Packwise Smart Cap: digital key innovation for the supply chain 4.0

Packaging – bags, boxes, barrels, containers. Packaging is versatile. With its help, goods can be transported safely from A to B. It protects products from damage and contamination. It makes unshapely goods stackable and dangerous goods manageable. In some cases, it makes things transportable in the first place. Until now, that was it. Now a new era is beginning. A future in which packaging will become an important employee in the company. An intelligent building block in the logistics process. 

The world is on the way to Industry 4.0. The possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) will revolutionize numerous industries in the coming years. Logistics will therefore also change and with it the topic of supply chains. Many managers in companies already recognize the potential of a digital Supply Chain 4.0. For good reason, many key technologies are mature in their development today and are also priced in such a way that investments are possible for companies.

Supply Chain 4.0 is about looking at the supply chain as a whole, not just the part that your company physically controls. As actors, systems and assets are networked, the boundaries of otherwise clearly defined responsibilities and control bodies are becoming blurred.

What Supply Chain 4.0 is all about

The basis of a modern supply chain is to collect and communicate as much data as possible along the value chain. This data is generated automatically with sensors and then transmitted. This is generally referred to as the Internet of Things.

The collected data flows together in large data pools, the datalakes, and is analyzed. This is also done automatically and ideally in such a way that an algorithm independently selects the focus for it. In the future, the current megatrends of artificial intelligence and Big Data will bring further advantages in these matters from which companies will benefit. With the help of analysis, important information can be derived for upcoming tasks.

However, in order for the digital supply chain to develop its full potential, data would have to be collected, aggregated and evaluated from different parties across company boundaries. Blockchain technologies will therefore play a major role in the future. Due to their decentralized nature, they enable a non-manipulable and secure implementation of a common set of rules.

These technical innovations will make processes more complex, but they will also offer opportunities and positive changes for companies.

Packwise Smart Cap: Insights with added value

Packwise offers its customers new digital opportunities. Founded in 2017, the technology start-up from Dresden connects the industrial packaging of its clientele from the chemical and food industries with the Internet. A digital supply chain is complex. This gives rise to new functions in companies, most of which are very close to the management and deal with the topic across functions. It is then precisely these teams that work with Packwiseeng – supply chain management and corporate IT departments.

At Packwise, the focus so far has been on intermediate bulk containers, plastic containers for transporting liquids. With the help of the Packwise Smart Cap, which is simply stuck onto such a container, a digital twin of the load carrier is created. Via radio, the cap regularly transmits data on the location, filling quantity, movement and temperature in the container.

This simple step now provides completely new insights into the processes surrounding the packaging and its contents. This begins at the point of delivery. If it is clear where a container is and how fast it is moving, the supplier can tell his customer when the container left the company premises, when it is expected to arrive, and he can also communicate any delays. Today, this is already standard in some cases and is expected by the customer. But it gets more exciting with a view to fill level measurement, which the Packwise Smart Cap also allows.

Problem-free automation

For example, information from the customer about when empty containers are ready for collection is no longer necessary. The regular measurement of the fill level and the transfer of the relevant data into the system have far-reaching effects. For the owners of the containers, it is easy to plan when and how many load carriers are ready for collection and for other orders.

The customer himself also gains new insights from this data and thus opportunities for automation. For example, he could have a new order for raw materials triggered completely without his intervention if they run low. The analysis of the fill level history also provides important information for the company’s production planners. They use the information to design production in line with demand.

This shows that the packaging used to transport a product from A to B becomes much more. By generating previously unknown data, the supply chain can be digitized, and that across borders. Access to this information for suppliers and customers has far-reaching positive effects.

Packaging thus becomes a production planner, a sales representative, a logistics planner, and a sustainability manager, because processes can be made more sustainable. At the same time, it becomes a quality manager, because temperature and damage can be tracked and any opening and thus the introduction of impurities becomes visible. Packaging becomes a watchdog.

New services and business models 

The interface thus created between suppliers and customers also allows new services and business models to be developed. Examples of this would be a pay-per-use model or, in addition to providing a product, offering an inventory management service to keep better track of inventories.

The digitization of the supply chain has only just begun. It will be interesting to see what new approaches will emerge in the coming years. Not least the Corona pandemic has shown how important technology will continue to be in the future. In many areas, fundamental processes are still heavily dependent on the presence of employees. However, this should not fuel fears that staff will be dispensed with in the future. Rather, tasks that were often time-consuming or simply a nuisance will be eliminated. For the team in the company, the digitalization of the supply chain thus creates more focus for things that do not work without people.

According to a study conducted by Zukunftstechnologie GmbH on behalf of the Corrugated Board Industry Association, the supply chain of the future is characterized by the following points: more transparency, a high level of responsiveness, greater automation and customer centricity, individualized solutions, more intensive collaboration, and closer interlinking of value creation. The Packwise Smart Cap creates important foundations for all these goals. It is therefore one of the key technologies for Supply Chain 4.0.