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A sustainable materials management approach to packaging

A sustainable materials management approach to packaging
GreenBlue has extracted three key principles or axes around which it is now building an operational framework for SMM.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) is “increasingly recognized as a policy approach that can make a key contribution to green growth…”  This is because, as the OECD also notes, “The way economies use material resources determines to a significant extent what environmental pressures are being generated and SMM can help to better manage this linkage.” 

Helping organizations better manage material flows has been inherent in the work of GreenBlue, and in particular through its project the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). For example, the SPC has always promoted life cycle thinking to identify the impacts of materials throughout the packaging life cycles—from manufacture to end of use, thereby influencing better designs. This year, GreenBlue is making the link between its work of the past decade and SMM more explicit by adopting the internationally known SMM agenda as its primary approach to helping companies address the complexities of material stewardship and become more sustainable enterprises.

In embracing the SMM agenda, GreenBlue has extracted three key principles or axes around which it is now building an operational framework, which captures the closed-loop philosophy that is the foundation of the SPC’s work. These practical and pragmatic, yet holistic, principles are Use Wisely, Eliminate Toxicity and Recover More.

The SPC’s work connects to Sustainable Material Management along each of the three axes:

Use Wisely encompasses not only the issues of sourcing of resources, but also extends into production practices and is applicable to all packaging material. Sustainable sourcing of raw materials is a growing concern, as demand increases and resources are depleted. The SPC uses the power of collective learning and an engaged membership to raise the industry’s knowledge base on key sustainability issues surrounding material selection and use. The SPC holds annual conferences that serve as a central mechanism to engage membership in discussions that highlight key issues companies need to navigate.

Eliminate Toxicity focuses on the material health to manage risk during production, use and disposal. Understanding the hazards inherent in materials used in the industrial system can lead to greener pathways and better product stewardship. This focus is captured in the Material Health aspect of the SPC’s Definition of Sustainable Packaging. Eliminate Toxicity emphasizes environmental impacts of the product and package itself, with the goal to remove the inherent toxicity of the substances used for people and planet. The SPC connects to the process by engaging member companies on best practices and continuous improvement. 

Recover More encompasses all manner of material use efficiencies from manufacture, distribution and end of use. For packaging this is the most self-evident of the three principles as packaging often suffers a good deal of negative publicity due to poor recovery. Much of our current work at the SPC is dedicated to working through issues of packaging material recovery, from helping companies choose materials at the design stage that are more likely to be effectively recovered, to working with municipalities, trade associations and other interested parties on end of life treatment.

In some ways, SMM is taking the SPC back to its roots. In other ways, it is elevating the conversation to help the SPC cultivate material stewardship, mobilize industry and build tools for transparency to ensure packaging is contributing to a more sustainable system of commerce.

We suggest you read the OECD policy brief (http://www.pdlinks.com/SMMbrief) to learn more.

Author Katherine O'Dea is senior director of innovation and advisory services for GreenBlue. For more information about GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition, visit www.sustainablepackaging.org.

Natural snack brand refreshes graphics to stay on trend

Natural snack brand refreshes graphics to stay on trend

In response to its busy, on-the-go consumers, the all-natural snack brand Funley’s Delicious has unveiled a stand up re-sealable and portable gusset bag that ensures optimal freshness and quality. The new packaging also now highlights its ‘no artificial anything’ ingredients as well as featuring an essential vitamins and minerals logo alongside with a GMO free logo.

Packaging Digest caught up with Ashley Mendel, co-founder & COO, Funley’s Delicious, to discuss the modern and sleek product packaging for the brand’s two lines of non-GMO, and trans-fat free on-the-go snacks.

What is the motivation behind Funley’s recent activity in introducing new packaging?

Mendel: We not only did a packaging refresh, but we introduced new sizes and new packaging materials. We wanted to evolve our brand and give it a fresh, new clean look in line with market trends.

For example, our Super Crackers line with superfood veggies hidden inside was launched a few years ago and was at the forefront of the stealth food movement in the overall snack category. We originally “hid” the veggie in the packaging graphics because at the time kids were scared of eating veggies. However, three years later, kids aren’t as afraid of eating veggies now, and we learned we have a broader consumer base who buys our product, so we decided to bring the veggie front and center on the package and really make it the main focus.

