Companies in the packaging industry are more satisfied with fully automated warehousing (73 percent “very satisfied”) than with any other digitalization measure or technology, followed by 3D printers (69 percent). However, the proportion of those who have already implemented these kinds of measures and technologies is at most a third per measure thus far (32 percent). Only a minority of companies plan immediate launches. These are the results of a recent study in the packaging industry in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland by the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach on behalf of management consultancy TTE Strategy.
“Both technologies are now relatively mature,” says Dr. Philipp Grimm, Principal at TTE Strategy. “There is a clear supplier market, implementation now runs in a really standardized way, and the benefits can be recognized quickly. Alongside efficiency and cost reductions, automated warehouses, for example, also bring enormous progress in work safety. However, to date, not even a third of companies surveyed by us have these technologies in place.” In total, 28 percent stated that they use a 3D printer, and only 19 percent use automated warehousing. Likewise, only seven percent plan to automate their own warehousing; no company surveyed wants to procure a 3D printer.
“This development is surprising given the above-average satisfaction levels for companies who have introduced these technologies,” says Philipp Grimm. “You would tend to assume that this would be an incentive to them. But our survey does not indicate this at present.”
Satisfaction also apparent in the case of greater complexity – courage has paid off
And satisfaction with additional digital measures and tools in the field of operations is comparatively high: 83 percent are satisfied with the digital networking of employees in production (26 percent “very satisfied”); 62 percent say the same of their tools for the intelligent minimization of downtimes (27 percent “very satisfied”).
Philipp Grimm says: “The difference in the high satisfaction levels can primarily be explained by the fact that digital networking and tools based on artificial intelligence are considerably more complex in their selection and implementation, along with the fact that they require a high degree of willingness to change on the part of employees in order to move this from theory into practice. The hurdles are higher here, to a certain extent. Despite this, it can be noted that the majority of those who have introduced these measures in operations are satisfied with them. The courage shown so far to try new things in this area has paid dividends.”
Implementation and planning rates in the industry are too low – threat of competitive disadvantage
The tools for minimizing downtimes are the most implemented individual digital measures in operations – however, this amounts to not quite one third of companies (32 percent) having introduced them. The following are used even more rarely than those measures mentioned previously: digital twins to optimize production processes in twelve percent of companies surveyed and artificial intelligence to optimize transport chains for only six percent of companies. “In light of recent trends in logistics costs, this is a gap that must be closed as a matter of urgency,” says Philipp Grimm. At any rate, one in five companies is planning to introduce digital twins (21 percent) – the twins are therefore the front-runners when it comes to planned production measures. Grimm says: “A digital twin means that a process or a machine is depicted digitally. This ranges from simple Excel analyses to detailed simulations in real time. Implementation must be well planned and thought out – but the twins can then be a real competitive advantage.”
The low implementation and planning rate for digital operations contradicts the objectives provided by study participants: 88 percent stated that digitalization was important in production. Sixty-nine percent see making production more flexible through digitalization as an important goal. Sixty-five percent want to avoid competitive disadvantages. Fifty-seven percent want to increase product quality, and 52 percent want to reduce workload.
“Objectives are clearly communicated,” says Philipp Grimm. “But it should be stated just as clearly that the half-heartedness seen thus far in the implementation and planning of these objectives means that only a few companies will be able to achieve them. Namely, those who have found the courage to invest in digital innovation. In the coming years, they will be able to carve out a tangible competitive advantage. My advice, based on the high satisfaction rate of implemented measures, is: those who have not yet started should do so strategically now. Experience that is missed at this stage will otherwise be harder and harder to make up for in an increasingly competitive market.”
About the study: “Digital 2022” TTE Packaging Barometer
On behalf of TTE Strategy, the Allensbach Institute (IfD) surveyed senior executives from 81 companies in the packaging industry about digitalization at their company. The companies are based in Germany (60), Austria (9), and Switzerland (12). A quarter of the companies have an annual turnover of over 100 million euros and 10% a turnover of over 500 million euros.
One factor that distinguished this survey from many other sectoral studies based on self-reporting was the focus on specific statements about how measures were actually implemented at the respondents’ companies.
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