Industry 4.0: Digitalization in the Printing & Packaging Industry
Digitization is advancing forward unhindered. Analog processes and information are gradually being transferred to digital systems or replaced by them. Artificial intelligence is already taking over a wide range of tasks and can make decisions in a fraction of the human capacity. The print and packaging industry is not spared from these automation processes either. drupa shows how Industry 4.0 has already made its way into the print and packaging industry and what future trends are emerging.
What will the smart factory of tomorrow look like?
Industry 4.0 means the digital networking of people, machines and processes through the use of information and communication technology. Data-driven production processes, algorithm-controlled logistics and resource-conserving recycling management are bringing about a turnaround in the manufacturing sector. Where previously employee capacity determined the processing time of individual production steps, in the digitally controlled smart factory automated processes can autonomously take over tasks and significantly accelerate the manufacturing process. Employees are thus relieved and can be deployed more efficiently. By means of self-learning AI, impending malfunctions can be accurately predicted and diagnosed - thanks to mobile devices, this information can even be viewed by employees regardless of location, thus reducing unproductive time.
Order processing and accounting also benefit from digital trends: software solutions help to create invoices and send automated payment reminders to the customer, while inventories and personnel planning can be conveniently viewed and processed on the computer.
Photo: Conny Schneider / Unsplash
What is needed for digital transformation?
In addition to upgrading the technical and mechanical equipment of production facilities, networking between producers, suppliers and service providers, as well as digital customer connectivity, is crucial to not losing out in the age of digitalization. Platform economy is already part of the toolbox of large production companies. Stockless real-time production and fast supply chains only work if all process participants are networked with each other and seamless communication is ensured. Ordering processes are increasingly shifting to the World Wide Web - web shops and on-demand services pick up potential customers where they are. Creative online campaigns (e.g. online competitions and voting) and 3D configurators for individual product design allow customers to participate in product development and increase brand awareness - a strong website and social media presence should therefore be part of every investment plan, along with modern AI-controlled production machines.
AI-Printing and Platform Economy – Opportunities of digitization in the printing industry
Digitization in the industry confronts the printing community with major challenges: With the advance of the Internet and its online solutions, the print and order figures of traditional print media are falling. Many publishers are therefore following suit and are also driving the digitization of print media by publishing their editions on the web.
In order to survive in this competitive market, print companies must also upgrade - AI printing, platform economics and openness to new product solutions away from traditional print products play a key role here. Customers want to be able to place their orders online and track the handling process transparently in real time. A website or online store and tightly meshed networking of those involved in production are therefore basic prerequisites for digitization in the printing industry.
With print-on-demand and mass customization, printing companies also have the opportunity to process individualized print jobs and stand out from the crowd with customer-centric service solutions.
Companies can also counter the decline in print jobs by efficiently reducing costs and minimizing material consumption. The use of artificial intelligence can prevent misprints and significantly reduce material and ink consumption. Personnel costs can be reduced by means of autonomous print technologies.
Future trends & digitalization in the packaging industry
In the packaging industry, too, faulty production and material consumption can be reduced with the help of AI. Learning systems calculate and compensate fully automatically for deviations in the web guidance of cutting machines and printing devices, while sensors and algorithms enable error-free production from the very first copy. Using simulations in seconds, AI can determine the one among various designs that achieves the best possible result with the least amount of material.
Companies will do well using digitization in the packaging industry to their advantage in addressing customers as well. Printing QR codes on packaging is just one of many examples of how consumers can interact virtually with the product. Using augmented reality and QR codes, interactive and entertaining campaigns can be used for customer loyalty or important consumer information can be provided simply and digitally.