What design trends does your packaging set in the snack market?

Mendel: Convenience is key for consumers today. Our new Super Crackers 5-oz stand-up zip pouch begins rolling out to stores in October. It’s the only stand-up pouch in the cracker category—every other competitor is still in boxes. Though pouches are not brand new, it is new to this category and will allow our product to stand out on shelf, and offer convenience and freshness to our consumers over our competition.

What changes did you make to the packaging that makes it more eye catching?

Mendel: When evolving our brand packaging with changing trends, we didn’t want to lose our core essence of the brand we established. We set out to give our packaging a cleaner look and better communication as to the benefits that are important to consumers now, all while still maintaining our fun “Funley’s” experience on the package. We additionally changed all our flexible packaging (stand-up bags and snack pack bags) to a matte film with pops of shine on the logos to reinforce that we are a natural brand, but also fun!

What were the key goals and requirements from a marketing and packaging view?

Mendel: Our goals for marketing and packaging were one and the same. First, we wanted to evolve our look and be in-line with current market trends and demands, which we achieved by refreshing our graphics to communicate important benefits about each product that consumers care about today.

Second, we wanted to ensure our packaging materials were reflective of our natural brand and we achieved this by moving to matte packaging materials. And finally, we wanted to provide convenience for our consumers, which we achieved by launching other convenience pack types and sizes for busy families on-the-go.

Premium wine now offered in a stylish, convenient format

Premium wine now offered in a stylish, convenient format

Single-serve wine consumption has been on the rise due to its appealing features like convenience, affordability and portion control. Responding to this growing demand and seeing an opportunity to introduce true innovation in a traditional category, Italian American television personality and journalist Giuliana Rancic has launched an all new, cutting-edge wine brand: XO, G.

After discovering a wine package last year called StackTek, which consists of four prefilled, individually sealed, shatterproof, stemless wine glasses that snap together to form a perfect equivalent of a 750mL bottle, Rancic reached out to the team at Stack to explore opportunities to bring this convenient package to women worldwide. What followed was a multi-country wine brand, XO, G that reflected Rancic’s persona, with a stylish design that looks like a personal gift from Rancic to her fans, and imported wines from her favorite global appellations. 

Packaging Digest caught up with the team at Stack to discuss this innovative partnership and what the packaging design and process entailed.

What is the motivation behind introducing this wine brand?

Stack team: The partnership began when Giuliana opened a bottle of Stack Wine in her home after a long day on the set. She loved that Stack allowed her to have a single glass of wine without wasting a whole bottle and started thinking of all the occasions that Stack would perfectly compliment (picnics, concerts, etc.). She posted a picture on to her 1.5 million Instagram followers and was amazed at the response.  That’s when she realized there was an opportunity.

For the Stack team, a partnership with Giuliana Rancic was the perfect strategy to activate consumers. Introducing a true innovation in a very traditional category, such as wine, is a challenge… consider the resistance that screw cap closures faced before Plumpjack made a high profile statement for convenience and approachability on their Napa Cab.

Giuliana was the perfect celebrity partner for our company because she has a track record of introducing good quality, high value, affordable brands that every day consumers can enjoy.

What design trends does your packaging set in the premium wine market?

Stack team: The innovative StackTek format offers premium wine consumers convenience without compromise. For the first time, wine lovers can enjoy the $10+ wines in a format that better fits their lifestyle—portion controlled so they can enjoy one glass at a time, while also easily portable and sharable. We think “convenience without compromise” is one of the biggest unmet needs in the wine business today.

Consumers are experiencing a dramatic change in the way they consume products—news, music, books —the common theme is that they want high quality content, but in a more convenient format. Why should the wine business stand still in this regard? 

There will always be a time and a place for a traditional 750mL glass bottle, corkscrew and stemware, and that format will continue to drive most of the volume in the industry. But there is also an opportunity to extend the usage occasions of premium wine to casual evenings at home for singles who don’t want to open a whole bottle alone, and to extend the usage to more casual events, in a way that is effortless for wine lovers. Backyard BBQ’s, outdoor concerts, imagine all the possibilities.  

