machine-to-infrastructure communication along with advanced analytics to reduce downtime and other challenges on the factory floor. Considering the above, some machines are already equipped in IIoT, and many are not. The trend shows all the enterprises are planning to shift towards digitization and compete in the industry, and this trend will continue into the next decade. 

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