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The digital twin is everywhere

According to Tetra Pak, the food and packaging industry must move digitally and prepare for Industry 4.0. This would not only lead to leaner processes, but also create the necessary transparency of the entire value chain. By Sabine A. Slaughter

When Tetra Pak exhibited for the first time at this year's Hannover Messe Industrie, almost everyone wondered what a company operating in the food and packaging industry wanted to achieve with its participation. We looked at the argumentation and spoke to Johan Nilsson, VP Industry 4.0 and Digitization at Tetra Pak, who presented the company's vision of the "factory of the future", which will revolutionize the production and packaging of food and beverages.
After having already implemented several steps of the new concept, the company now gave an insight into its experiences and showed how partnerships and cooperations support the new digital landscape.
Industry 4.0 covers the entire process chain
Johan Nilsson, VP Industry 4.0 and Digitization at Tetra Pak, said: "Digital interference is increasing across industries. The future of the food industry is undoubtedly digital. There is no single company that is able to handle all the complexities of digitisation on its own, so we need to work together and form partnerships to create tangible added value".
In concrete terms, this means that the value chain from the production of food and beverages, i.e. the cultivation of the products in the field, the procurement of the respective ingredients, the packaging production and the packaging itself, to the final disposal of the packaging, its recycling and reuse, must be digitally documented. This is done via a so-called digital twin, i.e. a virtually digitized product that follows each individual step.
The advantage for manufacturers, packaging companies, distributors/retailers and end consumers is clear - everyone knows exactly where a specific product, product series or even an entire delivery is at any given time. In addition, the end user can trace the steps of the product, find out where it was grown, packaged and sold, as well as what process and additive materials were added and process steps it went through before it arrived at the store where it was purchased. This creates a previously unknown level of transparency. Especially in view of the increasing number of food and beverage recalls worldwide, such a digital twin could make it easier to find and retrieve unclean/poisoned/polluted products.
The requirements for this transparency are manifold. In addition to data collection and storage, which, as Tetra Pak emphasized, is cost-effective compared to the past, comprehensive rights management is required. Everyone should be able to access and view the data they need and are interested in. Cooperation is the key to digitisation and to achieve this level of lean processes and transparency all participants in the value chain must work together.
Since no company in the packaging industry or the rest of the value chain will be able to do all this themselves, Tetra Pak has started to build partnership programs that build on some of the existing collaborations with companies such as Microsoft and SAP. However, more partners are needed. The "factory of the future" that Tetra Pak intends to build with this concept will not only be Industry 4.0-compliant, but part of it - and will give everyone access to the information they need.
Networked packaging platform
As part of this vision, the common packaging platform was also launched, which transforms milk and juice cartons into interactive information channels, full-fledged data carriers and digital tools, apart from the processing and production data collected along the process chain.
Driven by the trends behind Industry 4.0 and with code generation, digital printing and data management at its core, the networked packaging platform brings new benefits for food manufacturers, retailers and buyers.
The new packaging platform offers complete traceability to improve product production, quality control and supply chain transparency for producers. It has the ability to identify and track the history or location of a product, making it possible to monitor market trends and response and potential problems.
Better supply chain visibility and real-time insights that enable retailers to track inventory movements, be alerted when problems occur, and monitor delivery performance are benefits that retailers and distributors can experience.
For end users, this means the ability to access a vast amount of information, including where the product was made, where the ingredients came from, where it was processed, and even how and where the packaging can be recycled.
Ivan Nesterenko, Vice President, Cross Portfolio at Tetra Pak, said: "We are opening up new opportunities for our customers to get more value out of packaging than ever before. It is no longer just about product protection and functionality, it is about connectivity and interaction. The future of packaging is undoubtedly digital: this launch is a step towards a truly intelligent package, and we look forward to working with our customers along the way".
Tetra Pak has already successfully carried out pilot projects with its customers to test the new networked package and its retail services in Spain, Russia, China, the Dominican Republic and India, working with beverage, juice and dairy producers. In Spain, one customer increased its sales by 16% through the scan and win campaign.
Cooperation between people and AI
Another aspect that was presented is that machines need to communicate both with each other and with the digital systems of the entire operation, automatically performing tasks such as diagnosing problems, ordering and delivering parts and products, and, if necessary, instructing an engineer or operator best suited to the service required. The technology builds on earlier efforts to take advantage of digitization for the food and beverage industry, such as the introduction of Tetra Pak Plant Secure and Condition Monitoring.
Supported by these intelligent solutions, the workforce can focus on managing the plant, making fast and informed decisions and continuously increasing production output, reducing errors and minimizing product waste.
Johan Nilsson explains: "We are in a time where the market is changing at a rapid pace. Consumer demands combined with the relevant regulations require a new way of producing food that is much more efficient and, at the same time, ensures food safety. At the same time, we believe that people should remain at the centre of the management of food production, with digital solutions to support them".
Tetra Pak has worked on the digitalization of food production with partners such as Microsoft, ABB, SAP and Elettric80, a provider of automated logistics solutions. By combining these cutting-edge technologies with the company's food expertise, Tetra Pak's ultimate goal is to drive the digital transformation of food production and provide more support to its customers in the digital age.
Complete industrialisation of packaging
All in all, it can be said that although the production of packaging and also of packaging itself is often still a mostly labour-intensive, time-consuming process, it is developing into a highly industrialised process that must prepare for Industry 4.0. More than ever before, cooperation and collaboration are the key to realizing the full potential, streamlining processes and enabling greater transparency, which are prerequisites for success in the digital age. Tetra Pak's vision of the "factory of the future" is therefore not just a beginning, but a fully-fledged and comparable solution.

 

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