For years, the packaging sector has been supplementing its services for the food industry with digital offerings such as mobile maintenance. In recent months, however, the market has been experiencing a major upheaval, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. What was previously considered “nice to have” has become an absolute necessity overnight for the business model to survive. This change also reveals previously unimagined opportunities – which Schubert, the packaging machinery manufacturer, is now leveraging to proactively develop its range of services.
While meetings and conferences worldwide can be held quite easily via video call and split screen, setting up, commissioning and maintaining machines is certainly much more challenging. In particular, the severe restrictions on travel have prompted internationally operating companies such as packaging machinery manufacturer Gerhard Schubert GmbH to forge ahead, and have triggered a massive technology drive in this area. It is conceivable that the trend which was initiated will no longer be reversed and that the digitalisation process in mobile maintenance will accelerate significantly next year.
As an innovative technology leader, Schubert is taking advantage of the altered conditions to further expand the existing digital options developed in-house within its modular machine concept. The company can exploit a major advantage in this context. Because its philosophy of integrated, interface-free machine solutions, which has been cultivated for decades, has allowed the company’s expertise to grow steadily and has led to an extraordinary depth of production – also on the digital level. The combination of expertise and digital data is the currency from which Schubert will generate new, proactive services in mobile maintenance. After all, machine availability is a top priority in the food industry: Manufacturers produce 24/7 and any standstill in the packaging process can result in the spoiling of food. This unacceptable waste of valuable resources alone must be stopped.
The key is that customers can identify with the digital offerings. Service needs to be in line with current market needs. Only then do new services have a real chance of gaining acceptance and traction. During the lockdown, for example, the machine manufacturer not only carried out virtual commissioning of its systems, it also supported a customer in Asia so skillfully via the Internet that they were able to assemble and commission their new system on their own – without a single Schubert technician actually being present.
Digital processes are becoming the standard
With the GS.Gate from Schubert’s subsidiary Schubert System Elektronik, an industrial gateway is already built into every Schubert machine by the time it leaves the factory. The server not only collects machine information, enabling, for example, a view of OEE data on its GRIPS.world platform, it also offers a multi-secured interface to the Internet. Customers can optionally make the data accessible to Schubert via the gateway. This opens the way for precise analysis of machine performance, predictive maintenance and therefore higher machine availability over the long term. Display and connection via an app is also conceivable over time, if customers prefer to use their own company platforms.
3D printing is inextricably linked to digital services. Today, there is not a single Schubert machine that leaves production without certain machine parts – mainly robot tools – coming from the 3D printer. With the new PARTBOX part streaming platform, Schubert will be providing its customers with certified digital print jobs via the Internet in the future. In a set with a 3D printer and PARTBOX access, an intelligently managed digital warehouse is created, which can provide machine parts as well as a wide range of operating resources with just one click. It is also conceivable to expand the platform to include common warehouse functions such as stock overview, reorder options and the like.
Digital twin Titan brings along with it new customer benefits
The digital twin developed by Schubert – named Titan – promises an all-new league of processes and services. The machine builder does not want to focus solely on spatial representation, but also wants to be able to configure systems in the shortest possible time and to fully simulate complex packaging processes in moving images. The changed work processes in development provide customers with tangible advantages: With the Titan, machine configuration becomes much more efficient and safer. Delivery times are shortened considerably. Commissioning can be simulated in advance, which makes virtual factory approvals even easier. Once real machine data has been incorporated into the digital twin, it will be possible to make even more precise forecasts of upcoming service intervals or to program alarms for deviating values. There are no limits to the imagination here
Especially for the producing sectors such as the food industry, the goal of digital services must include precise machine prediction models, combined with intelligent logistics for spare parts and 24-hour availability in support. Because then even insidious changes such as unnatural heat generation or rising motor currents in a system can be detected and eliminated so early that major downtimes are reduced to an absolute minimum. Support at Schubert has already been changed to reflect this: The packaging machine manufacturer now offers a central customer interface for all concerns. Even the distinction between mechanics and electronics, which is somewhat complex for customers, is no longer necessary, as both areas are inseparably linked in the systems. Downstream of the hotline is also a newly assembled Technology Center with second-level support.
So thinking is most definitely changing – service without an IT connection is no longer conceivable today. The objective at Schubert is therefore to network and further develop all digital solutions and platforms in a meaningful way. This enables the company to offer its customers a comprehensive and attractive range of mobile maintenance services that fit seamlessly into the Schubert premise of integrated system solutions.