• How is a packaging plant organized and how should it be organized?
• What is currently shaping the industry?
• What are the expected challenges in the future?
The answer to the first question is not easy, but obvious: business processes must be analysed in sales, customer service, manufacturing and logistics. IT suppliers must take care that such existing or new processes will be adapted to existing software modules or vice versa, and that the software is able to support existing and future business process requirements. The analysis and definition of business processes can be regarded as mandatory homework. We can dream about artificial intelligence and fully automated processes, but this process of self-awareness, technical and business harmonization is the basis for all aspects of growth and competitiveness.
What are the driving forces in the industry?
The second and third questions at first glance look like they are not digitalization questions at all. When looking at packaging industries, we find some core topics each packaging producer has to deal with:
- Sustainability is a big consumer issue these days. For the manufacturer, it is no longer sufficient to produce nice-looking and functional packages. The packages should be 100% recyclable, sometimes compostable. This requires new processes, full traceability, and new raw materials. And of course, all this with the need to stay profitable and competitive while delivering safe and attractive packages. IT can only have a helping role here, but an important one: whereas the selection of raw materials is out of scope, the traceability and resource conservation of these raw materials, as well as energy-efficient processes, is a pure IT task.
- Cost pressures abound, and the future winners will be the manufacturers who provide the best mix of quality, service, and price. Lean processes, the perfect mix of raw materials, competitive pricing and motivated people are the ingredients of that mix. Even though it doesn’t look like that at first glance, this topic is tightly connected to digitalization. A smooth raw material flow and speed on the shop floor, the right tools for customer service, and product development are key success factors.
- Strategic business planning must respond to constantly changing consumer needs, whilst dealing with the ever-increasing speed of change. Such market changes drive mergers, company sales and acquisitions. Establishing processes and tools that allow predictable and easier company restructuring is and will be an increasingly crucial need in this dynamic business. Scalable IT systems and agile business applications are mandatory.
Digitalization must support the whole value chain
Finally, digitalization is not a value in itself. Excel lists sometimes have the flavour of being old-fashioned, but each of them must be checked against whether it makes sense to replace them by something else. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to invest in expensive and performing equipment if IT is not supporting its full potential. In other words, even the best, fastest and expensive printing machine cannot perform when the scheduling of the orders is not done properly, and the input materials are not available. Here digitalization is not ‘nice to have’, but indispensable.
Learn more by visiting the TIPS for packaging website.