Frequent product launches. Small batch sizes. Sharp shifts in demand. The demands on manufacturing companies are increasing. Social media and e-commerce accelerate this trend. Optima is therefore developing a flexible machine platform. A number of initial design measures are presented at the Interpack.
1. Mr. Held, what are the current challenges facing manufacturing companies?
Social media and influencers can suddenly create a spike in demand for specific products. This is particularly true in the cosmetics industry. Frequent product launches, small batch sizes, rapidly changing product and packaging designs, sharp shifts in demand, as well as individual product combinations and even changes to combinations of ingredients – all of these are common demands from our customers. In Asia, around fifty percent of all products are sold via
e-commerce. Consequently, the online trade must be able to react quickly – time to market is critical. These changes are creating major challenges for manufacturing companies. Up to now, they have reacted by increasing stocks or outsourcing orders. Neither of these solutions represent a viable model for the future, since they are both linked to higher costs and increased dependency.
At Pack Expo 2018, Optima tackled this issue for the first time and demonstrated potential solutions.
2. The market is changing. How is Optima changing?  
Although traditional mechanical engineers can still be justified in some areas, there is a growing demand for solution providers, i.e. a supplier who considers the entire production process and maintains a constant dialogue while developing a concept that the customer views as sustainable, or a solution provider who changes the process for how the machines operate (machine leads man) and gets rid of existing limitations, and in doing so massively improves agility and, ultimately, responsiveness. There is a demand for flexible machine solutions that can be quickly converted for new products and formats.
3. A flexible machine concept of this type was developed for Interpack. How did it come about?
We paid close attention to what our customers were saying and carried out in-depth market research in the cosmetics segment. It became clear that the individual market segments (decorative cosmetics, body care, hair care and fragrances) make very different demands on us as machine manufacturers, in terms of both performance and the level of automation involved. The main technical tasks were defined in a specification sheet based on these requirements (see box on page 10).
Technical features that make machine platforms more flexible
Christoph Held explains to o-com editor, Jan Deininger, how the new machine platform will give producers greater flexibility.

Planning and implementation of measures
Part of the project team and Jochen Weller, Project Manager at Optima Consumer, discuss how the constructive measures can best be implemented.
4. What conclusions have you drawn from this?
In the light of this, we launched an innovation project, which we will be presenting at Interpack 2021. Here, our goal is to develop an innovative, market-driven production system that assists our customers in terms of ensuring a short time to market; a module platform that can be individually configured to cover all of our customers' requirements – from start-ups to global corporations. To this end, we have set up a special interdisciplinary team made up of members from various business areas (including project planning, design, software, sales, marketing, assembly, service, purchasing and project management), and which is physically separated from day-to-day business. It has translated the requirements in our specifications into technical solutions. We also used methods based on agile project management.
5. How does the machine concept satisfy current market requirements?
Careful attention is being paid to the key tasks and a large number of constructive measures have already been implemented to support the challenges identified. These will be presented at Interpack with a flexible
machine platform for filling and closing cosmetic products. This covers a wide performance range and enables fast reaction times to new products. This is ensured by a modular design, which also enables short delivery times from Optima. The machine platform is continuously being developed and adapted to current market conditions. 3D printing technology is also increasingly coming into focus.

6. What are the benefits of this innovative machine concept to its users?
Machine users benefit from an even greater reduction to their time to market. Products can be launched on the market faster than ever before. This is achieved through customization and flexibility. The advantage of the concept is that it is possible to have many different variants – from semi-automated to completely automated. Depending on the particular application, different modules (transport systems, kinematics, filling modules, etc.) can be easily integrated into the machine platform. Assistance to operators is also becoming increasingly important. Under the heading "machine leads man", Optima offers a wide range of digital tools to assist with troubleshooting or changing formats. For example, digital step-by-step instructions for format changeovers and remote assistance, where process problems are resolved by Optima service staff, are both part of the OPTIMA Total Care life cycle management program. These can be offered via every conceivable end device – from smartphones to tablets to augmented reality glasses. We will use various practical applications to demonstrate our operator assistance at Interpack. But assistance from Optima starts much earlier. We have described how machine users benefit from OPTIMA Total Care on the pages 28 to 31.
Reduction of time-to-market
Due to the physical separation from day-to-day business, the interdisciplinary team was able to fully focus on the task at hand and develop initial technical solutions for a modular machine platform, which considerably reduces the time-to-market.

Meeting Projektmanagement
New challenges require lateral thinking and new constructive solutions. This is why Optima relies on agile project management.
7. How will Optima be presenting the innovatory project at Interpack?
Naturally, I don't want to reveal too much just yet. At any rate, the subject of future production flexibility will be impressively presented in a variety of different ways. For example, by automatic module changeover using an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) or the principle of "Decoupled Production". This means that machine functionalities can be arranged in a spatially flexible way rather than in a linear arrangement, as has been customary up to now. Visitors to the trade show can experience other exciting attractions such as fully automatic tool changes, cobots in action, and much more.
8. What should we be looking forward to?
In the future, we want to make it possible for our customers use a configurator to assemble their machine individually, on an individual modular basis – to suit their technical requirements and product ranges.
Key tasks of the innovation project:
• Time-to-Market

• Agility

• Factory Automation

• highly flexible production
• highest overall equipment
   effectiveness and plant availability

• Zero Changeover

• optimal Total Cost of Ownership

• 100 % quality control

This report has been published in the O-COM Special Edition April 2020.

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