Packaging Valley Germany heralds the start of Industry 4.0

The New Era in Packaging Technology

“The importance of packaging and packaging systems technology in connection with Industry 4.0 is gaining ever more significance!”. At the 2nd Packaging Valley Days, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, leading expert in artificial intelligence, was convinced that Industry 4.0 is no longer just a vision. Those taking part from the packaging sector confirmed this. The congress of specialists in the Cluster Packaging Valley Germany e.V. in Schwäbisch Hall was attended on 10th and 11th April by around 250 visitors from 20 countries.

Industry 4.0 is currently in the limelight of current media for the industrial world specializing in hi-tech, . The reason for this, of which Prof. Wahlster (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Saarbrücken) is convinced, is that the current working environment is undergoing fundamental changes. Emerging products or packaging in which processes information is recorded from the beginning right through to transport, has an enormous impact on the whole of the working environment. Machines are programmed for new tasks; the workforce goes to new, different factories.

Prof. Wahlster reports on the phenomenon of “Mass Customization”. The example of the automobile industry shows that today no two vehicles are identical; not only in appearance but also technically, improvements in components and software are being continually introduced. Today even mass wares such as training shoes, muesli or chocolate beans are available in production runs of a single unit. In the words of Prof. Wahlster, “Industry 4.0 offers the tools of implementation with practically no additional costs”. Individualization is becoming more and more the norm. Products which are customized to personal requirements will soon no longer be regarded as exclusive.

The Internet of all things – machines in the net

When semantic product memories are fed with position and temperature information from sensors , optical or other sensors are an essential factor for the functioning of the so-called Smart-Factory. XML-based web servers the size of a sugar cube, with radio-control -technology and the replacement of the many different field bus systems by TCP protocols allow interaction between machines, the product and the packaging. Nowadays, as sensors are not costly, and are available with W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards. According to Prof. Wahlster, the way is open for the “Service-Oriented Cyber-Physical” production system. These are automated, interacting systems which function context dependent. The ambient machine, transport and robot park is therefore a “Service Offer” which is called up and utilized by the product. For example, should there be a hold-up in processing at a certain point, the product itself looks for a better alternative. Another example: especially low-energy production methods are chosen for ecological products.

Prof. Wahlster went on to illustrate that the packaging also fulfills additional tasks. The scope of information contained in or on the packaging can be significantly expanded, whereby the whole production chain becomes transparent. Also at home the packaging can be an observer and watchdog. If for example, light sensitive contents have been exposed to light for too long, an automatic warning can be sent to a Smartphone.

In the subsequent discussion session, the subject of a filling and packaging line from Packaging Valley Germany which to a great extent already operates according to these principles came up. With this line perfumes are packaged at a high output rates for a run of one unit. Customers create a personalized perfume by selecting a mix of fragrances, and choose the flacon and the wording on it. The entire manufacturing and packaging process up to the declaration of the contents in conformity with the legal regulations of the country of receipt of the ordering party is automated. The representatives of the pharmaceutical industry who were present were a little more reserved towards the benefits of Industry 4.0 because of their complex certification procedures. At the same time, personalized medicine was acknowledged as a future scenario which could benefit enormously from the technical implementation of Industry 4.0.

Plasma, service and open doors

Other interesting technologies presented were for example, surface treatment with plasma technology for sterilization through to improved adhesion. New requirements, technologies and potential in service in machine engineering were discussed. On the second day of the congress, the companies of Packaging Valley Germany opened their doors and demonstrated their latest machine concepts, from particle-free transport systems and Blow-Fill-Seal through to the tremendous precision of filler units in combination with flexible robot technologies. Several shuttle buses ferried the 250 visitors around Packaging Valley.

The organizers summed up with satisfaction: “A visit to Packaging Valley demonstrates how inspirational both competition and close cooperation can be. In technological terms, everything is possible here. I believe that the event we organized has reflected this very well” reported Bernd Hansen as the Chairman of the cluster and owner of the Hansen Corporate Group. After the event, Kurt Engel (CEO of the Association) concluded “The positive feedback from the visitors and entrepreneurs will probably lead to a regular Packaging Valley Days event every three years”.

About Packaging Valley

Approx. 8,000 people work in Packaging Valley in the packaging machine industry. The percentage of exports is often more than 80%. The USA and the whole of Europe are important markets and now the Emerging Markets in South America and Asia are being added. The established industrial structure with over 40 packaging machine manufacturers and supplier companies including numerous world market leaders led to the setting up of the association “Packaging Valley Germany e.V.” in 2007. One of the most important concerns for the Association is to draw attention to this concentration of specialist competence unique in the world: in the Schwäbisch Hall district and adjoining regions, potential and existing customers get all the information they need on leading packaging solutions all within a small area.

Kurt Engel

Packaging Valley Germany e.V.
Stauffenbergstrasse 35-37
74523 Schwäbisch Hall
Tel.: 0791/5801-22
Fax: 0791/5801-13
Mobil: 016097221321

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