We have a lot of consumers tell us that they want a healthier lifestyle. During the week, they would like to enjoy one glass of great wine, but will hesitate opening up an entire bottle—StackTek is the perfect solution: one glass at a time.

The wine industry is starting to see some innovation in alternative single serve formats, for example Sophia’s Premium Sparkling wine in a can, and we are encouraged by their success. We honestly believe StackTek is the best solution in the industry for premium still wines from both a consumer and product quality standpoint.

  • Image: designed to look like a stemless wine glass
  • Product quality: shelf life of 96 weeks is the best in the industry amongst single serves

What were the key goals and requirements from a marketing and packaging view?

Stack team: From the beginning, we wanted this new brand to be a very personal extension of Giuliana’s style and commitment to quality from the brand name and packaging design to the quality of the wine. 

It was important to Giuliana to have the package look fabulous, but the wine quality must be there. With her name on the package it had to be a product with great value that will not disappoint her fans. Therefore, wine quality was paramount. Giuliana and Stack selected high quality varietals that she and her husband Bill love to drink at home, and which are popular with premium wine consumers—dry French Rose, Italian Pinot Grigio and French Pinot Noir. These wines are true to the region, well made and really fresh and delicious. 

On the name, Giuliana chose to use XO,G, which is how she signs her Tweets and Instagrams. The package should feel like a gift from Giuliana to her fans.

On the packaging, we wanted it to stylish and pretty, like a piece of home decor. The chic design looks great sitting out on a kitchen counter, and is a show-stopper as a gift. The pattern is made up entirely of X’s and O’s, wrapped up with a printed ribbon and tag, and signed by Giuliana to make it very personal. 

Describe packaging components of glass, closure, label (other?) by vendor(s) and specification (or structure/polymer, size, style). To what degree is each custom?

Stack team: The innovative format was invented by one of the founders Matt Zimmer. Matt is an engineer who came from the packaging business, but did not work in the wine business at the time. He initially sketched out the design on a cocktail napkin after wondering why you can’t have just one glass of good wine without opening a whole bottle… sometimes it takes someone outside of the industry to embrace a new approach, unconstrained by tradition.

The entire StackTek package is custom, and fully patent protected. The containers are our proprietary Vinoware technology, which includes the stemless wine glass shape and shatterproof material.  All the raw materials are custom made. 

Our suppliers have proven to be amazing and dedicated partners in the launch of XO,G, including Zuckerman Honickman, Hammer Packaging and Sac Container

The end product is assembled on our proprietary high-speed, vertically integrated bottling line in Modesto, CA. 

We have ample capacity to handle current 750mL glass wine brands who would like to extend the use of their 750mL brand into this innovative format.

Hammer Packaging, 585-424-3880

hammerpackaging.com

 

Sac Container, 916-614-0580

saccontainer.biz

Zukerman Honickman, 610-962-0100

zh-inc.com

 

3 packaging trends grow into sweet spots for candy makers

3 packaging trends grow into sweet spots for candy makers
To encourage sharing, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. recently introduced individually wrapped Ghirardelli Minis in a stand-up pouch bearing the tagline “Share a square” in the upper front corner. Unlike many other stand-up pouches in the candy aisle, the Ghirardelli Squares pouch is not resealable.

The growing use of stand-up pouches, demand for portion control and the growing popularity of shareable packages drive growth in the candy and confections category.

In a 2013 research study conducted by PMMI, “stand-up pouches, with or without zippers, were mentioned as one of the fastest growing types of packaging.” (The research report, “Confectionery Trends—A Market Assessment,” is available at no cost to PMMI members and may be purchased by non-members for $3,500 at www.pmmi.org.)

“There is a lot of excitement in [the confectionery] category,” says Lisa Baer, senior director of market innovation, Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions, a division of HAVI Global Solutions.

Recalling the candy packs she saw at a recent packaging tradeshow in Germany, Baer says: “There are so many new packaging formats, and the biggest one I found is the stand-up flexible pouch with a reseal feature. It was a huge trend on retail candy shelves everywhere I went…from convenience stores to drug stores to warehouse stores. These stand-up pouches were everywhere.”

