Technology-boosted service cuts packaging line downtime

Using Microsoft advanced digital technology, service technicians from Tetra Pak were able to cut downtime on 17 food packaging lines, during a six-month trial, by up to 48 hours for each line. That’s two extra days of production for its customers by preventing failures and by quickly resolving packaging machinery stoppages to return the line to uptime status.

Tetra Pak has invested in two Microsoft technologies to deliver these improvements (watch a video of the services here):

1. Microsoft Azure data mining and analysis for effective predictive maintenance. Using Microsoft Azure for its Condition Monitoring Service, Tetra Pak helps prevent packaging machine failures before they occur. By analyzing performance data from more than 5,000 connected filling machines installed around the world in customers’ food production factories, deviations are quickly identified and can be addressed in a more timely and effective way. According to Tetra Pak, the new service can replace a standardized maintenance process to lower costs related to unexpected failures.

2. Microsoft HoloLens Mixed-Reality smart glasses for fast diagnostics. By outfitting Tetra Pak service technicians with Microsoft HoloLens, the company can quickly diagnose and resolve packaging machinery downtime issues to minimize productivity loss. When on-site in a customer’s facility, the Tetra Pak service engineer is able to tap into the company’s global experts. That expert can see and hear everything in real time, and works “alongside” the on-site technician to quickly fix the problem.

Paul Grainger, Tetra Pak’s technical key account director for the USA and Canada, details how the company’s food packaging customers benefit from this advanced digital technology.


Paul Grainger, technical key account director, USA and Canada, Tetra Pak


How have customers in the pilot been able to reduce downtime by up to 48 hours by using this technology?

Grainger: Unplanned downtime is reduced as we are able to predict failures before they occur. Through the Tetra Pak Condition Monitoring Service, we install sensors in the equipment which send real-time data to our central Performance Management Center where experts analyze and cross-reference the data pattern received against thousands of other connected lines. When a problem is detected, the Performance Management Center sends alerts to the Tetra Pak technician in the field, who plans maintenance together with our customers, avoiding breakdowns.


You say “data that’s gleaned from connected machines gives company technicians an operational snapshot across more than 5,000 Tetra Pak packaging machines in use.” How is Tetra Pak using this data to improve existing operations or new machine design?

Grainger: For several years Tetra Pak’s has been supporting customers to improve their operations leveraging data and deep expertise. But now, through the use of an app, our service engineers are empowered with real-time production facts and can act based on that operational data.


What is the privacy policy regarding this operational data? Can customers opt out?

Grainger: Through the Microsoft Azure cloud, Tetra Pak ensures data protection of operational data collected from the customers’ equipment. Data is not shared externally and Tetra Pak has policies in place that specify data access. Customers are free to opt out should they need to.

Remote monitoring and mobile apps give engineers the data they need to solve production issues.


Can you give specific packaging examples of a service that was performed using HoloLens that sped up a return to production?

Grainger: One of our field service engineers at a dairy producer was struggling to solve a problem with the distribution equipment of one of our filling lines. Using the HoloLens, the service engineer at the customer’s site connected with a specialist, highly knowledgeable about the equipment in question. The HoloLens enabled the expert to be “virtually present” and notice some worn-out and defective parts that service engineer didn’t. The problem was then solved swiftly. With the use of HoloLens, we were able to avoid a longer downtime, as well as an onsite visit from the specialist.


In addition to boosting production efficiency, how will HoloLens technology help customers cut costs and ensure food safety?

Grainger: Armed with Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headsets, Tetra Pak on-site service engineers are now able to work “alongside” the company’s global experts who specialize in the problem they are trying to resolve. This means that from anywhere in the world, a service engineer can “beam in” the right expert, who then sees and hears everything in real time, and guides the on-site work without ever leaving their desk. This will reduce costs for flying experts in, reduce waiting time and downtime, and with global experts available to guide, ensure food safety is maintained.


When did your six-month pilot of HoloLens take place?

Grainger: Tetra Pak is piloting the service in 2017 with 50 HoloLens devices, in the Greater Middle East, Europe and the Americas, and plans to roll-out to more markets next year.


All food plants?

Grainger: Yes, all in food production plans.


The HoloLens technology is “mixed reality” and augments the real world by bringing holograms into it. This allows users to remain aware of their actual surroundings. Why is that important?

Grainger: As Tetra Pak Service specialists perform maintenance on food production equipment, they must be aware of their surroundings for safety reasons.

