We are living in a world of smart phones and smart TV sets, so why shouldn’t we talk about smart packaging solutions? After all, we are already discussing about optimizing logistics through robotics and automation. The next natural step is to envision a range of smart containers, pallets, boxes and crates which contain embedded information that speeds up the sorting, handling and shipping process.
Introducing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Technology
Although it sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, OCR technology is already here. Just think of the many PDF to text software suites available – they use optical character recognition to transform a photo of a text into editable text.
To give it clear definition, OCR is a technology allowing an automated machine to “see” and interpret text and imagery and to use that information in order to perform its designated tasks. A basic form of OCR in packaging solutions already exists: RFID labels contain data concerning the products, the shipment destination, and any other specific instructions given by the manufacturer of the products and the transportation company.
The future of logistics and industrial manufacturing will take this one step further: instead of applying labels on packaging, the information will be embedded in the packaging materials themselves. There are many advantages to such a possible solution, the key one being that labels could be misplaced or lost, but embedded information stays there no matter what.
Automation – the Survival Weapon in 21st Century Production and Commerce
There are so many things which have changed in the consumers’ perceptions and demands with regard to brands. Online shopping was just the start. Now mobile payment system allow people to make a purchase on their way to work – and they expect to receive it by the way they get home.
For manufacturers and distribution companies, this means:
- Faster production and shipment of merchandize
- Increased, real time control on stocks and products in transit
- Minimizing human error and downtime
- Seamless communication between production facilities, warehouses and head offices
Based on the experience and outlook of Logistic Packaging specialists, the answer for all these requirements is: automation, smart machines and smart packaging solutions, optimized logistics and integrated manufacturing processes in closed logistic loops. And OCR technology fits right into this series of solutions as the practical means for attaining them.
Let us imagine what packaging with embedded OCR text would mean for the production facilities of the future:
1. Fully Automated Production Processes
The activity in large factories is so complex and involves so many processes, some parallel, some diverse. It is impossible to imagine a fully automated factory, without human supervision.
What happens if various containers, crates, storage bins and trays have embedded OCR detailing precisely where the contents should be distributed, and how to allocate items along the production lines? Smart automated machines can read these instructions and perform the tasks without any kind of supervision. This approach also removes human error, speeds up the production process and helps manufacturers optimize their production costs and processes.
2. No More Errors in Order Preparation
A pallet loaded with crates is ready for shipment. But somehow, one or two of the crates contain different products, which do not belong in the order. Or a crate is missing from the total order. This is quite a frequent occurrence in large and busy warehouses.
Smart packaging solutions would prevent these issues. As the pallet is ready to be loaded, a machine scans each crate, spots the products which do not belong or the insufficient quantity.
3. Zero Human Error In Data Transmission
Paperwork should become a thing of the past soon enough. It is an unreliable format for communicating sensitive data fast and accurately. Papers can be lost, damaged, or the person filling them in could make a mistake. There are so many negative scenarios which have already happened and they prove that direct computerized data relay is the only error-free method we currently have.
Smart machines and smart packages working together can ensure the accuracy logistics and production managers need so badly. With a loose human control at head office level, performing periodical audits on the system, the automated data relay will transform the way companies manage their stocks, orders and financial forecasts.
4. A Faster Learning Curve
Machines are programmed to do one thing – and do it fast and error-free. By comparison, people have so many tasks to perform, such a complex thinking process, that they take time to learn something new and integrate it with their current knowledge. A robot – OCR packaging solution pair has no such troubles. All your employees have to do is upload the program, and the machine will start executing with 100% efficiency from day 1.
5. Business Processes Automation – The Way of the Future
There is no denying the general trend towards the automation of every possible business process. This means that the most valuable resources – the human resources – will be used in the most creative and meaningful manner, removing repetitive tasks from their job description.
Smart packaging solutions will soon be the piece of the puzzle missing from enhanced automation, and when it happens you can be sure that Logistic Packaging will become one of the early promoters of this trend.