Consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) face intense pressures to stay competitive in today’s markets. They must sustain profitability, improve production line throughput and flexibility, manage rising material costs and meet critical sustainability and decarbonization goals.
Digital transformation is one of the most effective approaches to help today’s CPG companies solve productivity and sustainability challenges. There are new and emerging automation technologies that CPGs can integrate within production lines to reduce energy consumption, streamline processes, increase machine availability and drive new levels of productivity and sustainability.
Digital Transformation Is Key to CPG Growth
Many CPGs have valuable data they could use to solve productivity and sustainability challenges but no way to access it. Digital transformation technology gives CPG operations new understanding about where waste and inefficiency exists in single machines and across production lines, as well as providing an array of integrated tools to help operators analyze and better control these issues.
Digital transformation integrates multiple types of components and technology at every level of packaging operations. Intelligent sensors and valves generate critical data on asset performance, while smart protocol convertors release machine data in existing automation controllers and share it across all packaging lines.
Innovative software formats and organizes data into actionable insights and real-time information on machine health. The information is scaled to cloud-based analytical tools, giving packaging companies a more sophisticated understanding of energy usage, throughput and scrappage patterns. By integrating intelligent solutions that automate and optimize packaging processes from the factory floor to the cloud, CPGs can simultaneously improve sustainability, efficiency and productivity.
This floor to cloud approach unlocks trapped data and connects islands of automation, giving manufacturers the visibility and control to solve critical challenges and meet ambitious goals. As CPG companies develop the next generation of their manufacturing platforms, using this complete floor to cloud approach can improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), increase energy efficiency while reducing waste, and create safer operations and digital record-keeping.
There is a broad range of smart technologies that can contribute to this digital transformation. From linear motion technologies used to move and drive packaging assembly processes to systems that monitor compressed air use—and many others—there are multiple opportunities to “weave in” emerging technologies to current and new production lines.
More efficient control of compressed air flow systems is provided through the high-flow model of the Aventics AF2 air flow sensor from Emerson. It monitors air consumption in large air lines and pneumatic pipe systems, providing actionable insights that help operators address potential issues and improve sustainability and machine uptime.
Improve Line Productivity with Hybrid Automation Systems
Traditionally, automation systems only used pneumatic or electric linear motion control—and only benefited from that specific technology’s advantages. In many cases, electric or pneumatic linear systems can provide the right functionality for specific machine processes.
However, that doesn’t mean that once one technology is selected it has to be used for every application. Now, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can build packaging machines with hybrid automation systems that combine pneumatic and electric motion control, offering the greatest advantages of both technologies in one solution.
Using pneumatic actuators as well as electric actuators, hybrid systems allow OEMs to apply the most appropriate technology for each specific function and truly optimize packaging line flexibility, efficiency, and productivity. The latest electric actuators are energy-efficient and can achieve unparalleled repeatability and uniformity, which can improve overall equipment efficiency and reduce scrap, while pneumatic actuators offer robust operation and easy maintenance. Additionally, overall system flexibility makes it possible for machines to produce a range of products and significantly reduce changeover time.
Boost Visibility with Smart Sensors and Analytics Software
The pressure to improve sustainability, efficiency, and productivity drives CPG manufacturers to optimize resource use and streamline operations in new ways. Many machines and production lines already have sensors and drives generating valuable performance data. Too often, that data is trapped or underutilized because it is not fully integrated into line-level, plant-level, or business wide analytical tools.
Improving resource utilization and reducing energy waste requires using this data for better insight and understanding of packaging system performance. This includes gaining greater visibility and better analytics of processes that use the most resources, like compressed air lines and clean-in-place (CIP) systems.
Typical food and beverage processing facilities devote about 30 percent of utility resources to CIP operations and lose time during changeovers. CIP skids without sensors and analytics software can run at unnecessarily long preset cycles, which waste time and resources. In many packaging operations without these digital resources, this data is captured via manual reporting, a time-consuming, error-prone process.
New analytics software automates CIP and steam-in-place (SIP) utilities monitoring and reporting, allowing operators to optimize resource use, benchmark against known cycles and generate automated reports. Stakeholders can use data to make decisions that reduce energy consumption and improve system or overall facility productivity.
Another way to reduce energy consumption is through improved compressed air monitoring. Most packaging facilities use pneumatic systems that require compressed air. Unfortunately, some air can be lost to undetected leaks, resulting in wasted energy and unnecessary costs.
Smart air flow sensors are proven to detect leaks in pneumatic systems and now come in high-flow models that can help reduce energy consumption in larger air lines and systems. This expanded capacity makes it possible for personnel to clearly see compressed air use, identify and address leaks quickly and optimize energy efficiency across an entire packaging facility.
The Aventics Series SPRA electric, rod-style linear actuator from Emerson offers greater load capacity and more accurate, reliable motion to help maximize CPG productivity. They are available in three different screw technologies to meet exacting application requirements.
Smart Technology Drives CPG Innovation and Growth
CPG companies have long been leaders in implementing new automation technologies to sustain their competitive advantages. As the packaging industry continues to evolve, digital transformation technologies offer new ways to continue that record of innovation. Working together, CPGs, OEMs and technology providers can leverage the inherent advantages digital automation technologies offer to solve the most demanding packaging and production challenges. Each innovation brings unprecedented benefits—and opportunities to significantly improve sustainability, efficiency, and production.