Packaging Operations Can Make Practical Use of Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is about data, and there is an area where your existing data can bring tremendous value to your packaging lines.

Walt Boyes, Principal

April 25, 2023

3 Min Read
Kuka Robotics found a practical use of production data at its headquarters in Augsburg, Germany.KUKA Group

We’ve been hearing about Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things for a while now. We heard how it will revolutionize the operation of industrial plants — and revolutionize life as we know it. But ask yourself if Industry 4.0 has made your life, or work, different and better, as promised. Yes? No? Maybe so? What is Industry 4.0 doing to the way goods are packaged?

The key to Industry 4.0 is to concentrate on value. Find the value in any changes, and keep pursuing the value. Above and beyond the infrastructure in your plant is the data produced by your plant. Industry 4.0 is about data, and there is an area where your existing data can change the way you operate your plant. That is data-driven prescriptive maintenance. To find practical value from Industry 4.0, concentrate on improving your maintenance practices. That’s Practical Industry 4.0.

To find practical value from Industry 4.0, concentrate on improving your maintenance practices. That’s Practical Industry 4.0.

The single largest cost in a plant is from unplanned shutdowns. In a packaging line, a failure can cascade through the line, causing more breakdowns and creating spoilage, waste, and lost production.

You probably already have all, or most, of the sensors you need to tell you what is going on. One of the Practical Industry 4.0 findings is that we already have the data that we need to become a data-driven plant.

One of the most practical uses of Industry 4.0 data is the emergence of AI— artificial intelligence. There is much hype around AI, especially since almost no one knows what they really mean by artificial intelligence. But while people are playing with ChatGPT, other people are using the advanced learning capabilities of AI to make predictive models of your machines and reducing their unplanned shutdowns by determining what failures will occur and when they will happen — before the failure happens.


Case study shows a practical use of Industry 4.0 for packaging.

For example, Kuka Robotics uses AI to determine when its machine tools need to be replaced and they have reduced downtime an enormous amount. Kuka runs a fully automated production cell at its Augsburg, Germany, headquarters. During the night shifts and weekends, some of the tools may run to the end of their life cycle. This forces production to shut down until personnel are back on-site.

Working with a Dutch company, UReason, and some artificial intelligence, an algorithmic recommender solution was developed using the production cell’s existing streaming data based on the Open Industry 4.0 alliance reference architecture and guidelines and UReason’s APM Studio asset performance management software. The recommender system uses the remaining life cycle of the tools, the available parts, and the production programs to advise shop floor personnel on what specific actions to take regarding tool change to ensure unmanned production without disruptions. The company has reduced production shutdowns at night and weekends by nearly 90%.


That’s an example of Practical Industry 4.0. Kuka focused on the value to be gotten from using the already available data, and improved productivity of its unmanned production cell. This is just the beginning of what we can do with practical applications of Industry 4.0 principles. Imagine how you could do this to improve performance of your packaging lines.

About the Author(s)

Walt Boyes

Principal, Spitzer and Boyes LLC

Walt Boyes is a Principal at Spitzer and Boyes LLC, a technology consulting firm specializing in sensors, manufacturing, and control systems. He is a Life Fellow of the International Society of Automation (ISA), a Fellow of the Institute of Measurement and Control (UK), and is a Chartered Measurement and Control Technologist. Reach him at [email protected].

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