HARNESSING its expertise in innovation and technology, global leader in high-technology secondary packaging systems Cama Group is keeping digitalisation at the centre of R&D and product development. In addition to staying ahead of current trends and raising market edge, this focus enables the Italy-based company to meet industry requirements and better serve clients.
Cama continues to upgrade its digital manufacturing services using advanced automation technologies, Industry 4.0 concepts and comprehensive on- and off-machine connectivity. The company has expanded its already extensive digital capabilities portfolio, which encompasses presales visualisation, virtual design using augmented reality, and virtual commissioning, with its new Live Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT).
The platform allows customers to witness and participate in machine tests done at Cama premises in real-time through video broadcast streaming. Smart cameras positioned close to the machine’s primary operational elements let clients have a comprehensive overview of the tests, which are based on their own protocols and project specifications. Complementary cameras provide access to static equipment such as electrical panels.
Designed to in digital environments using virtual commissioning, the Live FAT platform enables remote testing and viewing that benefit both parties – Cama and the client. Part of Cama’s Generation 4.0 initiative, which monitors the status of equipment at the same time offers technical assistance, augmented and virtual reality capabilities, and digital documentation, the digital platform features a virtual mock-up for testing ergonomics and improving operator and machine interaction.
Live FAT platform
“Solutions such as the Live FAT platform gives us the flexibility to work with our clients more closely regardless of the circumstances and distance. In situations like this pandemic where we are faced with challenges on how to continue serving our clients, the Live FAT platform creates an opportunity for collaboration and sustained quality service,” said General Manager, Mr Ke Da.
With the platform, Cama can virtualise every step of a project – from initial design concepts to building, testing, commissioning and installation, and even to on-going maintenance and support. The company can include augmented reality for remote assistance.
“Instead of customers coming to our factory, our engineers can test the equipment using client specifications and with the client witnessing all tests being done,” he shared. “For our customers it will be like having a highly knowledgeable Cama engineer on site, all day every day.”
The company sees virtualisation as applicable to the many different phases of a machine’s life cycle. The technology will help address multiple geographical, economic, technical and, in this time of a pandemic, health concerns, and ensure the continuous flow of production even if customers may not currently be able to deliver test products due to their quantity, shipping costs or simply because they are overly delicate or frozen.
CAMA secondary packaging meet product complexity, short product lead times, and other industry demands.
Bolstering R&D, manufacturing in China
Cama has recently established a new R&D centre in Shanghai, China. The facility, located within Cama China Shanghai, was inaugurated last July 1 and will serve as the company’s R&D and manufacturing hub in Asia.
According to Mr Ke, this new facility is a significant milestone for Cama as it signifies the company’s growing capability in China and its commitment to further nurturing its market there.
Cama entered Asia in 2009 when it opened Cama Asia Pacific in Bangkok. In 2013, it established Cama China Shanghai. Cama China will cover both Asia and China markets with the closing of Cama Asia, which used to serve the Asia and Australia markets, in 2012 alongside the opening of Cama Australia.
“Since opening a service office in China in 2013, we have enjoyed significant business growth in our China market. The huge potential of the local market and strong government support have been a great help for the company. A localised production facility will equip us to serve this market even better and strengthen our footprint in what is considered the world’s fastest-growing economy.”
The new hub is expected to help Cama integrate much more closely with the China market not only to meet market requirements but also to transfer technical know-how. “We can definitely share our knowledge of and expertise in high-tech packaging and machinery innovation and hopefully work with the market to develop fresh, new ideas,” he added.
Cama’s China subsidiary will consist of a main office and a production area. The industrial compound will house offices for service, project management and accounting. There will also be an assembly area with five to six machines.
The 1,000sqm facility will initially be composed of four technical staff – two mechanical, two electrical, one SW and one R&D – a service manager, a sales engineer/system engineer, two sales people and one finance personnel.
As the new hub will also cater to the Asia market, it will be tasked to develop a new range of machines specifically targeted at users in the region. These new machines will form part of the Cama China Manufacturing or CCM series, with the initial series comprising sleeving and CL machines.
The series will be scalable and flexible, and will allow minor design adjustments. It will reflect Cama expertise in both design and innovation but at the same will incorporate Chinese influence and will be better able to respond to the local market in that parts will come from suppliers in China even if the manufacturing will be handled by Cama’s team. The company will work with different local suppliers depending on needs and requirements.
Cama acknowledges China has a robust supply chain with an excellent supplier base and well-qualified workforce, making it the perfect base of operations for its new R&D and manufacturing centre. “Our vision for this hub is to develop a new range of machines specifically designed and adapted to the precise needs of the Asian market. Our location is strategic enough for this purpose, and with Shanghai being China’s economic centre with a strong international background, we have the right balance of global knowledge and local expertise to serve the diverse needs of the market,” said Mr Ke.
Growing Asia F&B market share
Cama has been supplying packaging machines to major multinational groups in the food and nonfood markets for nearly four decades now. In Asia, the company’s largest market is food and beverage, which accounts for 80% of business.
Cama’s extensive machine range and robotic loading units allow it to provide complete lines starting from the handling of primary packages such as flow wraps, bags and trays to final carton and corrugated packaging ready for palletising. All of the company’s machines can be combined in complete packaging lines for biscuits, confectionery, cereals, powders, yogurt, ready meals and ice creams, and outside F&B for personal and home care products.
To help clients achieve business goals, Cama analyses their packaging concerns and needs in designing or providing machinery. The company notes that while intense competition in both the global and local markets creates limitations, especially in terms of costs, continuous innovations in packaging are necessary to achieve brand differentiation. Shelf appeal and shelf readiness, which influence brand perception and product pricing, may require high-end designs and materials. In line with food safety concerns, more packaging requirements now focus on food quality and shelf life.
“Millions are spent every year on product promotion and branding, so when a product hits the shelf, it must showcase the brand effectively and clearly, often now in convenient, single-serve, shelf-ready packaging. Even simple cans and bottles undergo regular reinvention in terms of shape, style and size to stay in tune with the market,” he said.
Cama keeps abreast of packaging trends, including use of sustainable materials. “Many factories handle a mix of high-speed, mass production and small-volume, artisanal and face pressures from continuous innovations in product and packaging formats. We have to be ready to meet their different needs. We factor in product characteristics, packaging materials and end-user requirements, including both sustainability and material costs, in coming up with the best possible packaging solution. During this pandemic, for example, we saw rising demand for noodles and pet food products, so we shifted our focus to these products.”
Pushing for digital, automation moving forward
Cama hopes its sustained efforts in digital solutions for packaging equipment will encourage more customers to raise their investment in automation and innovation technologies.
Mr Ke notes a steady increase in interest in robotics and automation in Asia and Southeast Asia, with more companies actually investing in these technologies. Cama said a growing number of manufacturers across Asia are seeing the long-term savings in labour and installation costs that automation brings.
The high investment costs, however, remain prohibitive for many companies, he admits.
“But in this industry, we are always confronted by changing requirements such as digitalisation, growing product complexity, reduced product development and life cycle times. We need, therefore, to always be equipped to meet these demands.
“We expect an increase in turnover in the coming years with this new hub, which we hope will boost even more our capability in designing and manufacturing high-quality, reliable packaging machinery,” Mr Ke concluded.
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