Q2 a good prognosis
I hope you are not too shocked by the title, because in Q2 we are once more heading for a good result. The order intake is excellent in most of our strategic target markets. Of course, we all can’t wait to meet our colleagues, our network and our customers again in real time.
Rise of the Dark Factory
The term “dark factory” is used to refer to production locations without lighting. These production locations are literally dark. The reason for the lack of daylight or artificial light is simple; no people work there. All the human labour has been replaced by machines and robotisation. The prerequisite for this type of environment is that the whole (production) process runs fully automatically, from the input of raw materials to the dispatch of a finished product. Industry 4.0, also known as smart industry, is the name of the movement which is inseparably linked to dark factories. A simplified explanation of Industry 4.0 would be that every machine or production step possesses a certain autonomy (IOT: internet of things) and that these autonomous systems are connected to each other via the cloud and communicate without human intervention. Therefore, they can take over the human thought process, in part or in whole, and operate autonomously. The quantity of data increases exponentially, and this data is used to improve aspects like predictability. Decisions are made based on data (logs), and facts and continuous improvement are assured.
Acceleration in industry 4.0 and dark factories
I want to talk about this transition in this quarterly report, because our packaging solutions now form part of this type of environment. To a large group of clients this movement may still sound like science fiction, but it is already in motion in a few of our strategic target markets. The fact that this far-reaching automation has accelerated under the influence of Covid is evident, just now, when it has become clear how vulnerable some business processes are, if they are (too) dependent on humans and human activity.
Dark factory in E-fulfilment
E-commerce is one of Audion’s strategic target markets. At present, experimentation is already taking place in e-fulfilment/e-commerce environments with completely autonomous dark-factory environments. Our Audion Speedpack 550 packaging machines form part of this smart-industry development environment. And it is the expertise gained from another strategic target market, the medical/pharma sector, which has meant that our machines are ready for these types of innovations. In the case of packaging in the medical/pharma markets there has long been a need for a fully validated and automated packaging process. Our machines for those markets could already be operated remotely, connected to the internet and capable of logging data. This technology now affords us a sustained competitive advantage in other smart-industry applications, such as autonomous e-fulfilment environments. The fact that our packaging machines can carry out tailored packaging (variable bag length) and apply a label in the same process, is also important of course.
Dealer network growth
We are now active in 60 countries, so there are still countries left. We will continue to look for dealers in those countries. And in those countries we are active, we will continue, together with our dealer network, to look for parties willing and able to focus on a specific area (in large countries) or on a specific strategic target market.
Dark times ahead
In conclusion, I would like to revert to the title of this quarterly report. Because there are indeed dark times ahead of us, as we are also seeing the arrival of dark restaurants in the food sector. These restaurants focus on delivery; in any case they’re not the kind of place where you would want to go for a romantic dinner. These dark restaurants are not fully autonomous yet, but I believe I can safely predict that it won’t take long before this is the case. So, if we can’t enjoy a meal there ourselves, let’s make sure that we are represented by one of our packaging machines specifically for this market.
Would you like to talk with us about the role and value of our machines in (fully) automated environments? We are keen to talk to our customers in the food, pharma, e-commerce or parts sectors about co-creation of the packaging environment of the future, however dark this may be.
Do you have a question or need more information? Please contact us.