Consumer packaging companies are using predictive maintenance – PMMI Whitepaper

Predictive maintenance for the packaging and processing industry is quickly becoming a necessity for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, according to a recent Packaging and Predictive Maintenance whitepaper produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (Herndon, Virginia).

Of all possible digitalization initiatives – including big-data analytics, ‘cobots’, digital twins and others – predictive maintenance is far and away the most likely to be of interest to CPGs, said PMMI. The organization further pointed out that 29.4% of CPG companies are currently evaluating the technology, 21.6% are piloting it, and 23.5% have already implemented it.

Avoiding downtime in production packaging lines is essential

Avoiding downtime and preventing product losses are the major drivers pushing manufacturers towards implementing predictive maintenance. Due to the nature of packaging machinery, packaging lines are 30% more “slightly likely” to fail than other types of equipment. Some types of packaging machinery are more prone to downtime than others, while form/fill/seal machinery, labeling, decorating and coding equipment are “extremely likely” to suffer downtime, according to the new research.

Predictive maintenance, the whitepaper further explained, is being touted now because “it’s the lowest hanging fruit that can be harvested from another much-talked about concept in industry – digitalization. Sometimes referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is quite nebulous as its scope is broad and its cost can be challenging to justify. This is not the case for predictive maintenance, which aims to solve the age-old problem of costly plant downtimes, which can incur millions of dollars of lost output.”

New business models needed

The report revealed that new business models will be needed to ensure that predictive maintenance delivers on its promise of optimizing equipment performance for CPGs, while ensuring that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) get the revenue they need to stay in business. The most promising candidate for this, as highlighted in the whitepaper, is Machines as a Service (MaaS), which involves pricing based on performance goals set between the OEM and the end users (such as the number of cases palletized). However, if there’s one single problem that could hinder the widespread adoption of the MaaS business model for predictive maintenance, it’s the aversion that many CPGs have to connecting their machines to the cloud, and to allowing remote access.

According to PMMI’s Trends in Adoption of Report Access: Moving Forward During COVID-19 whitepaper, 29% of CPG respondents indicated that they don’t allow any remote access in their facilities. But 27% of respondents do allow certain OEMs or service providers to maintain a dedicated connection to specific equipment. As both PMMI whitepapers indicated, cybersecurity was the biggest barrier CPG companies cited for not using currently available remote access technologies, and fully taking advantage of predictive-maintenance options. That said, all parties agreed that as a result of the global pandemic, the industry has now shown a willingness to respond to remote access, while also forging helpful partnerships between suppliers and end users that would go a long way to overcoming these barriers.

Automation advances

The expansion of robotics in specific packaging areas will be key

Current automation levels in the packaging and processing industries are about 64% for automated equipment and about 21% for semi-automated equipment. PMMI’s findings showed that although COVID-19 has impacted automation plans, manufacturers recognize that they can improve operations by expanding automation strategies and components. Some of the tools in place driving the future of automation include the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and integration (as more machines now have data-acquisition capabilities), and the expansion of robotics in areas such as secondary packaging and palletizing. Additional drivers include incorporating artificial intelligence and predictive analysis used for maintenance.

As there are currently many technologies available to safely implement predictive maintenance and remote access, one ideal place to see these technologies up close is at Pack Expo Las Vegas and the co-located Healthcare Packaging Expo 2021, set for September 27-29 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. At press time, over 1,500 exhibitors are planning to showcase the latest solutions to implementing predictive maintenance – as well as improving efficiency, productivity, automation, health and safety, remote access and much more.

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