In addition to providing a high-impact billboard on-shelf, resealable pouches make it easier for consumers to share and store multi-serving confectionery products. The format is especially well suited to bite-size candies, which are a rapidly proliferating segment of the category.

“Consumers really love [stand-up pouches] for their ease of use. For the loose and unwrapped candies [they’re] a perfect solution for extended consumption at home use,” Baer says, noting that resealability eliminates the need to transfer the candy to another container. Plus, “freshness and portion control is directly tied to the reseal feature. It offers a lot of value.”

In addition, “retailers are giving more space to stand-up bags” in the candy aisle,says Matt Pye, vp of corporate affairs at Just Born Quality Confections. Just Born launched Peeps Minis—a bite-size version of classic Peeps chicks—earlier this year in a resealable stand-up pouch made from a metallized laminate.

Just Born chose a stand-up pouch for the product to help position it as an everyday product rather than something special for Easter, Halloween and other candy-centric holidays. The traditional Easter Peeps are packaged in a paperboard tray overwrapped with transparent film.

Peeps Minis “are a year-round product. They are in the regular candy aisle…with all the smaller, on-trend, bite-size products” in stand-up pouches, Pye says. “Stand-up bags and the bite-size, mini-size products are the fastest growing segment in the candy industry.”

Portion control, ease of sharing and on-the-go snacking are all driving the popularity of resealable, multi-serving pouches of candy.

Resealable packaging enables consumers to “count out or control how much they’re having,” says Allison Kleinfelter, senior manager of strategic communications at The Hershey Co.“You can have a few [pieces of candy,] enjoy them and reseal.”

For Hershey, which pioneered the just-a-taste concept more than a century ago with Hershey’s Kisses, resealable pouches are a contemporary way to “deliver on that portion-control desire,”Kleinfelter says.

The company offers many of its “Minis” and “Pieces” products in resealable stand-up pouches; one that it recently launched is York Minis, in an 8-oz resealable pouch. A standard part of the graphic design on Hershey’s resealable stand-up pouches is the tagline “Pour ’em. Pop ’em. Seal ’em.” on the front panel, adjacent to the resealable zipper.

Stand-up pouches also offer shareability, which, like smaller portion sizes and portability, “is huge [and] on-trend with consumers now,” says Pye.

To encourage sharing, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. recently introduced individually wrapped Ghirardelli Minis in a stand-up pouch bearing the tagline “Share a square” in the upper front corner. Unlike many other stand-up pouches in the candy aisle, the Ghirardelli Squares pouch is not resealable.

Hershey has observed the candy-sharing trend, including on-the-go sharing, occurring with resealable packs of all sizes and among consumers of all ages. The smaller packs might be shared by only two consumers, but “some of larger bags allow [them to] take it to a party, share at a movie,” says Kleinfelter.

“Consumers are liking the notion of sharing an experience around food and beverages,” she adds. “Because food, in the culture, is such a shared experience, the fact that manufacturers are offering these formats now is really resonating across the board…with everyone.”

Kate Bertrand Connolly is a seasoned freelance writer based in the San Francisco area covering the packaging, food and technology markets. You can contact her at kate.connolly@sbcglobal.net.

Top 5 packaging articles of September

Top 5 packaging articles of September
By switching conveyors for its Redhook Brewery bottling line, Craft Brew Alliance has eliminated 111,000 gallons of water and 675 gallons of soap for lubricating stainless steel chain.

Curious about what your peers are reading about? Now every month, Packaging Digest gives you a second glimpse at the most popular posts on our site based upon page views per PackagingDigest.com online analytics. This month we have a great mix of items that range in topics from packaging design, 3d printing, conveyors and research. Presented in reverse order are this month's top winners. Whether you're revisiting them again or if this is your first glance, enjoy!


Top 5 packaging articles of September: Gallery

By switching conveyors for its Redhook Brewery bottling line, Craft Brew Alliance has eliminated 111,000 gallons of water and 675 gallons of soap for lubricating stainless steel chain.

