He was speaking in a panel discussion on ‘Innovations in printing and food packaging technology’ during India International Food and Agri Week 2020 on 20 October.
Before getting into emerging technologies, Voruganti took a brief overview of some of the best techniques’ manufacturers have used over the years. “One of them is the Six Sigma and the other is Lean Management principles,” he said. “While Six Sigma focused on reducing the process variation using the DMAIC approach, Lean Management focused on reducing the areas of wastes that are common in most production systems (popularly remembered as TIMWOOD).”
Then came the hybrid version — the best of both — Lean Six Sigma that is Lean + Six Sigma – a collaborative method in which you do two things systematically, one removing waste and two reducing process variation.
Today, Industry 4.0 has become the buzzword. It is about smart factories with connected machines and intelligent robots — connected networks leading to big data and application of artificial intelligence for improved decision making.
On the deployment of robots, Voruganti said, packaging industry also has several mundane, non-value-added activities that can be made highly efficient by replacing or supporting human workers with robots.
“For years, at ITC Packaging and Printing Business, we have used both Lean and Six Sigma, and carried out improvement initiatives like makeready time reduction, reduction of non-value-added activities through value stream mapping, and I would say we have greatly benefited in the areas of quality, cost and delivery.”
“Activities like continuous feeding of material to machines, continuous collection of output from machines, sorting of defects, picking, placing, conveying, packing, labelling so on and so forth – there are a plethora of non-complex activities that can be automated in printing and packaging industry. I would say that industry has seen some positive progress in this area to offset the rising labour costs and a shortage of skilled manpower. However, for a higher momentum, the solution providers need to make the technology compatible with the existing machinery, improve post-implementation support services, affordable maintenance, upgradation plans for long term success,” he explained.
He added that in addition to the physical robots, there are plenty of opportunities for usage of software bots via robotic process automation to automate several repetitive activities and generation of routine reports, etc.
“With rising complexity and proliferation of the number of SKUs, there is also a huge opportunity in automation, simplification of artwork creation, reproduction, approval and archival. With the vast reach of the internet through affordable smartphones, RPA and IoT together can provide transparent, real-time information of the shipment. Packaging and printing industry can be greatly benefitted by evaluating the use cases and implementing it where relevant,” he said.
On remote and autonomous maintenance, Voruganti said, most machine manufacturers are building machines that have a digital connection to the cloud. So today, remote maintenance is in active usage and is improving further. Many machine manufacturers based out of Europe, the US are able to diagnose machine problem and troubleshoot without the need for physical travel.
However, the predictive maintenance is still in its early stages, as it needs several interconnected systems and there is a lot of opportunities for the packaging industry to look into this area for reduction of unanticipated downtime and costs.
Again, connected networks, intelligent sensors, camera’s supporting quality control, energy monitoring systems, and so on, all these dealing with real-time data through interconnected networks is also very relevant in the packaging and printing industry.
“At Heidelberg Global Innovation week, they were talking about the concept push-to-stop, basically the next level of automation in printing machines for higher productivity, OEE as packaging industry is impacted with shrinking run sizes. Just imagine the productivity scale-up that can be achieved when one can use smart trolleys and positioning of the right plate to the right unit without the need of manually carrying the plates and fitting on to the machine,” he said, adding, “Further with macro policy changes like GST, new eWay bill system, etc, there are already several regulations that companies are expected to comply and reconcile with on a day to day basis. All these are only going to get better when there are inter-connected networks with feedback loops.”
To sum it up, Voruganti said, there are a whole lot of new and emerging tools, techniques that are shaping the future of print and packaging industry. However, the uniqueness of the packaging industry is in its complexity, variety and non-standardised assembly lines. “The way Lean + Six Sigma brought in the best of both worlds, for the packaging industry, which is heavy on the action in shopfloor, Lean + Industry 4.0 can provide maximum opportunities for enhancement in quality, costs and overall profitability. For this to happen, all the management boards need to allocate both human and financial resources to maximise the usage of these emerging technologies and not lag behind,” he concluded.