Using Data & Connectivity to Build a New Flexographic Business Model

The packaging sector is being transformed by more and more demanding consumers who look for a good product and then want it adapted to their needs. The trend is responsible for encouraging companies to innovate.

The collective mission: Make the packaging of their products attract the attention of clients, offering more bold and eye-catching designs that are also sustainable and aligned with customer demands.

The evolution toward packages with higher variability and less volume means shorter and less repetitive runs. This gives rise to the need to know all your processes in detail, in order to optimize efficiency of resources and reduce costs. That includes: knowledge of the printing and converting processes, operation and configuration of the machines to obtain the best results, value-added solutions to complement and improve the management of this knowledge—in a word (and a number), Industry 4.0.

WEB Comexi Grassot i Rosello tablet
From job costing to machine configuration, Industry 4.0 is making production simpler and more efficient. Progress reports are available at any time, any place, right at management’s fingertips.
All photos courtesy of Comexi

We could compare package printing with the automotive industry, in which vehicles are used to transport people from one place to another, while at the same time offering a better experience through device connectivity, GPS systems, driving improvement, easy parking, digital screens, apps—all in a strongly consolidated market. Manufacturers in attendance at the 2019 Automobile Barcelona trade fair did not talk about car sales—they talked about mobility solutions.

New Market Scenario

Industry 4.0 provides machine manufacturers with the tools to create value-added solutions that allow clients to move toward overcoming the challenges of our new market scenario. Demands to be dealt with include:

  • Printing jobs with shorter runs
  • Customized packaging
  • Higher quality
  • Total traceability
  • Incomplete job information
  • Inefficient manual processes
  • Lack of skilled technicians in printing, laminating and slitting

Optimizing resources, reducing costs and identifying problems stand out as the three key issues of competitivity. Production professionals must ask: “How fast can we find the problems or the bottlenecks in the production processes?”; then follow up with, “How much time, people and equipment are needed to process production data?”, “Are technicians efficient enough?” and “How can production costs be analyzed and margins guaranteed?”

“Sharing of data, developed in accordance with technology standards and state-of-the-art software, doesn’t restrict the vertical or horizontal growth of the platform, nor its connectivity.”

The answer: press manufacturers—Comexi, for example—are developing cloud-based digital services platforms, incorporating Industry 4.0 enablers in order to offer value-added solutions to clients, thus helping them to analyze and solve concerns that list out as follows:

  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  • Big data and data analysis
  • Vertical and horizontal system integration
  • Cybersecurity
  • Edge computing
  • Cloud computing
  • Machine learning
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

These tools allow for the generation and acquisition of machine data in real time, in a fully automatic and transparent way, and incorporate production analytics and job costing, detailed historic production data, online ordering, technical documents and an application programming interface (API). Everything comes down to continually sharing data. Let’s look to the individual components and their roles.

Production analytics and job costing allow for following production in real time. They result in knowing the machine processes, with automatic generation of indicators for each of the production orders, easing the detection of troubles related to production. This module obtains and analyzes cost and consumes information in the production, generated by the energy modules and the ink weighting module.

Detailed historic production data allows accessing historical data and analyzing production by means of generating key performance indicators (KPIs) automatically, thus affording visual and easy error detection, as well as improvement opportunities.

WEB Comexi Grassot i Rosello smartphone
Optimizing efficiency of resources, while reducing costs, is driving adoption of cloud-based digital platforms that interpret real-time print production data on any mobile device.

Online ordering equates to digital transformation of the company and inclusion of 3D interfaces for design technologies. Online purchasing offers quick identification of flexographic press components, offset, laminators or slitters by means of an interface in the same machine of the client, resulting in better purchase agility and optimization of the request processes and shipment of the specified parts.

Technical documents permit the cloud client to have all necessary documentation of a machine in digital format at its disposal, always available, updated and accessible from any device.

API export enables the integration of all cloud data to the different corporate data systems of clients, which allows for exporting them and processing them in their systems or simply exporting final production data that is already processed.

Better Business Model

Sharing of data, developed in accordance with technology standards and state-of-the-art software, doesn’t restrict the vertical or horizontal growth of the platform, nor its connectivity. It entails following best practices in cybersecurity, established at present, that are used in other similar platforms.

Comexi’s Cloud digital service platform, and others like it, offer valuable solutions to clients in order to help them:

  • Constantly and continuously adapt products to client demands
  • Provide a fully-personalized product
  • Design, produce and sell products in less time
  • Build shorter and more cost-effective production series
  • Analyze the information available
  • Vertically and horizontally integrate systems

Industry 4.0, also called Industry X.0, capitalizes on constant transformation, or evolution, and is changing machinery manufacturers’ habits. They’ve migrated from a pure sales concept and switched their focus to providing mobility and informatic services. That follows the lead of the automotive, computer and aeronautical industries, where these same measures are today fully integrated into their offerings.

“Industry 4.0 provides machine manufacturers with the tools to create value-added solutions that allow clients to move toward overcoming the challenges of our new market scenario.”

In other sectors, such as health, sport and autonomous cars—and shortly in our sector—these new technologies will allow analysis via big data and the use of machine learning algorithms in order to offer more smart and automatic machines to the market. This new paradigm will lead many machine manufacturers to redesign their products, so as to offer complete solutions to their customers, therefore creating new business models based on the data and the connectivity of their products or services.

Knowing the processes, the machines and their configurations is key to obtaining the best possible results, and this is where, through innovation and Industry 4.0, packaging and printing machinery manufacturers are providing valuable solutions to complement and improve the management of knowledge.

About the Author

headshot Esteve Grassot i Roselló
Esteve Grassot i Roselló has been Comexi’s cloud manager for the past four years and is responsible for the firm’s digital services platform. A computer systems engineer by trade, he holds a master’s in information and communication technologies security. Currently specializing in innovation, project management and Industry 4.0, Grassot i Roselló has held other roles at Comexi for the last 10 years.