Curious about what your industry peers are reading about? Now every month, Packaging Digest gives you a second glimpse at the most popular posts on our site based upon page views per PackagingDigest.com online analytics. This month we have a great mix of items that range in topics from packaging design, 3d printing, conveyors and research. Presented in our gallery in reverse order are this month's top winners. Whether you're revisiting them again or if this is your first glance, enjoy!

To read the full article, click on the headlines.

5. Brewery's dry running conveyor delivers water savings—and bottom line results

4. The 6 most popular packaging patents of 2014...so far

3. Natural skin balm uses 3d printing for biodegradable jar

2. Getting a feel for multi-sensory packaging

1. 5 emerging packaging design trends for 2014

5 machinery parts that help optimize packaging lines: Gallery

Reliable, sub-fractional AC gearmotors and reducers from Brother Gearmotors for packaging systems are compact, energy efficient and lubricated for the life of the product, helping to eliminate costly downtime for lubrication changes. New bore sizes add to the company’s product mix, which now includes 16 different gear ratios and six voltage options.

The sum of these packaging machinery parts aim to make your optimal packaging operations whole. You can see all of these at the upcoming Pack Expo International 2014 (Nov. 2-5; McCormick Place, Chicago).

1. AC gearmotors and reducers from Brother Gearmotors, 908-704-1700; Pack Expo Booth #E-7020

2. R 5 series oil-lubricated vacuum pumps from Busch LLC, 800-872-7867; Pack Expo Booth #N-6349

3. GN 139.1 Hinges with Electrical Switching Function with Safety Switch from J.W. Winco Inc., 800-877-8351; Pack Expo Booth #E-6634

4. Lexium MDrive from Schneider Electric Motion USA, 860-295-6102; Pack Expo Booth #E-8331

5. Lambda Chain from US Tsubaki, 847-459-9500; Pack Expo Booth #N-4950

3 palletizing solutions to optimize your handling needs

3 palletizing solutions to optimize your handling needs
The EC-201 robotic palletizer from American-Newlong Inc. has a payload capacity of 440 lbs, a palletizing capacity of 1,600 cycles per hour and palletizes bags, cases, pails and other products. It also has four axes for maximum flexibility. The lightweight design of the mechanically balanced arm allows the EC-201 to use less energy and reduce stress on the arm joints, bearings, pivot points and floor supports. Pack Expo Booth #N- 6270

Are you looking for new palletizing solutions for your packaging operation? Check out these three products that will be on display at the upcoming Pack Expo International 2014 show (Nov. 2-5, McCormick Place, Chicago). From robotic to high-speed, these end-of-line systems address your handling needs for current and future package types and sizes.

1. The EC-201 robotic palletizer from American-Newlong Inc., Pack Expo Booth #N-6270

2. The HL7200 high-speed palletizer from Columbia Machine, Pack Expo Booth #N-6106

3. The Series 1800 palletizers from Haver Filling Systems Inc., Pack Expo Booth # N-6145

3 palletizing solutions to optimize your handling needs: Gallery

The EC-201 robotic palletizer from American-Newlong Inc. has a payload capacity of 440 lbs, a palletizing capacity of 1,600 cycles per hour and palletizes bags, cases, pails and other products. It also has four axes for maximum flexibility. The lightweight design of the mechanically balanced arm allows the EC-201 to use less energy and reduce stress on the arm joints, bearings, pivot points and floor supports. Pack Expo Booth #N- 6270

Are you looking for new palletizing solutions for your packaging operation? Check out these three products that will be on display at the upcoming Pack Expo International 2014 show (Nov. 2-5, McCormick Place, Chicago). From robotic to high-speed, these end-of-line systems address your handling needs for current and future package types and sizes.

1. The EC-201 robotic palletizer from American-Newlong Inc., Pack Expo Booth #N-6270

2. The HL7200 high-speed palletizer from Columbia Machine, Pack Expo Booth #N-6106

3. The Series 1800 palletizers from Haver Filling Systems Inc., Pack Expo Booth # N-6145

From remote machine monitoring to the Industrial Internet: Powering packaging performance into the future

From remote machine monitoring to the Industrial Internet: Powering packaging performance into the future
Today, many packaging machines can be remotely monitored for performance and/or accessed for troubleshooting.

