Digital strategy for the most sustainable food packaging in the world

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6 minutes Reading time
6 minutes Reading time

Today, large companies in particular are increasingly caught between the conflicting priorities of economy and ecology. Global aspects such as climate change, water scarcity and packaging waste are of great importance in the social discourse and demand solutions.

The challenge: Replace manual decision-making and create global comparability

Tetra Pak, a leading provider of food processing and packaging solutions, is on its way to becoming the world’s most sustainable food packaging. Investments in new factories and major modernization measures are based on long-term strategies. More than ever, the longevity of factories in particular requires technical concepts that are future-proof and can be adapted very flexibly to changes. An important part of the value creation in resource consumption is the numerous factories that are operated worldwide. Here, resource efficiency requires the use of new technologies. The challenge of the holistic digital strategy was both internal (own factories) and external (customers packaging their own products in their own facilities built and maintained by Tetra Pak). In the company’s own factories, a global view of productivity, safety and quality data was only possible to a limited extent for the shifts. For a cluster manager overseeing plants in multiple countries, what process is affecting a factory’s performance has remained hidden until now. In the factory itself, the challenge is to ensure that product defects that can be triggered for process-related reasons are detected beforehand and do not reach the customer. The compliance score, i.e., the evaluation of the progress of recommended improvement measures, was previously based here on manually collected data (not reliable data), which is not always immediately available. The additional challenge for Tetra Pak’s operational technology (OT) security managers is to ensure that factories comply with the company’s ISA 95 security standards. Security vulnerabilities can also go unnoticed for a long time due to manual internal audits. These challenges are also faced by Tetra Pak’s customers, who themselves operate packaging equipment that is built and maintained by Tetra Pak. Here in focus: improving the operational efficiency of customer plants around the world with predictive maintenance solutions and overall plant efficiency monitoring. Predictive maintenance is designed to detect malfunctions at an early stage and minimize unexpected downtime.

The solution: Drawing meaningful and relevant data from networked production systems

As part of this transformation, the company invested in Microsoft Azure IoT solutions such as Azure IoT Hub to create “smart factories” that solve the aforementioned challenges across the enterprise.

The goal was to draw more meaningful, better data from networked production systems – to derive autonomous or even manually made decisions, to optimize controlled production – especially with regard to the ecologically minimized footprint – and to avoid waste in energy and material flows.

There is the famous quote by Peter F. Drucker: “What you can’t measure, you can’t control. “This is especially true in the area of digitization. The purpose of collecting additional data is for improvement.

Microsoft was able to use its (nested) Azure IoT (Edge) devices to overcome the challenges that Tetra Pak presented to the software service provider:

  • For a holistic view of productivity, security and quality data on a global scale, Azure IoT Hub comes into play. It enables bidirectional communication between the IoT application and connected devices.
  • For unified and overarching visualization of data, it is connected to the Azure cloud platform and displayed using Microsoft Power BI.
  • For connected customer solutions, Tetra Pak uses Azure IoT Edge devices to ensure the operational efficiency of customer facilities around the world. The solution enables predictive maintenance and helps improve monitoring of overall asset efficiency. The devices also centrally ensure that each internal factory is equipped with the latest software versions.
  • Quality optimization and defect reduction on production lines is achieved through the use of image analysis and an algorithm that also runs on an IoT edge device. This prevents product defects from reaching the customer.

The result: Data-driven decision making and global comparability

Today, Tetra Pak has a single view of the performance of all its factories – at the day shift, factory, cluster and global levels. Employees and decision makers can quickly identify potential problems. Data from the 24 Tetra Pak lines can be accessed in near real time and an early response to changes can be made. As a result, security managers have been able to improve security and compliance by up to 15%, internal audits are no longer required, and security gaps have been closed . Managers also use IoT data to gain a deeper understanding of operations and improve productivity: If a cluster manager overseeing plants in multiple countries notices that cluster productivity is dropping, he can immediately click down a level and see which plant is lagging behind, and go even deeper to find out what operation in that plant is affecting performance. Tetra Pak sees the greatest direct impact of the Microsoft Azure IoT solution in the gradual improvement in the quality of its products – thanks to the fact that all devices can be networked with the Azure IoT infrastructure that are to be networked, as well as the trusted and secure data obtained from them. IoT enables Tetra Pak to break new ground in process control Another result of the collaboration with Microsoft Azure: new customer services to increase production efficiency. Tetra Pak not only maintains its own factories, but also builds and maintains equipment for customers, who in turn package their own products in their own facilities. In one use case, Tetra Pak deployed IoT edge devices to provide predictive maintenance services to a customer. For example, a dairy producer in Europe saved about 55,000 euros by detecting and repairing malfunctions before they caused unexpected downtime. Tetra Pak can now deliver on the promise of Industry 4.0 for safer and more efficient factory operations internally and externally worldwide thanks to Microsoft Azure. In some markets, the production of plastic straws has already been discontinued. The next big goal: the production of highly recyclable, fiber-based packaging. The company plans to invest around 100 million euros per year in the development of more sustainable packaging solutions over the next five to ten years. A project that will be implemented through smart factories and IIoT.

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