Dr. Evangelos Theodorou, Theodorou Group Chairman & CEO
Dimitris Xafas, Theodorou Group Consulting Services Sector
Product packaging is a central priority of every industrial enterprise. And this is because in this phase the product is prepared to travel in the supply chain and to be appropriately presented to the final consumer.
It is a common secret that proper packaging is the key to the commercial success of most products, especially consumer products. In this article we look at the new trends that affect packaging and list the technologies that are coming to meet the new needs that arise.
New Trends in Packaging
For many years the classic requirements for packaging are:
- Cost reduction
- Maximize productivity
- Product safety / integrity, error reduction, traceability
- Reliability of packaging machines and minimization of their maintenance needs
- Speed of response to abrupt changes in demand and large buffers between machines
- Minimize product-to-product change time
- Flexibility in the exchange of produced products
These classic requirements continue to apply and in fact have become much more imperative in recent years. In addition, new ones have been added, such as:
- Frequent launches of new products
- New requirements and innovations from Marketing and Sales with new labels, packaging, etc
- Reduction of the energy footprint
- Production of products based on environmentally friendly materials
- Increasing the conditions and safety rules in the production areas
- More demanding and sensitized consumers who are looking for more information, more personalized products with special features and so on
- Ensuring the transparency, integrity and efficient operation of the supply chain (eg protection against counterfeit products, etc.) which is expected to lead to smaller supply chains
- More requirements from legislation for consumer protection and more
- Gradual emergence of the chain of responsibility of those involved in the supply chain
- Online production monitoring, interconnection with commercial packages (ERP, WMS) and provision of reliable data at all levels of management with business intelligence information
- Existence of smaller stock and smaller batches
- Mirror lines to reduce the needs of a large number of staff, with increased flexibility
- Replacement of manual tasks with automatic ones
New Technologies in Packaging
For packaging there is a wide variety of existing and emerging technologies that can satisfactorily meet the new needs. The most important technologies for packaging are:
- Advanced monitoring and control systems (cameras, sensors, RFID, etc.)
- Product coding at all 3 levels of packaging (product - box - pallet) with new types of codes that allow serialization / aggregation and facilitate traceability, both within the packaging space (internal traceability) and in the supply chain (sequential traceability). Coding is no longer just a tool for printing expiration dates and lot numbers, but also plays a key role in product security, supply chain transparency and product communication with the consumer.
- The robotic technology that automates the secondary and tertiary packaging (palletizers, case packers). Also the new technology of cooperative robots (cobots) and automated guided vehicles (AGV’s) is slowly finding applications in the primary packaging, but also in the auxiliary functions of the packaging machines (eg automatic feeding of raw materials)
- Interconnection technologies, Internet of Things (IoT) and new automation that fall within the logic of Industry 4.0 and allow the synchronization of packaging machines, both with each other and with business management systems (ERP, MES, BI, etc.), operators, quality control and maintenance supervisors
- Telecommunications and data processing technologies (smart devices, edge computing, blockchain, 5G, etc.) that assist classical automation (PLC’S, SCADA, HMI, etc.)
- The modular design that treats the packaging as a complete system and allows greater flexibility, risk minimization and better synchronization of production lines
- The As-a-Service logic in the acquisition of machinery and services, which is an evolution of leasing. The main product of this new logic is Pay Per Use, which reduces the risk to companies in cases of technology change, demand reductions and the introduction of new products
Packaging is facing significant changes and challenges, which are also an important opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Each industrial company is called upon to formulate its own strategy, which must meet both its current and future needs. In the important issue of choosing the right technologies, the company should seek the help of experienced consultants / system integrators, who could even help in shaping the business goals of the company.
Dr. Evangelos Theodorou is the President & CEO of Theodorou Group. He holds a degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering – NTUA (National Technical University of Athens) and holds a Ph.D. in Electronic Systems from the University of Cambridge, England. He has been a lecturer at the Department of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers of the NTUA.
Dimitris Xafas is responsible for providing consulting services on packaging issues to customers of Theodorou Group. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from NTUA and holds an MBA degree. For many years he has been the Director of Central Technical Services of Athenian Brewery SA and a member of the auditor team of Heineken for its factories around the world.