Flexible Packaging spoke with Sumeet Kumar, director of strategic marketing, Davis-Standard Converting Systems, to gain insight as to what’s happening in automation as well as for advice to becoming more automated.

In which segments (i.e., food & beverage, health/beauty, etc.) have you been seeing a rise in automated packaging processes?

Any segment can benefit from productivity and quality improvements associated with the latest “smart” technologies. High output and/or high-value product lines may benefit the most from automation due to increased productivity and cost savings.

Why do you think the rise has occurred in these segments?

There are several market forces driving increased automation, such as general process efficiencies, uptime improvement (predictive prompts for corrective actions) and remote monitoring. Advantages include higher outputs, labor optimization and reduced overhead, reduced material waste, improved safety protocols, superior film quality and reduced defects. It also permits operational flexibility for quick changes and multiple SKUs on the same line. Machine output and quality is also less impacted by operator skill level, and aids in workforce training.

Has there been anything specific in their processes that they’ve been looking to improve upon?

Customers are always seeking the latest productivity tools relating to automation for the converting process. They desire robust systems that are easy to operate, provide useful information at a glance, and proactively inform operators and process personnel of issues. We offer a number of modules that can be purchased independently or as a complete package with this “smart” technology.

An area of high interest in the market is the ability to predict the failure of unwind splicing and winder roll changes. A missed transfer due to any reason (process, maintenance, operator training, roll condition, etc.) results in increased downtime and waste. An integrated solution that is accessible from existing displays with a proprietary combination of sensors, programming logic and an automated image recording system is an example of this technology.

The SARS virus in the early 2000s is thought to have been the start of heavy investment in automation in China. Do you think the same could/is happening in the U.S. due to COVID?

The trend of automation was already ongoing prior to the current pandemic and will continue to grow due to market forces stated above. COVID has shown us that manufacturing businesses need to be flexible when it comes to the type of products and segments served. Owning equipment designed for multiple product structures allows converters to migrate to what the market demands at any given time (i.e., PPE, toilet paper). Automation is an enabler for increased productivity during these situations and may offer ways to overcome decreases in the available workforce.

What of your automated offerings has been in demand of late?

Building on our knowledge of machinery and processes, Davis-Standard has incorporated interconnectivity and functionality via the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to analyze real-time KPIs and enable alarms or action prompts via a machine control system. This system, the DS Activ-Check, monitors key parameters of a converting line (extruders, laminators, casting section, coaters, unwind, winders) to provide early notifications of potential failures and valuable data for process improvement using configurable dashboards.

Have you had to modify anything with your products to accommodate a shift toward more recyclable materials?

Experienced personnel and a well-equipped pilot line/lab give Davis-Standard the ability to develop new solutions in extrusion and overall machine design. This includes technology for processing biodegradable resins, manufacturing of mono-material structures and increased use of recycled content to support a sustainable/circular economy.

What advice would you give a company looking to become more automated?

We suggest you review existing processes to identify downtime or off-specification production and utilize this information in a collaborative dialog with us to understand how our automation solutions can be implemented in existing or new production lines.