The impact of cloud computing on the packaging industry
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Packaging companies rely on various software applications, from ERP systems such as supply chain management modules to engineering applications such as digital twin platforms. None of these applications can run without the relevant IT infrastructure supporting them, including storage, networking, and operating systems. Cloud computing is a medium for delivering these applications and infrastructure elements. Importantly, it is more flexible, resource-efficient, and cost-effective than traditional IT delivery systems.
Rather than paying large up-front costs for hardware and software licenses, packaging companies using the cloud pay a regular fee based on the computing power they consume. Data and applications hosted on the public cloud can be accessed anywhere in the world, providing a flexible and convenient computing model for large packaging operations. Packaging companies can also customise hybrid or multi-cloud deployments according to their needs and the specifications of legacy systems. These features are what make cloud computing an essential technology for packaging companies.
The matrix below details the areas in cloud computing where packaging companies should focus their time and resources. We suggest that packaging companies invest in technologies shaded in green, explore the prospect of investing in technologies shaded in yellow, and ignore areas shaded in red.
Source: GlobalData Thematic Intelligence
Pharma companies must invest significantly in cloud computing across their value chains. Cloud computing provides various benefits, from securing R&A collaborations between research teams and capturing big data sets from clinical trials to accelerating regulatory submission procedures and improving sales data collection.
As well as investing in specialised SaaS solutions, pharma companies can invest in PaaS to develop software tailored to their specific R&D or business goals. Larger pharma companies can also consider investment in IaaS to develop proprietary platforms in collaboration with a cloud vendor, upon which their own software can be created.
Pharma companies face the same pressures as healthcare providers and payors regarding patient data privacy and sovereignty. On-premises private clouds will suit large pharma with vast operations, but hosted private clouds will be more cost-effective and provide easier management. Public clouds offer the most cost-effective solution, while multi-cloud environments are increasingly popular in the industry.
How cloud computing helps resolve the challenge of supply chains
Numerous cloud-based applications can improve the efficiency and resilience of a packaging company’s supply chain. Firstly, many leading supply chain management applications are delivered via the cloud, including products from Oracle, SAP, and Logility.
These applications enable packaging companies to optimise supply chains and automate their management. Typical features include automated freight sourcing, route optimisation, and real-time updates on location and delays. Packaging companies can use these cloud-based applications to gain better visibility over their entire supply chain and optimise logistics accordingly.
Secondly, cloud-based engineering applications such as digital twin platforms give packaging companies greater insight into the machines and physical assets that underpin their production facilities.
By collecting and analysing data from these assets and developing digital twins, packaging companies can maintain industrial machinery in a proactive rather than reactive manner, preventing unplanned downtime and, by extension, ensuring their broader supply chains face fewer disruptions.
Miners must ensure that they are increasing productivity by adopting the latest technology. Mechanization and monitoring are supporting improvements in productivity and lowering cost per unit output.
There is increasing upward pressure on costs to mining firms. Several factors have spurred this, including declining commodity prices, longer hail distances, falling ore grades, and rising material and labor costs.
More disparate ore deposits are pushing mining into remote locations and developing nations. This gives rise to greater challenges in operating an efficient supply chain.
Safety and sustainability
Given the worldwide shift to sustainability in the last few years, mining has come under increasing scrutiny for its damaging environmental practices. In addition, safety has become a concern. Mining firms must take more responsibility for ensuring that workers are properly protected on-site by taking active steps to avoid accidents and actively monitoring safety.
There is pressure on mining firms to continuously identify viable new mines. This is made more difficult by an environment of declining ore grades. Furthermore, there are rising development costs and more remote deposits.
COVID-19 has posed a massive threat to the mining industry. The main fear is that there could be an outbreak at a mine, which would force operations to a halt, impacting both costs and productivity greatly. This has led to operational challenges, including continuous testing of staff and reducing capacity at mines to enforce social distancing.
Source: GlobalData Thematic Intelligence
How cloud computing helps resolve the challenge of quality control
Cloud computing can facilitate the storage and analysis of data for packaging companies. Quality control in packaging relies on consistency in both the performance of packaging machinery and the properties and dimensions of packaging products.
Monitoring these indicators requires collecting a lot of data and the subsequent analysis and conversion of this data into actionable insights. This is precisely what the cloud allows providers to do.
For example, Elopak commissioned the services of HAI, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, to improve its quality control processes. HAI’s software solution analysed quality control-related data, including packaging seal strength measurements and automated product and apparatus inspections.
An Elopak operator using HAI’s software will receive alerts if analysis suggests that packaging quality will fall below acceptable standards. This gives the operator time to prevent this by proactively tweaking production processes.
How cloud computing helps resolve the challenge of Covid-19
Cloud-based productivity and collaboration software underpin remote working. Microsoft 365 and Google Sheets enable multiple remote workers to access and edit documents simultaneously, and collaboration tools such as Zoom and Cisco Webex allow remote workers to attend meetings virtually.
Should governments reimpose social distancing measures due to surges in Covid-19 infections or new variants, the ability to work remotely will enable employees to continue to provide value to packaging companies.
Other cloud-based applications, such as supply chain management software and digital twin platforms, enable packaging companies to optimise their supply chains and prevent unplanned downtime in production facilities by predictively maintaining equipment.
These abilities enable packaging companies to handle the numerous supply chain-related challenges currently facing them and which Covid-19 continues to exacerbate.
How cloud computing helps resolve the challenge of ESG
Cloud computing technology can help monitor energy use. Some service providers, such as Microsoft, Google, SAP, and Salesforce, offer carbon emission monitoring as part of their cloud packages.
Cloud computing can also improve efficiencies in ways that both save packaging companies money and reduce their environmental impact.
For instance, by optimising its logistics operations with Oracle’s Transportation Management, Tetra Pak reduced the carbon emissions produced by distribution vehicles. In addition, improving the efficiency of production processes with cloud-supported data analysis can reduce energy and resource usage.
How cloud computing helps resolve the challenge of handling new materials
Demand for more sustainable packaging will force packaging production lines to accommodate new materials such as biodegradable polymers, plant-based packaging, and materials with a higher recycled content.
Accommodating these materials will necessitate new machinery and, more importantly, changes in quality control procedures. These will have to account for the new materials’ tensile strengths, converting procedures, optimum temperatures, moisture contents (to prevent premature biodegradation), and other physical and chemical properties.
Ensuring packaging lines do not push new materials beyond their physical or chemical limits will require extensive and continuous data collection and analysis for quality control purposes. Cloud databases are already used for production line quality control purposes: HAI and InfinityQS are both providers of cloud-based quality control software for the packaging industry.
GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.
GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence uses proprietary data, research, and analysis to provide a forward-looking perspective on the key themes that will shape the future of the world’s largest industries and the organisations within them.