Until recently, technology in the food and drink packaging industry hadn’t changed since the 1970s, when the introduction of heat tunnels to shrink wrap products revolutionised the way items were packaged. Since then, innovation has dried up and, as a result, many items are still delivered to retailers and supermarkets in cardboard boxes, which have high carbon footprints due to the enormous amounts of energy required to produce them.
Fortunately, both the packaging supply chain and the technology supporting it are changing and new digital technologies that ease the burden on resources by requiring less energy and fewer materials - increasing sustainability – are now widely available.
New digital technologies enable products to navigate the end-of-line packaging process quicker and more cheaply than ever before by increasing the flexibility of packaging machinery. This allows companies to manage whole new packaging designs and reduce their carbon footprint, while some modern packaging solutions can even be kept in closed loop systems by supermarkets and retailers, enabling individual materials to be collected on site, recycled and reused, increasing sustainability and reversing the reputation that all food packaging has unfairly earned for being environmentally unfriendly.
Of the new digital technologies, the one which could prove to be the most transformative is the introduction of digital twins – digital versions of physical machines or pieces of equipment which run in a virtual environment and can be remotely monitored to improve efficiencies, increase productivity and reduce operating costs by enabling predictive maintenance to be carried out. This allows engineers to fix any problems remotely before they occur, guaranteeing uptime – something which is extremely important in modern manufacturing environments where profit margins are under extreme pressure.
The creation of a digital twin also opens up vast possibilities for businesses by enabling them to simulate vital parts of their operations, improving sustainability by reducing energy and materials usage, and increasing flexibility by making it possible to manage a broad range of packaging styles and types. Digital twins also allow the packaging process to be simulated, making it easy to establish the most effective way to package new products, including tall or thin items which are often unstable and require a slower, more gentle application to ensure they don’t fall over.
Digital twins can also be used to ensure machinery is fit for purpose in a new factory before a physical version is installed and, by eliminating the physical prototype stage, they can reduce time to market by 40% and cut development costs by 30%.
In addition to new technologies, packaging machinery itself has become much more innovative and environmentally friendly in recent years too. Secondary packaging specialist TrakRap’s award-winning TrakRap System reduces energy usage by as much as 90% and materials usage – including plastic - by as much as 70%, reducing users’ carbon footprints by as much as 70% by lowering CO2 emissions while also enabling users to create packaging solutions that comprise several different materials. By creating packaging solutions that use a combination of materials, the most environmentally friendly solutions can be developed, helping boost sustainability further still.
Looking forward, it is a given that the packaging supply chain will continue to change and evolve and, in the future, connectivity will be king. By ensuring equipment and machinery can communicate with each other, the packaging supply chain will work even more efficiently. For example, electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems can be connected to ordering and replenishing systems, meaning that as soon as any item is sold, a replacement for it is automatically put on order and the packaging machinery can adapt for short runs, reducing stockholding and improving availability.
Bizarrely, it still seems as though adopting new technologies isn’t high on the list of priorities for some food and drink manufacturers, but it certainly should be. New technologies are transforming the supply chain by reducing costs, and materials and energy usage and these benefits are simply too good to ignore.
The TrakRap Packaging System is an environmentally friendly stretch wrapping system that packages food and drink products for transit for companies in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry that supply UK retailers and supermarkets. TrakRap designs and manufactures all its own machinery and designs all its 100% recyclable packaging solutions.
To find out how TrakRap’s award-winning, Industry 4.0-enabled secondary packaging system can help your business reduce its carbon footprint and save money, contact us here
Tel: 01695 555576