Retail, CPG and Logistics

Packaging line empowerment: Data-driven solutions for success

The global pandemic was an eye-opener for many industries. It exposed the weakness of existing supply chain models. Industries struggled to cope with increasing demands due to raw material scarcity and transportation restrictions. The packaging industry suffered ripple effects from the manufacturing sector, with supply and demand fluctuations in the latter putting a strain on the former. The packaging industry had to get innovative to stay competitive. Standalone digital solutions were no longer sufficient. The industry needed a more resilient supply chain with interconnected digital tools and infrastructure.

Existing digital solutions

Digital solutions for the packaging sector have been around since the 1990s. One such early solution was the Manufacturing Execution System (MES). So far, MES has proven useful for two main things: digital tracking instead of the traditional alternative of pen-and-paper, and giving high-level insights such as machine availability, overall output, quality control statistics, etc.

However, MES systems had/have limited abilities. Since they collect data only at particular intervals, the information available is not real-time. Historic information, though useful, cannot help in situations which call for quick responses. For example, though disruptions get recorded by MES systems, they do not aid in taking timely corrective measures. Additionally, MES systems need considerable human intervention. This brings in the human error factor.

There are other digital solutions such as Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) and Global Positioning System (GPS) sensors for by-the-minute-tracking which have contributed immensely to the packaging supply chain. However, the packaging line is truly empowered when it has the backing of real-time analytics.

Feed data and let the magic of analytics work

Big data analytics can really boost the packaging industry — improved quality, greater agility*, reduced waste, automation in warehouses and accelerated production, to name a few.

With its unprecedented accuracy in predictive analysis, data analytics and AI can serve the packaging supply chain in many ways:

  1. Self-sufficient goods transportation:
  2. AI-powered Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are game changers. By transporting goods between predetermined points in the warehouse, or from the warehouse to the production facilities, they bring about great operational efficiency with minimum human intervention.

  3. Controlled production volumes:
  4. Since the packaging and manufacturing industries are interdependent, fluctuations in one industry affect the other. Supply and demand trend forecasting allows for strategizing the packaging supply chain better, and therefore, prevents wastage /under-production scenarios. Production can be scaled-up or scaled-down according to the predicted demand.

  5. Planned maintenance:
  6. Machines need their downtime and maintenance if they must be useful in the long run. Scheduling maintenance involves careful planning and thought. If done the traditional way, it consumes a lot of manual effort and time, and is prone to errors too. Real-time data analytics can overcome these challenges by drawing up maintenance schedules without hindering production.

  7. Seamless shift change:
  8. Handover procedures during shift change can be a daunting task. With real-time analytics, these procedures can be streamlined, and the transition made smoother.

  9. AI-powered inspection:
  10. AI can help ensure timely delivery of shipments to the right party and destination in the right numbers. AI-powered vision systems can augment human efforts and minimise their errors by performing tasks such as quality inspections, classifying products, and tracking in real-time with great precision.

  11. ML for data labelling:
  12. Appropriate labelling of packages is more important than you think. Incorrect labelling leads to unwanted consequences such as inspection failures and customer discontentment, and in severe cases may even lead to businesses sustaining heavy losses. AI-powered packaging machinery can be highly useful tools in such situations.

Packaging and data analytics

Analytics has tremendous potential to transform the packaging industry. As more processes in the packaging industry employ data analytics solutions, the more resilient the packaging line becomes.

Analytics-aided digital solutions can seamlessly integrate manufacturing, warehouse logistics, distribution, and support. Further, with information from reporting tools and data sources such as Internet of Things (IoT), AI, RFID, sensors and other smart technologies,

operational performance can be measured and understood, and processes can be improved and optimised.

It is vital for businesses to improve their responsiveness and always stay abreast. Data analytics in the retail sector can ensure that the packaging industry reaches great heights and works like clockwork.

*For organizations on the digital transformation journey, agility is key in responding to a rapidly changing technology and business landscape. Now more than ever, it is crucial to deliver and. Enabling businesses to sense, learn, respond, and evolve like a living organism, will be imperative for business excellence going forward. A comprehensive, yet modular suite of services is doing exactly that. Equipping organizations with intuitive decision-making automatically at scale, actionable insights based on real-time solutions, anytime/anywhere experience, and in-depth data visibility across functions leading to hyper-productivity, Live Enterprise is building connected organizations that are innovating collaboratively for the future.

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