Current remote monitoring systems allow operators and managers to react immediately to changes on the plant floor. But what if this connectivity could enable packaging engineers to do so much more?



There is plenty of talk these days about the Internet of Things and wearable tech. We see this everywhere we go—everything from wristbands that monitor our step counts and heart rates, to Internet-enabled watches, to Google Glass. The approaching ubiquity of these devices is seen in many circles as a breakthrough. While the consumer fascination with these capabilities is relatively new, what is often lost in the conversation is this: Packaging companies have been building networks that connect machines for years—most often referred to as the “Industrial Internet”—and machinery manufacturers have increasingly been enabling this connectivity across the machines they build.

Over the last decade and a half, huge leaps in progress have been made—and the possibilities on the horizon are astounding. In its 2013 report The Industrial Internet @ Work, General Electric estimated that this accelerated growth in productivity will boost global GDP (gross domestic product) by as much as $10 to $15 trillion over the next two decades.

In the packaging industry specifically, operators on the line can anticipate potential issues and prevent stoppages in a range of applications, including material handling, filling and labeling. Stoppages create costly downtime and waste, which can erode end users’ bottom line. Software designers, working hand-in-hand with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), can embed machine-to-machine communication solutions that identify lags in productivity and place this data at the fingertips of the manufacturer. This information adds tremendous value to the equipment; highlighting modifications that boost efficiency and profitability while building a foundation for long-term loyalty.

To understand just how this is possible, it’s helpful to think of this technology in terms of its evolution, and see the capabilities as a simultaneous confluence of the Industrial Internet’s past, present and future.

The past

The Industrial Internet grew out of one simple but important requirement: the ability to monitor machinery from anywhere—removing the need to be in direct physical contact with machines when checking them. Some of the earliest applications for the technology involved the use of Remote Terminal Units (RTU) in public utilities such as electric grids and wastewater purification plants. These early systems operated on land-based communications systems like LAN lines or over telephone wires and they were most often simple alert systems; sounding alarms if a machine went down or was overheating and close to failure.

As the technology boom of the 1990s enhanced the sophistication of networking technology, so too did the sophistication of these systems increase. Remote monitoring grew to be more complex; gathering more data and incorporating Internet-based technologies to reach company personnel who were offsite and/or outside of the network.

In addition, the networks grew the capability to collect actionable data. Relationships to specific parts and processes could be determined. No longer was monitoring limited to the determination of whether a machine was up or down. People using these systems could institute predictive failure analysis and identify specific points of failure and/or a need for replacement parts before something went wrong. All of this data could be reported and used as a baseline to show what happened month-to-month and year-over-year.  

The present

Though some of the benefits of past systems were predictive in nature—for example, the ability to tell whether a specific part needed replacement—most of the data collected were related to past performance. Looking across the reporting, you could gain insights into how things had operated through the prior monitoring period. Over the next decade, however, remote monitoring technologies took on increasing sophistication and a whole new host of capabilities.

Today's technology now allows for the implementation of both remote monitoring and service functionality. Those responsible for the machines can connect from anywhere and not only check status, but also make actual updates and modifications. Predictive failure analysis allows technicians to replace worn parts before they fail completely—leading to fewer surprise outages. These abilities ensure that machine downtime is kept to a minimum. And because technicians don’t necessarily need to visit facilities in person to fix issues, large companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel alone.

Innovations in data collection, transmission and storage have led to other capabilities as well. According to Cisco’s 2013 white paper “Embracing the Internet of Everything,” greater amounts of data and information can be accumulated, allowing for a clearer picture of an operation as a whole. Efficiency is no longer just about a specific machine’s uptime, but rather about how the entire operation works together at all stages of production. Through improved data mining, executives can gain a deeper understanding of their businesses thanks to the collection of millions of bits of information, gleaned from thousands of data points. The economy of scale is nearly limitless; ultimately paving the way for greater profitability.

The ways in which these data are collected have also changed, allowing for more freedom and accessibility. The incorporation of wireless systems and remote storage services (also referred to as “cloud services”) allows for greater amounts of data to be collected with less hardware (hard-wired systems strewn across facilities, subject to failure). Cloud-based, off-site storage systems allow for the collection of the ever-increasing amount of data without need for deletion or concern over space issues.

