With manufacturers under pressure to meet Net Zero targets, Foodmach CEO Earle Roberts looks at how Line MES can help fix an urgent problem.
Entire supply chains are now being investigated for carbon reduction opportunities. While changes to the physical product packaging offer some major gains, recyclable packaging is only the first step in a transition to Net Zero. Automation can reduce the environmental footprint of operations by streamlining processes and reducing waste.
Here’s a review of the options for waste reduction on a packaging line.
The transition to sustainable packaging requires manufacturers to assess the carbon impact of their packaging, select and use renewable materials, support end-user recycling and contribute to the circular economy.
There’s also the packaging design to consider. Packaging tailored to fit a product perfectly promotes less waste and is a more protective and efficient way to transport goods.
The changeover to greener packaging is well under way as renewable materials evolve. However, the transition process cannot detract from efforts to reduce waste on the factory floor.
Rather, the packaging line needs to be flexible enough tohandle the changes as theyhappen.
Changes to packaging affect the processes and technologies at a factory floor level. Recycled materials have different levels of resistance to denting, folding, scuffing, tearing, stretching, breaking, and puncturing that may need to be accommodated. The material may not be 100 per cent consistent in thickness or finish, requiring greater accuracy and precision handling.
Using truly efficient automation for the packing processes will mean exactly the right amount of packaging for the right product with the right branding, labelling and coding is used – every single time.
Getting this right significantly reduces the amount of waste created and drives down material costs. This is part of the appeal of line efficiency.
Line efficiency offers waste reduction at every stage of the packaging process:
- energy and water consumption;
- product and packaging waste;
- time waste;
- reduced overheads (a well-designed line uses less space); and
- reduced menial labour hours so they can be spent on value-adding activities.
- Line efficiency also offers:
- seamless production;
- fully automated lines with automated monitoring;
- supply chain integration;
- optimised logistics schedules;
- durability and longevity of products during transit;
- reduced risks: safety, human error and product recalls;
- reduced risks to profit; and
- traceability, which brings increased interaction with stakeholders, including consumers.
Line efficiency is without doubt dependent on equipment selection and arrangement. However, only a comprehensive central control module can provide the full suite of efficiency benefits on offer – and machine-to-machine information is needed for the line performance to be completely controllable.
Sufficient connectivity between machine control systems enables the use of sensors to work in tandem with automated and AI-based control algorithms to accommodate inconsistencies of materials.
It also provides uninterrupted production despite the numerous challenges of today’s manufacturing, such as an increased number of SKUs.
Line Control needs integration
Integration can just mean the joining of single machines together with conveyors and an IIoT patch over the top.
We prefer using a holistic systems-based approach to supply fully digitalised, Industry 4.0-enabled packaging lines that send quality data to higher-level management systems. That way, we can offer complete control and transparency over every aspect of the line’s function.
To deliver this, we’ve had to break new ground. Original equipment manufacturers build control into their machines with remote monitoring, and there are software products that offer overall line control or measure simplified OEE, but they have limitations.
As integrators, we work with all of them, so we see what’s missing. This led us to develop the ultimate line control package.
It took us a decade to design, develop and refine Line Manufacturing Execution System (MES), the solution to waste reduction throughout the entire packaging line.
Line MES is completely customisable and an essential tool for sustainable manufacturing. The whole line can be reset for changeovers at the push of a button – including recipes, conveyor speeds, and machine settings – for multiple product changeovers in a single shift.
Changeovers are rapid, with automatic sourcing of materials as an option. It even does flying changeovers, where a new product enters the line before the previous product run has finished.
Machine learning algorithms automatically make adjustments across the line for Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), optimising air and energy use.
Line MES provides 100 per cent accurate OEE data with end-to-end integrated quality control monitoring. It’s able to be integrated with any ERP system for paperless manufacturing.
If every large manufacturer in the world used Line MES, untold amounts of product, packaging and energy waste could be reduced at every step of the FMCG and industrial packaging process. The financial savings are enormous.
Line MES is award-winning and at its most dazzling when used with energy-efficient automation, which brings us to…
There are all kinds of ways packaging machines can be made more efficient.
Mechanical design for energy efficiency, energy-efficient drive motors, air monitoring, air leak detection, smart pneumatics with performance assessment, proportional valve technology to reduce blow molding waste, ultrasonic welding instead of heat sealing… the list is long.
We offer pay-as-you-go enviro upgrades to make it more economical for customers to take advantage of the possibilities.
Machine efficiency is, of course, limited by the overall line design efficiency.
Wrapping it up
Ideally, your packaging line is designed from the ground up to be truly efficient and flexible, so it can work with all the potential packaging materials you’re likely to throw at it.
The equipment is selected for efficiency, and the turnkey line supplied and delivered as a single integrated unit – a high-performance vehicle with Line MES providing Industry 4.0-enabled controls.
Well, we’re doing that too. It’s called Line as a Machine, and it’s currently transforming several of Australia’s biggest packaging lines.
However, there’s much that Australia’s FMCG manufacturers can achieve without a full line transformation, and carbon credits are available for the improvements you make.
Start by making an assessment of the carbon load in your operations, decide on your targets and speak to people who can help you get there.
Any effort to reduce carbon on a packaging line must involve the machinery suppliers. To that end, we’re doing the hard work on our journey to Net Zero and beyond, which involves a complete business transformation and our own suppliers. You can see our progress at foodmach.com.au/about/towards-true-zero.
This article appeared as the Cover Story for the November/December 2022 issue of Food & Drink Business.