Innovation, Trend, Sustainability

The power of data

12/07/2021 | 3 min read
Theresa Wieser

Day 2 of Greiner Packaging’s virtual Innovation Days featured two live sessions which explored connected digitization, serialization and digital watermarks. These sessions looked at the benefits of applying cloud-hosted UIDs (Unique Identifiers) on products, and how digital watermarks will play an essential role in enhancing future recycling capabilities.

Digitalization starts with Serialization

Piet de Vriendt, senior business development manager at Kezzler, discussed the benefits to brand owners and consumers of applying a cloud-hosted UID (Unique Identifier) on every single product produced.

“Kezzler is a world leading cloud-based enterprise solution platform for product digitization and traceability, and serialization is an important part of achieving that,” said Piet de Vriendt. “The cloud hosted platform generates codes which are applied to individual products. From the factory floor and throughout the supply chain, data is associated with these codes and stored on our cloud platform. Brands can choose to share this data with stakeholders from one common source.”

“We are pioneers in this business having been around for 20 years, quite a long time in this field as serialization is still very new to many companies and brands.”

Piet de Vriendt explained the drivers from digitizing individual products, such as governments implementing legislation to protect consumers.

“Legislation is a very good trigger to start the conversation about serialization, but it shouldn't end there. It's a very tangible opportunity for brand owners to take because they have to, but there is additional value to be gained by taking one step further and considering, if we have to do this, what more can we do? If we have to apply a single unique, traceable code on every single product we produce, what more can we get out of this, and this is where the other drivers come into play.”

“The truly interesting opportunities come from consumers and brand owners. Consumers expect safe, sustainable and connected products, and are becoming more conscious where products and their ingredients come from. They want to know if a brand has made efforts to try to be more sustainable, or source more ethically. Serialization enables brands to share information with their consumers directly through the packaging, to show the efforts they are taking to be more sustainable.”

“Meanwhile, branded goods companies are willing to invest to increase sales, improve supply chain efficiency and control, and be compliant. Serialization is a very interesting tool to safeguard and develop the value of a brand and can be used to stop counterfeiting or product diversion. Serialization can also be used to engage more directly with the consumer to tell them more about products and elevate the experience of using products.”

Piet de Vriendt then showed an example of how a QR code on a pack carries unique ‘digital DNA’, which is assigned to every product.

“We create a digital twin of every physical product that leaves the factory and then enters the journey towards the consumer. This enables cloud-based supply chain tracking, with data aggregation and tracking throughout the supply chain, from sourcing and manufacturing, through shipment and logistics, to point of sale and finally to the consumer and recycling.”

All this information helps brands drive better decisions through insights, to improve internal processes and to offer an enhanced consumer experience.

Piet de Vriendt, senior business development manager at Kezzler

In closing, Piet de Vriendt showed some examples, including a successful global traceability solution for the dairy cooperative Friesland Campina, an augmented Valentine’s Day experience for Mondelez’s Milk Tray brand, and a brand protection solution for Pfizer.


Watch the full live session here!

Please note: In order to watch the live session you need to login (and register) first; registration is still possible, even though the event is over.

Digitalization & Packaging – Opportunities for digital watermarks

Larry Logan, chief evangelist at Digimarc Corporation then discussed digital watermarks, which will play an essential role in enhancing future recycling capabilities.

“Digimarc is a pioneer and world leader in the field of digital watermarking as the trigger for the automatic identification of any media object,” said Larry Logan. “This can range from print to labels, packaging, audio, video, and even in three dimensional forms such as plastics and metals. We have invested significantly in the development of digital watermarking to create unlimited data transparency. This is but one element of our platform that is designed to capture value and data at every step of what we call the package journey.”

“One example is where a package can be tracked from the farmer's field through to retail, with a unique identifier for each individual tray. In retail stores, it can be used to increase efficiencies, speed up checkout, or reduce the time for taking inventory, as only the front of the package needs to be scanned. It can also be used for consumer engagement, whether in the store to help with a purchasing decision or later at home with experiences delivered based upon the geolocation of the consumer, or to improve the efficiencies of sortation and recycling. We say that the platform provides value from birth to rebirth of the package.”

There are many applications for product-class codes or serialized codes, from counterfeit deterrence to tracking gray market or other goods that are diverted from the intended geography, or to monitor quality.

Larry Logan, chief evangelist at Digimarc

“In printed artwork, the digital watermark is created through what we call a signal tile, which is encoded into the graphic design in a mosaic pattern, using Adobe Photoshop. The tile is created using the existing pixels that make up the design, where the pixels are subtly modulated in color or contrast to create the tile.  Then, the package is run on press as before, using no special inks or printing processes. A unique attribute of this approach is that a single intact signal tile is not required for detection. Portions of tiles can be used to recover the data, and this is particularly important when you think about the crushing and soilage of objects coming into a waste facility.”

Larry Logan showed how packaging appears to consumers as it did prior to the enhancement process, but can be seen and read by computing devices with a camera, and Digimarc’s software components. “The effect is visually imperceptible and won't be detected by consumers in normal everyday situations.”

The same concept applies to three dimensional shapes, where rather than using pixels, the process is created using micro-topological variations in the plastic substrate. This appears as a decorative embossing effect, creating potential for the tactile nature of the plastic to be a signifier of recyclability to consumers.

“We coined the term ‘digital recycling passport’ to describe the unique benefits of digital watermarking for recycling. Today's near infrared sorting (NIR) equipment observes objects, and attempts to identify them based on color or spectral analysis. Digital watermarking inverts the current NIR model, putting intelligence into the object itself, which then tells the sorting equipment its precise identity. The process turns the package into an Internet of Things, object, connected to the cloud. Whether in print or in plastics, this approach is compatible with a circular economy, as there are no environmental impacts, or additives.”

Digital watermarks and Holy Grail 2.0

In closing, Larry Logan discussed how digital watermarking was chosen over chemical tracers, for the Holy Grail 2.0 intelligent sorting initiative, led by the European Brands Association (AIM).

Greiner Packaging is a member of the HolyGrail 2.0 initiative, where companies over the whole value chain are seeking to advance digital watermarking to change the way packaging is sorted to empower more efficient recycling. 


Watch the full live session here!

Please note: In order to watch the live session you need to login (and register) first; registration is still possible, even though the event is over.

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