Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) – From packaging to autonomous worker

Beginnings of the IBC

In 1992 an employee of Dow Corning S.A. from Midland (Michigan) was looking for a new solution to store liquids and powders more efficiently. We are talking about Olivier J. L. D’Hollander, who was to set new standards with his idea, that of a modern plastic IBC. At that time, cylindrical 200 litre drums were used in particular. Transporting such containers was usually cumbersome, due in particular to their poor stackability and the complicated load securing measures. Furthermore, the stored liquids could usually only be removed from above, which required a great deal of effort and complex equipment. Particularly annoying in this respect was the so-called „dead space“ between the barrels. Due to their cylindrical shape, space was lost when stacking four barrels on a pallet. Many of these problems should be history from now on due to the introduction!

„Packaging Revolution“ – Rise of the IBC

In 1993 D’Hollander applied for a patent and soon many companies around the world started to develop their own IBCs. In Germany, too, global players in the IBC market soon emerged, such as the companies Schütz, Werit or Roth. From then on, the rise of the IBC could hardly be stopped. It integrated itself in many industries as a universal medium. Starting with chemical, food or pharmaceutical companies, through to the storage of water or waste. Even in private gardens, the IBC can be found with one or the other hobby gardener.

The revolution is over, but not all problems are solved

Since the development of the first IBC, the number of containers on the global market has been steadily increasing. Market analyses show that today alone there are more than 200 million IBCs in circulation worldwide, and the trend is rising. It is assumed that the triumphant advance of the all-purpose container will continue in the coming years. But even the highly popular IBC is not perfect in all areas. There is a risk that the containers will be damaged by impact and that their fluids, which may cause damage to people and the environment, will escape. Furthermore, they are not always used efficiently, which means that they are sometimes empty for up to 80% of their operating time. Due to the global networking of markets and the constant growth of fleets, it is also assumed that around 20% of IBCs are lost in delivery processes. This not only has an impact on the investment of the owners, but also harms the currently ailing climate.

Increasing demand for automation and sustainability

In order to make the use of IBCs more efficient, the demand for more automation and sustainability is becoming ever louder. During the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Safer Chemicals Conference 2020, which took place in June, the potential for future solutions for container tracking and automatic content capture was also highlighted. Furthermore, the association „Cradle-to-Cradle e.V.“ has been continuously investigating opportunities to achieve a more eco-efficient recycling management of containers and receptacles since 2012. In order to achieve this, smart and digital solutions are needed that will continue to be easy to understand and operate by their users in the future.

The next „packaging revolution“ is imminent – goals of the Packwise Smart Cap

One way to meet these requirements is to network IBCs with the Packwise Smart Cap. The device offers the possibility to create a digital twin of a container. This should provide the owner with relevant information on filling level, temperature, movement, location and possible collisions. The IBC is thus monitored all around. Its details are available at all times with a simple login to a personalisable app. In addition to its function as packaging, the IBC should also become a quality manager and product or warehouse planner. Finally, its support is intended to provide a comprehensive insight into the use of containers in order to offer possible approaches for economic and ecological cycles.