I’m Simon Keogh, the General Manager of Siemens’ Factory Automation business in the UK. We have worked closely with TrakRap, a small machine-building company who are behind a revolutionary packaging system. I’d like to share how the two companies are collaborating during TrakRap’s digital transformation.
I was first introduced to TrakRap’s CEO Martin Leeming at an innovation day in Manchester and as soon as I spoke to him, it was clear his company were keen to embrace Industry 4.0.
Martin emphasised how his company had a great ambition to become leaders in the packaging sector but admitted that, as a relatively small operation, the cost of traditional prototyping could be very prohibitive. With this in mind, he was interested in taking an increasingly digital approach to design and development
Exploring digital applications
Historically secondary packaging has used traditional techniques such as shrink-wrapped packaging which involves the application of heat in a shrink tunnel to produce the packaging product. However, this has proved to be an extremely wasteful, energy-intensive process. Rather than continue with an inefficient method, Martin was eager to innovate, and his attention soon turned to cold wrapping.
His first step towards innovation began at the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association (PPMA) tradeshow. Here, Martin met various Bradford University professors who had experience in digital modelling. They had developed a physics-based model of how plastic film reacts when stretched, which could be used within a digital twin.
We then introduced Martin to the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), who were able to take Bradford University’s plastic film model and integrate into the digital twin. This provided a virtual representation of TrakRap’s orbital wrapping production process and the film as it dealt with different usage scenarios.
We spent time with the MTC and TrakRap, sharing expertise and deploying our team to demonstrate how the digital twin could be utilised to virtually develop, test and commission the machine. Doing this in the virtual world meant that the first machine that was produced was fit for purpose and not a prototype. In addition to the manufacturing predictability that TrakRap has gained, time to market has been reduced by 40% and development costs cut by 30% because the physical prototype stage has been eliminated.
Collaborating for success
In the foreword to the 2017 Made Smarter Review, our CEO Juergen Maier highlights how more ambitious leadership is needed to transform the UK’s manufacturing sector. I believe Martin has set the benchmark by turning his goal to be the best company in sustainable packing solutions into a company-wide vision for transformation, and embracing innovation and technology to get there.
Fundamentally, Martin recognised that TrakRap couldn’t achieve this alone. He has proactively formed networks and worked collaboratively with academia, Catapult Centres, innovation agencies, and Siemens to see where it takes them on their journey. I believe there is so much value to be unlocked from the industry ecosystem, but it is a case of “connecting the dots” to understand how industry partners can work together to achieve the vision. We’ve helped TrakRap do just that, and only then does the magic happen.