Intelligent and sustainable trade with the help of packaging

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

Digitalized and automated processes are now part of everyday life in many areas of the chemical industry. But there is one aspect that has been neglected so far: packaging and its contents. "With our Packwise solution, you create a transparency that didn't exist before, and thus a planning security for companies - at any time, it is comprehensible where and in what condition materials are" says Packwise founder Gesche Weger in an interview with 5-HT.

The technology startup Packwise, founded in Dresden in 2017, offers an innovative Industrial IoT solution that enables customers in the chemical and food industries to gain transparency along the supply chain by tracking intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). That's because IBCs have long been used as single-use packaging: shipped, emptied at the customer's site, and then disposed of. Over the years, however, containers have become more stable, allowing them to be recycled as well. Packwise gives companies more control over their packaging, allowing them to better manage their processes. Since our first interview in February 2020, Packwise has come a long way.

The three founders of Packwise (f.l.t.r): René Bernhardt, Gesche Weger und Felix Weger

More visibility and efficiency: digital twins of industrial packaging.

Simply attaching Packwise Smart Caps, which are equipped with sensors, to the IBCs creates digital twins of these industrial packages. The smart IBCs provide vital information about the contents of the containers as they move through the supply chain. 

Real-time data on fill level, location, impact, movement and temperature can be viewed via the Packwise Flow software platform. The system analyzes this data to map and automate supply chain processes. In doing so, large container fleets in particular can be managed effectively. Manual effort is reduced.   

"In the joint pilot project, we were able to provide partners with additional supply chain transparency through our technology," says Packwise Managing Director Gesche Weger. "From shipping the material at the BASF site to consumption at the customer's site." For the Dresden-based company, the German Innovation Award is of great significance, she said. "It underscores that we offer added value with our innovative approach, from which many industries and especially companies in the chemical industry can benefit." 

Packwise Smart Cap

German Innovation Award 

Together with BASF, paint and stain manufacturer Hesse Lignal and supply chain consultancy GOcon GmbH, Packwise is the winner of the German Innovation Award 2021. The award, established by the German Bundestag and sponsored by German industry, recognizes cross-industry products that offer users added value over previous solutions. The award is given in the category "Excellence in Business to Business - Chemical Industry". Further criteria for the jury are the functionality, sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the submitted concepts, as well as synergy effects and a broad market launch. 

Efficiency within the transparent supply chain 

The advantages of a digital supply chain are limitless. Processes can be designed more efficiently due to transparency. Significantly more information is available and, based on this, better decisions can be made to efficiently initiate processes. In addition, information is available to avoid waste, for example, and this is also accompanied by cost savings. "We see the following three major areas with optimization potential: inventory management, quality management, and logistics.

The issue of inventory management is a high priority for all Packwise customers. "Fill levels can be used to track the consumption of materials. The supplier can ensure that sufficient materials are available at all times by offering new service models, for example by offering a vendor managed inventory service. This avoids cost-intensive last-minute orders. The supplier can also use the new information for efficient production planning.

New transparency in logistics can include a rapid return of packaging to the cycle," explains Gesche Weger. This leads to the same amount of materials being transported with less packaging, she adds. Cycles can be sped up by providing customers and their logistics partners with information on the number of emptied customers, for example. 

In addition, quality can be continuously controlled with the help of Packwise Smart Cap. Aspects such as temperature can be monitored to see if there are any overshoots and intervention should be taken if necessary. In this way, it can be prevented that materials with inferior quality enter a production. Transparency about whether expiration dates have been exceeded can also counteract waste and, on the other hand, ensure that quality is maintained," Gesche explains.

Packwise specializes in the networking of industrial packaging. The innovation project with BASF and Hesse Lignal is dedicated to the digitalization of the supply chain, the digital supply chain. 

Technology Location Dresden 

"We are in Dresden and we will stay in Dresden," Gesche laughs. "It is precisely because of the university environment and the very good access to young talent that we can build a strong and innovative team here. Since we are a technology company, it is of course very important that we leverage the technology expertise on site. Meanwhile, many tasks can be done remotely, and since the Corona pandemic, video call readiness has grown significantly. Of course, we work closely with our customers and are also often on-site to assist our customers with smart cap integration, for example."

From the idea to the market launch 

At the beginning of 2020, Packwise was still in the pilot phase, and the brand launch was at the beginning of 2021. "Since April, we have been converting the pilot projects with our customers into series production," Gesche tells us. We see that the response in the market is extremely high and that customers are building the solution and integrating it into their processes. We are currently working with around 40 customers, mainly in the chemical industry. Among them are companies that belong to the SME sector as well as corporate groups. We are also active in the food industry. In addition to Germany, we are also represented in numerous other European countries. Thus, we have expanded considerably compared to the previous year. In addition, we are planning to enter the North American market in the near future and already have customers testing our solution on site. We want to establish ourselves in the industry as a provider that digitizes the material flow of the process industry. The awareness is there that digital technologies have a huge potential to make processes more sustainable, we can see that in our industrial application. We can make processes more efficient, leaner; have information that leads to saving resources," co-founder and CEO Gesche Weger summarizes Packwise's vision.

"The 5-HT Digital Hub offers great opportunities for networking with partners and potential customers and provides valuable impetus."

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