Technology How the digital shift is impacting the packaging industry

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Thursday, January 31, 2019
As a carrier of digital technologies, packaging offers promising options for improving logistics and production processes – how smart does it need to be to do this?
Photo: pixabay/ks2233
As a carrier of digital technologies, packaging offers promising options for improving logistics and production processes – how smart does it need to be to do this?
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FachPack Germany


The VVL (Association for the Promotion of Innovative Logistics Solutions) tests and researches innovative packaging solutions and approaches for logistics planning.

In the TechBox Forum at FachPack 2018, experts from the association's network talked about the wide range of options for making packaging intelligent using digital solutions. One such approach, for example, is the IntelliData Project, which is intended to discourage consumers from throwing away edible foodstuffs so indiscriminately in future.

Until now, those consumers daring enough to do so have relied on taste or smell to determine whether the milk in the fridge is still drinkable although the expiry date has passed or it has been opened for several days. The objective of a project led by QuoData GmbH is to develop an app that will be able to determine this accurately in future. However, it won’t be done using smell or taste but by means of a sensor label in or on the milk packaging, says Christian Bläul, IT Manager at QuoData.

To do this the label determines certain variables that together can accurately determine whether the milk is still drinkable. In collaboration with the project’s partners, who represent the entire supply chain including the consumer, a prediction algorithm and sensor label are now being tested that do not impede the logistics and provide reliable use-by dates.

In this context, the properties of smart products, Packaging 4.0 and intelligent packaging overlap – but they are not necessarily identical. A smart product is therefore a vital component of Industry 4.0. It needs to be able to communicate and interact with other stakeholders in the production chain.

Alongside its previous functions like product protection, marketing and handling, it performs other tasks, e.g. communicability, interconnectivity and the control of processes. If supplied with dynamic information on an RFID chip, intelligent packaging can turn a “normal” product into a smart product that was previously not suitable for the demands of Industry 4.0.

The benefit of intelligent packaging lies in the customer and product-specific choices it provides. Other advantages of intelligent packaging are optimum product protection, lower costs and self-organisation within the supply chain.

In this context, the transport packaging always has to be suited to the relevant supply chain: it must be identifiable, controllable and ideally, also be able to communicate in future. Despite these wide-ranging requirements, the packaging manufacturer has to be capable of offering a durable and economic product that can provide and receive this kind of information. The great advantage is that information technology is becoming increasingly less expensive and therefore it is now much more feasible to implement the technology than it was ten years ago.

Today packaging is already playing a major role in ensuring an exchange of information in production, logistics and commerce. The growing demand for individualised, safe and inexpensive products is continuing to drive the development of intelligent add-on functions. As a result, manufacturers increasingly have the opportunity to set their products apart from the competition through their packaging and to significantly improve their logistics processes. Once again, the exhibitors at FachPack in Nuremberg in September 2019 will offer solutions to these requirements.

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