Author: Keith Higgins, VP of Digital Transformation for Rockwell Automation
Digital transformation is critical for packaging operations to expand beyond meeting operational metrics, such as throughput or OEE, to more easily and efficiently adapting to changing business conditions.
Harpak-ULMA, a packaging equipment manufacturer, serves primarily OT and IT staff designated with packaging production responsibilities. The company offers individual machines as well as end-to-end packaging line automation. This can include surrounding equipment to address loading and conveyance, instrumentation, inspection, robotics and palletizing equipment. Packaging capabilities include thermoforming, tray forming, flow wrapping, vertical bagging, sleeving, case packing, cartoning and palletizing automation equipment.
The company developed a multi-year, multi-phase plan to transition its entire portfolio of packaging solutions into smart, connected packaging platforms. This initiative created a more connected enterprise that leverages real-time, accurate, in-context production information to improve operational agility and control, which ultimately improved profitability by 15%. This initiative is ongoing and expanding as Harpak realizes operational improvements.
Leveraging Rockwell Automation (a global leader in industrial automation and digital transformation), the four phases of the company’s digital transformation initiative included:
Phase One: Standardize on Rockwell Automation controls platform
Harpak-ULMA’s partnership with Rockwell Automation provides access to a single source for controls, components and advanced production applications. They offer pre-integrated compatibility with innovative PTC internet of things (IoT) software applications, such as Vuforia and Thingworx, that redefine how staff operate and maintain production assets. The company has also developed relationships with robotics and ancillary automation partners that are designed to leverage more sophisticated information integration capabilities.
Phase Two: Implement augmented reality (AR) workflows to drive human productivity gains
Harpak-ULMA leveraged Vuforia Expert Capture, an AR-based training tool, to allow workers to successfully complete new or unfamiliar tasks with both accuracy and speed, reducing training costs and time to productivity. Vuforia Expert Capture allows users to record first-person videos of procedures as experts perform them, including voice commands, gestures, and location-based steps. Once a procedure is captured, users can revise, enhance and publish it, allowing employees to access completed work instructions immediately through an application.
The organization was also able to deliver in-depth virtual-based service and support through augmented reality.
The company is currently in the process of transitioning from phase two into phase three.
Phase Three: Drive unmatched operational transparency and exponential leaps in IoT data acquisition
Data-driven customer insights are developed at virtually every stage of customer engagement, from marketing ideation to machine procurement and post-sale service and support. These data points and customer pains feed internal product and service development efforts. For example, Harpak-ULMA is expanding its support for producer marketing departments in the package design process – combining deep operational expertise, CAD digital twins, and rapid prototyping to reduce the risk and time associated with new packaging initiatives. The company is also actively planning a packaging and automation process assessment service to help producers design smarter, innovative automation for new or existing lines.
As part of the ongoing program and through data-driven initiatives, Harpak-ULMA plans to facilitate the lowest possible customer total cost of ownership (TCO) and the highest degree of production agility while enhancing human productivity through innovative applications.
Phase Four: Enable future predictive maintenance analytics
Harpak-ULMA’s internal goals include double-digit organic revenue growth and enablement of a new line of business leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence tools on cloud-based data to deliver predictive analytics and industry benchmarking services.
Digital Transformation Initiatives Yield Revenue Growth and Improved Results for Customers
The 25 customers who have adopted Harpak-ULMA’s smart connected platforms to date can better rapidly adapt to market changes at less cost, meet more aggressive productivity targets, improve safety metrics, overcome the challenges of an aging and evolving workforce, and better control maintenance expenses. Harpak has also seen double-digit growth from new revenues enabled by these digital technologies.