digital manufacturing, packaging manufacturing, digital technology, packaging

When it comes to the packaging industry, the “digital technology” term often conjures up visions of 3D software, eye-catching labels or unique packaging design that makes engaging digital marketing tools for consumers. But to keep up in today’s rapidly changing business environment, packaging manufacturers must move beyond the concept of digital printing in order to realize the real transformation digital technology brings to manufacturing.

Today’s uncertain times have packaging manufacturers working harder than ever to efficiently manage their assets, costs and customer demands to keep their businesses on track. Packaging manufacturers are being pushed harder than ever to gain more productivity and value from their existing assets, which means ensuring the fixed assets are in tip-top shape and used as productively as possible. This is all while keeping production on schedule and making on-time shipments. 

Now is the time to progress packaging manufacturing capabilities by harnessing the power of digital technologies and shifting old siloed business models into more adaptive models that are built to rapidly respond to and plan for increasing disruptions and business transformation.

Digitally Connected Manufacturing

Some manufacturing industries have already implemented connectivity, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud-based management with their factories and assets. They have visibility of real-time manufacturing data, time-saving automation and can monitor inventory and work-in-progress levels continuously for increased efficiency and savings. 

Among packaging manufacturers, however, many organizations have yet to embrace a connected digital solution. They struggle to move on from legacy systems and spreadsheets — which are prone to errors and lack syncing across organizations — to more adaptable technology solutions with data-centric capabilities. Yet the benefit of this connectivity is complete, real-time visibility, allowing every internal user access to detailed data on every aspect of the process. 

To create a connected digital environment, start inside the four walls of the manufacturing plant with an enterprise system that offers instant data visibility in real-time. Collect this information in a data lake where the data can be analyzed and accessed in multiple ways to generate real business value. Then connect the enterprise with technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and collaborative platforms to take traceability tasks, plant maintenance and overall integration to a whole new level and break down data silos. In addition, every application can access the data lakes and embedded analytics via mobile applications to maximize the benefits across your manufacturing teams.

Using Data for Growth

Digitally connected manufacturing processes generate huge amounts of data which can be analyzed in real-time to identify issues, prioritize impacts, and make appropriate decisions to mitigate risks and improve performance. With a connected digital system in place, packaging manufacturers are provided access to end-to-end information on inventory, incoming shipments, sales orders, production assets availability, finished product inventory, customer-order shipments and more. The benefits include:

  • Access to allow for the rightsizing of network-wide inventory levels and dynamic responses to logistics events.
  • With better visibility, timely actions in material and inventory management, production schedules, equipment maintenance and supply chains can be taken, bringing higher productivity, shorter lead times and faster time-to-market.
  • Digital planning and reporting tools increase employee productivity by migrating planning and operational data from the cells of disjointed spreadsheets or static paper of manual systems to a digital platform.
  • More dynamic and beneficial collaboration occurs between departments and partners based on a shared understanding of business information.
  • Presents every area of the business with real-time data in user-friendly formats to facilitate timely proactive decision making, which improves overall business performance and positively impacts working capital and margins.

Instead of wasting resources on time-absorbing activities and inadequate systems, packaging manufacturers can move to an inherently collaborative approach to better meet the accelerated pace of customer demands and industry changes.

More than Just Data

Being digitally connected isn’t just about the data; it’s about effectively using data to make intelligent decisions and predictions across entire enterprise operations. 

Managing operational effectiveness is at the heart of asset-rich packaging manufacturers, who work hard to remain profitable even with tight margins. The goal is to run at peak performance so that the business can produce the same amount of packaging — or more — using fewer resources, energy and manpower. 

Equipment, machines, and technology systems need to communicate with each other throughout the production process. They must also share quality data with every stakeholder of the value chain — such as suppliers and customers outside of the plant walls — to make quick, smart decisions. 

By migrating to a digitally integrated manufacturing system, a packaging manufacturer can better manage every single machine parameter, production time, productivity and planned costs.

The speed of change is more accelerated than ever, and packaging manufacturers need to be working diligently to become adaptive, flexible and responsive to these changes. Staying with legacy and disconnected systems instead of moving to digitally integrated solutions may shorten the lifespan of your business. Future packaging manufacturing winners will be those who adapt new business models based on data-analytics intelligence, agility and innovation offered by digital technologies.

Learn more about incorporating digital transformation in your packaging manufacturing business by downloading our What Digital Technology Means in Packaging Manufacturing white paper.