How GE Digital is Using AI, IoT to Upgrade Drink Packaging

By automatically tapping into billions of data points across its operations globally in real time, SIG and its customers can move beyond traditional asset monitoring and predictive service models to upgrade their supply chain.

SIG.cartons

Most of us don’t think about what has happened behind the scenes to prepare our container of milk or fruit juice as it cools us down on a warm summer day. Literally billions of drink cartons each year are cut, printed, assembled, filled and sealed in assembly lines before you pick up the one that was destined to be yours.

This is far from mind as we pop open the container and drink the contents down.

However, SIG, one of the world’s largest providers of packaging systems for the food and beverage industry, is always thinking about this process and how to make it better and more efficient. So is its chief software analytics provider, GE Digital, which deploys its Predix internet of things software platform to optimize the carton maker’s manufacturing process across 400 factories in 65 countries.

Strategic Partnership to Update Manufacturing Processes

In case you were wondering, SIG, headquartered in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland, stands for Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (that’s German for Swiss Industrial Company). Frankly, SIG is a lot easier to remember.

The two international corporations on May 30 announced a strategic partnership to create new processes using GED’s analytics tools in food and beverage packaging. SIG is deploying GE Digital’s Predix Asset Performance Management (APM) and Predix ServiceMax industrial applications across in those 400-plus factories worldwide to find new levels of efficiency and create intelligent new solutions as new requirements come up.

The initiative is currently in the production testing phase and is expected to go live in July with the global rollout anticipated to begin in January 2019.

The food and beverage industry, like many other verticals, is an old industry that’s ripe for digital transformation. At the same time, producers are facing competitive pressures, supply chain complexities and shortening production cycles that create an increasing need for new IT that can enable producers to quickly identify, predict and act on changing consumer and market demands.

'High-Volume, High-tech and Global Business'

“SIG has created a very unique product line, and they’re the leader in that business,” Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, told eWEEK. “This is a high-volume, high-tech and global business. We’re bringing our entire Predix portfolio to those factories: the platform, APM and ServiceMax. We’re re-thinking the idea of the machines, which are globally spread out, to make them more efficient. The people in the field are now able to interact with that machine data, and this allows them to become more efficient in how they deliver their services.

“Lastly, collecting all that data allows the factory itself to drive out cost and drive up productivity through automation and analytics.”

This was a very competitive bid for GE Digital to win, Ruh said.

“It was run by a very sophisticated customer. What we’re really proud of is that we won this over a lot of other well-named sources," Ruh said. "What’s going to happen here is we’re building some capability that no one’s ever done at this kind of volume—which is to automate these factories on a global, integrated, remote-monitored diagnostics level and analytics level, and then making the entire process more efficient.”

The goal is to get 20 percent more efficiency throughout an entire food and beverage plant, Ruh said. “This is highly attractive to the customer but achievable through these kinds of capabilities,” he said.

End-to-end Digital Platform for 400 Factories

The combination of GE Digital’s APM and ServiceMax applications will enable SIG to build an end-to-end digital platform that will bring new insights and data-driven intelligence to its customers worldwide–helping them and SIG transform how they predict, manage and service the entire lifecycle of SIG filling lines.

By automatically collecting and analyzing asset data–tapping into billions of data points across its operations globally in real time–SIG and its customers can move beyond traditional asset monitoring and predictive service models to reimagine their supply chain, enhance quality control technologies and evolve their portfolio mix.

“Our ability to harness data is central to delivering on our promise of opening up new opportunities for our customers,” SIG's CEO Rolf Stangl said in a media advisory. “By tapping into information in new and innovative ways, we will be able to deliver an unmatched level of performance, security, transparency and creativity across the entire food and beverage supply chain through to the end consumer.”

33.6 Billion Carton Packs in One Year

SIG’s customers fill more than 10,000 unique products into SIG packaging across 65 countries worldwide. In 2017 alone, SIG produced 33.6 billion carton packs for its customers. Through this large-scale partnership, SIG and GE Digital will co-innovate packaging solutions and technologies to address the industry’s two biggest needs today:  improving asset performance and optimizing service delivery.

The new digital service model will also enable SIG to deliver new solutions and business models based on advanced performance metrics, including as-a-service delivery, performance-based and subscription solutions.

Founded in 1853, SIG employs more than 5,000 people worldwide. In 2017, SIG generated €1.66 billion in revenue.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he...