HoloLens shares what the on-site service technician sees and hears with engineering experts, wherever they are around the world.


Microsoft describes HoloLens as the first untethered, self-contained holographic computer. Why is it important to be untethered?

Grainger: This is a question that Microsoft would need to answer.


HoloLens allows for collaboration. How has Tetra Pak used the technology to collaborate internally and/or externally with its customers/vendors?

Grainger: With Microsoft HoloLens, Tetra Pak on-site service engineers are now able to collaborate with the company’s global experts who specialize in the problem they are trying to resolve.


What is the cost of this technology for your customers and how does it compare to a typical service call?

Grainger: There are two distinct technologies. HoloLens is used by Tetra Pak service engineers to connect with global experts and expedite problem solving while on a customer’s site.  Predictive maintenance is achieved through the installations of sensors and monitoring of data from those to identify potential issues. Both are offered through Tetra Pak Service Agreements and the price is based on the customer’s needs and what’s included in the agreement.


What was Tetra Pak’s investment in outfitting its service technicians with hundreds of HoloLens devices and training them?

Grainger: Tetra Pak has always been committed to invest in the development of innovations that deliver value to our customers. The launch of this new suite of services, which leverages the latest digital technologies to provide customers reduced costs and enhanced efficiency, is part of that commitment. Like with any other new Tetra Pak product, the deployment of the devices and training of Tetra Pak field force is accounted as part of new product deployment process.


Could customers invest in their own HoloLens device and extend its benefits to packaging machines from other manufacturers?

Grainger: The power of the solution provided by Tetra Pak is the combination of the HoloLens technology with our expertise. HoloLens is a Microsoft product available for purchase but in itself it does not provide any expertise.



See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

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Webcast to share new data for packaging validations, regulatory submissions

Europe’s Medical Device Regulations are ushering in some new considerations for medical device packaging. For instance, does your packaging take into account the generally acknowledged state of the art? Transportation and storage risks? Final end-user needs at the point use? 

Are your validations complete? Does your labeling include all expected symbols and Unique Device Identification? Have you addressed the possibilities for device reuse?

The impact of the EU MDR will be addressed in an upcoming Webcast, “Speed Up Your Compliance Process—With Help from DuPont Tyvek.” On October 5, Thierry Wagner, Regulatory Affairs Director—Europe, Middle East & Africa; and Nicole Kaller, Application & Package Engineering Specialist—Europe, Middle East & Africa, members of the DuPont Tyvek Medical and Pharmaceutical Protection Team, will review the new EU MDR/IVDR (Device Regulations and In Vitro Diagnostics Regulations) and explain the impact on sterile packaging.

Wagner recently contributed to the white paper, “Europe’s Emerging Medical Device Regulations and Their Impact on Packaging Decisions.” Says Wagner: “The new MDR introduces a few specific changes to the general safety and performance requirements that have to be met by packaging. There will be new labelling and documentation requirements and more scrutiny by notified bodies. The transition time is short; it is important to start as early as possible.”

Wagner and Kaller will also discuss the full suite of tools available from DuPont to help MDMs accelerate their product regulatory submissions and certifications.

“DuPont’s tools are based on in-depth analysis of industry regulations and MDM requirements,” says Kaller. “They help you to find the data and information you need for the validation of sterile barrier systems made with Tyvek and provide valuable design and application guidance.” 

Wagner and Kaller will also discuss the new Tyvek Technical Reference Guide, which is designed to support MDMs with the regulatory information required for technical documentation. It includes the latest data and information for Transition Tyvek 1073B, Transition Tyvek 1059B, and Tyvek 2FS. 

If you are planning to work on a gap analysis for your packaging applications versus the new MDR or you are interested in new Tyvek data, listen in and use the opportunity to participate in the Webcast question-and-answer session on October 5.


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What does a packaging engineer do?

A packaging engineer identifies the three common industry activities that characterize the regular duties of a packaging engineer in any supply chain in today’s fast-paced market.


When I first transferred into the packaging program at UW-Stout, I’m pretty sure my friends thought I would be packing boxes for a career. Little did they know that packaging engineers have existed for quite some time, and their roles and responsibilities are often multi-faceted as packaging intersects with so many crucial aspects of an organization.

Whether you’re working with consumer packaged goods companies, food or durable consumer goods, the core principles and activities of a packaging engineer are very similar across the board.