The increasing complexity of data collection has also led to a greater sophistication of security services. As systems have grown to be more flexible, and accessible through more channels, the danger posed by hackers has increased accordingly. Properly secured systems now incorporate specialized hardware that protects and encrypts accumulated data at all points as it is transmitted from facilities to storage centers.

Finally, the interfaces that allow personnel to monitor the machines have become more user friendly and have been tailored specifically to today’s modern, connected world. Smartphone apps are available to provide instant access to equipment status, regardless of the user’s whereabouts. This access offers the opportunity to make changes on-the-go that create positive impacts for operations.

Taken together, these new advances enjoyed in current remote monitoring systems allow operators to react immediately to changes on the plant floor by connecting managers to equipment using mobile apps—all with a much greater trove of information at their fingertips. The result is greater efficiency and a better understanding of how facilities function as a whole, allowing for higher productivity and profits.

Packagers reduce their downtime and save money by pinpointing problem areas on their machines. When tied into aftermarket parts services, they can even order replacements seamlessly; preserving uptime. This also holds additional benefit for the OEMs as well, as it allows them to better service their customers once their machines are in operation in packaging and filling facilities.

As the depth of the collected data increases—and the ability to collect, save and analyze that data grows in tandem—the granularity to which the analysis can reach builds accordingly. Better algorithms work across larger data sets to better predict early failure in machines. Based on this wealth of information, powerful analysis emerges that shows efficiencies across an entire global enterprise.

The data accumulated across multiple enterprises allows benchmark setting for whole sectors of the packaging industry. Companies can build new operations from scratch, with a clearer understanding of the metrics they’ll need to hit. The years spent waiting for data to accrue, and the time and efficiency lost in those waiting periods, are a thing of the past.

The future

As the growing depth of data allows personnel to understand a specific machine’s performance at a specific moment in time, the technology will quickly dovetail into areas of Quality Assurance. Operators will be able to immediately detect anomalies on the packaging or filling line. Anomalies will be tracked down to a particular batch or even a specific product. They will be able to catch and discard or repack faulty products much more accurately than methods of random testing.

These advanced alert capabilities will speed reactivity to critical inline issues. In printed packaging, for example, presses will be closely monitored for any number of issues including, but not limited to, misprints, unwanted color variation, ink spotting or problems with the plates themselves. Monitoring via the Industrial Internet will boost the value of print defect devices by correlating machine parameters to enable operators to spot defective printed materials and stop potentially recurring issues just seconds after they start.

Quality assurance is of utmost importance in filling facilities, especially in food packaging, as health and human safety are paramount. Anomalous changes in product weight, density and heat will be immediately detected—no matter how small—and addressed accordingly without delay. Data accumulated from these instances will tell plant supervisors the likelihood of recurrence, and allow them to tailor operations to limit or eliminate instances of improper filling or contamination.  

In closing

The Industrial Internet, and the remote monitoring services it enables, is continually evolving and holds great potential for all manner of packaging. From the earliest RTU-based systems to today’s analytics-based capabilities, modern remote monitoring paves the road for a fundamental shift in the way companies streamline and maintain their operations. The technology’s history is part of its present.

The earliest approaches, which set equipment scoreboards and allow for production assessment, still are present, providing machine data to business systems for accurate production of reports. Currently, modern systems allow for immediate reaction to changes on the plant floor and connect managers to equipment with a wider swath of available data, using security-backed, mobile channels like smartphone apps. And future benefits are just on the horizon, like quality assurance capabilities. Through the power of the Industrial Internet, these capabilities will change packaging forever.

Spencer Cramer is president/CEO of Ei3, a leading provider of smart services that enable the world’s most complex machines to communicate with their human operators, facilitating data-driven efficiencies and improved uptime. He founded Ei3 in March 1999 to help global enterprises leverage the power of the Industrial Internet and enhance connectivity between machines, devices, systems and people. Ei3 is a recognized member of the Industrial Internet Consortium and the Organization for Machine Automation and Control.