The biggest Sydney AUSPACK yet in terms of space and exhibitors has closed its doors. We’ve got the lowdown on what you might have missed.
As the packaging and processing industry’s premier event, AUSPACK always leaves visitors with plenty to ponder. The 2017 event was no exception, as 350-plus exhibitors and 1,200-plus brands combined to illuminate new trends, technologies and innovations.
Held at the Sydney Showground in mid March, the packaging and processing event was the biggest “north” show in the event’s 32-year history. According to its organiser, AUSPACK 2017 was also the best-attended Sydney instalment of the biennial event so far.
Even if you spent a jam-packed four days at AUSPACK and the accompanying National Technical Forums, it would be impossible to see and experience everything (we know – we tried!).
And now, read on for the lowdown on what you might have missed…
Robots, robots everywhere
Before you even entered the doors, robotics was on show at AUSPACK. In an exhibition first, visitors were greeted by AMY, a customer-service robot sponsored by Matthews Australasia. AMY tried to answer enquiries about the location of exhibitor stands, shuttle bus times, networking event timetables, and more. AMY showed us how far robotics has come, but, more importantly, how far it has to go to for increased adoption.
Inside the doors, robotics featured at a growing number of stand demonstrations compared with previous shows. And they were faster and more nimble than ever.
Another highlight was collaborative robots, or “cobots”, which allow many repetitive factory tasks to be automated safely and flexibly. Both big and small manufacturers were interested in what cobots can do for them, especially in the face of changing factory environments where employees often work side-by-side with machines. Universal Robots put some cobots to work at the Foodmach stand, where they performed palletisation, depalletisation and label-application duties.
However, while there is growing interest, the adoption of cobots in the Australian & New Zealand market still has a long way to go when compared our Asian counterparts.
(Feel like you’re out of the loop with cobots? Get fast facts about cobots in this blog.)
Manufacturers demand automation, connectivity and collaboration
In the face of increasingly competitive global markets, Australian & New Zealand manufacturers are looking for new ways to propel efficiencies and keep expenditures down. More than any other year, AUSPACK delegates were keen to discover solutions that could improve their productivity – and automation was top of the list.
Packaging and processing company TNA Australia said customers were seeking automation solutions that meant “intelligent integration”, with one intuitive HMI display controlling the entire array of equipment on display. Regional Sales Manager Paul Irwin explained that because labour turnover in food processing is high, equipment should be simple to use and not require 15 years of engineering experience to master.
“Historically you may have had one operator for three or four machines, and then you would have an operator change the film; what you have now is an auto-splicer,” he said. “You can have one operator for five or six or seven or eight machines because the auto-splicer can detect when it’s out of film and will re-load it; now you don’t have that downtime. All the equipment is geared towards that – high efficiency, high throughput, low engineering knowledge needed to run it.”
At the Matthews Australasia stand, all eyes were on Linx coders. While product identification technology such as continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers has traditionally been considered a lower priority compared with larger packaging equipment, they are now recognised for their ability to improve automate processes and boost productivity.
The additional hardware and software upgrade options recently launched on the Linx 8900 coder series have increased their flexibility, connectivity and customisation – now the coder has an optional on-board capability (configuration dependent) to connect to other devices such as PLCs and multi-stage alarm beacons. So, in the event of a problem somewhere on the production line, equipment will stop at the same time and operators can resolve the issue quickly before restarting the line.
The Linx 8900 coder series is just one example of hundreds of solutions at AUSPACK that revealed to manufacturers the potential to improve automation, connectivity and flexibility.
Elsewhere, meat processors were discovering the value of innovative solutions for their businesses. The Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) presented cutting-edge technologies at the inaugural Processing Day. Their presentation included how the latest automation systems integrated with advanced sensing are leading to highly accurate information on every carcass so processors can optimise their boning rooms and market allocation of product.
Hot topic Industry 4.0 still has a long way to go
Industry 4.0 is pegged to change the game for manufacturers and the entire supply chain, and AUSPACK put it front and centre. With the ability to connect IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) systems across all operations in a business, Industry 4.0 enables data accumulation at an unprecedented scale. However, while it’s definitely a hot topic, AUSPACK showed there’s a long way to go before manufacturers can unlock the true value of Industry 4.0 on the production line and beyond.
The reason for this is the varying levels of understanding and adoption of the concept throughout Australian industry. Many of the exhibitors and brands on show were offering Industry 4.0-ready solutions – or what were promoted as Industry 4.0-ready solutions, able to link a plant’s sensors, machinery devices and more. Some exhibitors were unfamiliar with the term, while others, particularly the bigger companies, used it as a selling point or, at the very least, a conversation starter. One thing they all agreed on was this: investing in smarter solutions should be something companies embrace to stay competitive.
At the Australian Institute of Packaging’s conference, held alongside AUSPACK, Industry 4.0 was igniting deeper discussions – especially following Trent Munro’s presentation on “Intelligent Information Driven Manufacturing: the path to Industry 4.0”.
Munro kicked off with some quick stats from a survey, highlighting the unpreparedness of manufacturers for Industry 4.0. Asked about their readiness for Industry 4.0, some 37% of manufacturers said they “plan to do something” but were not sure where to start, while 18% said they had no plans yet and were also unsure where to start. Only 18% plan to do something and know where to start.
(Want to delve deeper into Industry 4.0? We answer some common questions in this blog.)
Industry celebrates Matthews Australasia’s MD Lester Nichol
Our Managing Director, Lester Nichol, won the Industry Professional of the Year Award at the inaugural 2017 Packaging & Processing Innovation and Design Awards (PIDA). We were extremely proud to raise our glasses to Lester, who has propelled the Australian industry in ways many people don’t realise.
When it comes to coding, Lester was ahead of his time. In the 1970s, when others saw barcoding as a costly nuisance, he recognised the need for product identification and symbology, as well as the technologies and methodologies that apply codes onto products. In fact, Lester was one of the founding members of the APNA (Australian Product Numbering Association), the forebear of GS1 Australia, which subsequently brought barcoding to Australia. He went on to begin Matthews Australasia in the 1980s – and the rest, as they say, is history.
The world of packaging and processing is accelerating all the time.
You only need to look at the leaps made since the previous AUSPACK to see how far we’ve come in two years. If Lester Nichol has shown us anything, it’s that we should never stop innovating and finding new, better ways to do business. What does this mean for packaging and processing? Only time will tell. AUSPACK will return to Melbourne in 2019. See you there!
Just for interest, check out our AUSPACK 2015 wrap-up and the 5 trends you need to know and the new technologies in coding that drove success at AUSPACK PLUS 2013.
Check out Matthews’ vast resource library. It has a host of detailed information that’s all free to download! There are whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, case studies, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action and more!