To shed a little light on the subject, here’s a look at the three common activities a packaging engineer actually does:

1)     New Product Development (aka, new product introductions)

Let’s face it, those new products that marketing wants to launch aren’t going to pack themselves. Packaging teams often collaborate with various stakeholders from cross-functional teams to ensure all key criteria is achieved in the design and performance of the package.

Common activities within this category include:

▪   Project management and communication with packaging materials vendors;

▪   Packaging design and development;

▪   Collaborative reviews with key stakeholders and executive sponsors;

▪   Sustainability metric evaluation;

▪   Distribution testing;

▪   Specification development; and

▪   Product lifecycle management (PLM).



2)     Cost Savings Initiatives (aka, value engineering or continuous improvement)

Second to new product launches are the cost take-out initiatives. Some products are rushed into the market before thoroughly evaluating their packaging and supply chain effectiveness, sometimes with excessive packaging to ensure of a successful launch. Once—products have been in the market, opportunity often exists to re-evaluate and value engineer costs out of the package and supply chain system. This can range anywhere from a redesign project to harmonizing common packaging components across multiple SKUs to the creation of compliance standards to integrate at a partnership comprised of multiple organizations.


3)     Firefighting and Damage Control

Every job has some level of firefighting. Same goes for packaging engineers.  Often these “fires” can be attributed to addressing equipment downtime, jammed packing/ filling/ assembly lines, or last minute communications with vendors or internal stakeholders.

A bigger bucket concerning firefighting often relates to damage reduction. Some of these challenges are driven by executive directives, while others are along the lines of continuous improvement.

Wrapping it all up

Whether you’re in bricks-and-mortar retail, e-commerce or the medical device packaging industry, a packaging engineer plays a major role in your operations. Packaging engineers address a wide variety of issues and opportunities that have a direct impact upon a business’s bottom line. We aren’t simply seeking a better design (although we absolutely love doing that), we’re searching for cost-saving opportunities and sustainability improvements across the entire supply chain.

I know it was easy for my friends to assume my career would be limited to boxes and tape, but each time they rely on the supply chain to deliver a product, I’ve proven just how valuable a packaging engineer can be.

Rob Kaszubowski is Sr. Packaging Consultant at Chainalytics’ Packaging Optimization where he is focused on reducing product damage and implementing packaging cost reduction initiatives. Rob also contributes to the Packaging Matters blog. Connect with Rob on LinkedIn and on Twitter @KazPack1


Constrained by your current production and supply chain options? Assess new connections in packaging and more during MinnPack in Minneapolis November 8-9. It’s part of a comprehensive all-in-one 6-event plastics and advanced manufacturing exhibition. For more information, visit MinnPack.



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Compostable ‘crafted’ cartons perform for artisan food brand

New packaging for No Evil Foods entire line of plant-based meat alternatives is more durable and eye-catching than before—and 100% compostable now to better fit with the company’s environmental vision and make it easy for consumers to dispose of the packaging, even in a home compost.

Previously, the company wrapped its products with butcher paper, which were sealed with pressure-sensitive labels. Jamie Cook, public relations specialist for No Evil Foods, explains, “Our previous package was butcher paper wrapped around the product with a sticker on the front and back, the stickers were not biodegradable and made it difficult to compost the rest of the package.”

Now, there are no stickers or labels on the package that would prevent it from being composted.

The new biodegradable Kraftpak carton board, supplied by KapStone Corp., is unbleached kraft, printed with plant-based ink and sealed with water-soluble adhesives.

The carton’s unique fold-out design re-creates the feeling of unwrapping from the original butcher-paper wrapper. Cook says, “Each of the boxes opens in an origami style to simulate the same unwrapping that took place with our previous packaging.”

The Product Regulatory Compliance Information about this particular cartonboard goes on for six pages. The cartonboard meets the requirements of the European Standard for Packaging EN13432 for biodegradability, recyclability and compostability—giving consumers easy options for environmentally friendly disposal options.

“We are making sure to inform our consumers that the packaging is compostable,” Cook says. “One of the inside flaps carries the 100% Compostable distinction.”

The new packaging is just out in stores now, but it’s already getting recognition. The Comrade Cluck “No-Chicken” design won the NEXTY Award for Best New Packaging Innovation. This awards program for Natural Products Expo East recognizes innovative leaders in the natural products industry.

“Our new design illustrates our commitment to environmental responsibility in a really fun way. [The graphics are] bold and edgy and unlike anything we’ve seen in the alternative-meat space before, all while showing off our personality as a brand,” says No Evil Foods co-founder Sadrah Schadel.



Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

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