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First published in the Digitalist May 3rd by Alfred Becker


The digital economy is bringing change to industry faster than we can incorporate it. Roles that used to belong to be the responsibility of blue collar workers now fall into the IT realm. Low-tech processes now have high-tech solutions. The new approach to business is automation, saving time and money.

This has major impact on the workforce in paper and packaging. The industry now has greater need of specialized operations and information technology workers. Management’s role has shifted as well. (Read 6 Ways the Digital Economy Is Reshaping the Future of Work).

Below we will discuss how automation affects the workplace. We will also consider how real-time information access has changed it. Then we will take a look at how predictive and self-learning technology plays in. We’ll finish by considering how unifying business platforms can impact alignment and productivity.

Warehouse Worker Scanning Barcode --- Image by © Sean Justice/Corbis

Automated business processes

The digital transformation of industry brings many opportunities for automation. In paper and packaging, this might mean automating procurement of standard goods. Data collection, invoicing, and design are other processes that benefit from automation.

It also brings changes to management. Management by exception is the new approach. This means executives and managers won’t step in until there are big decisions to make. That frees up their time to focus on the most strategic issues. Rule-based decision making makes this even more possible. It eliminates constant use of judgment, streamlining operations.

Even rule-based decision making is fallible, though. When employees follow standard procedure instead of thinking through an issue, trouble can arise. And if they miss a step, problems also occur. Automating rule-based decision making can help businesses avoid risk. It can help them perform better.

Timely information access

A hallmark of successful businesses is timeliness. That includes businesses in the paper and packaging industries. Getting the right info at the right time can make all the difference.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is currently revolutionizing how we collect and understand information. Sensors embedded in a variety of everyday objects allow to stream data in from many sources. This enables businesses to learn more about their products and customers in real time. They can serve them better. Processes such as sales orders can be enriched with the inclusion of data about customer payment behavior or joint business history for example. Knowing the customer better can in turn make the business more successful.

For example, consider smart packaging. It provides information on items in transit, such as warehouse conditions or the validity of the product. This helps both consumers and businesses. It is Industry 4.0, the new technological mode of commerce at its finest.

     For more on digital transformation in the paper industry, see How Digital Transformation Can Save Paper      And Packaging.

Predictive and self-learning technology

If you have heard of self-learning technology, you’ve most likely encountered it in the realm of automobiles. Jaguar announced a few years ago that it was working on self-learning technology. It will enable your car to talk to you, letting you know about important dates. It will also help your car learn your preferences. Once this tech goes into effect, cars will be able to match your preferences. They will, in essence, personalize the driving experience.

But self-learning technology is far from confined to cars. It also stands to revolutionize paper and packaging. Self-learning processes can make delegation decisions easier. It can reliably transfer some parts of operations from people to machines. It can streamline processes overall. It also can support sustainability by knowing how to run various processes at the lowest effective levels of energy.

Predictive technology plays a role as well. It can watch, analyze, and even out fluctuations in a process, helping minimizing departures from production. By tying together business practices and machines, it ensures uniformity and the highest level of productivity. And again, it is eco-friendly, helping businesses conserve resources.

Unified platform for talent

Many companies provide multiple products or offerings. Paper and packaging are no exception. Those companies that successfully integrate their processes can make use of shared services for higher overall output andprofit. The same is true with workforces that are often together as a result of multiple mergers and acquisitions. The downside of this is the fragmentation tends to result. With unified talent platforms, this is less likely. Companies can use common global workforce management processes and platforms reduce risks and costs in this area. This approach can help in many areas such as making onboarding employees in a timely fashion much easier. Furthermore, this unifies employee treatment, leading to a happier, more productive workforce.

Overall, companies that keep their finger on the pulse of all branches will perform best. Consider Ahlstrom Paper. It serves a huge range of industries, from food and medical to transportation and energy. Whether making teabags or materials used in gas turbines, it takes a unified approach to business and people.

Customers are still always right

In the end, customer satisfaction still rules. Hyperconnectivity helps meet demand and expectations. Digital customer engagement strategies make communication easier. It also helps businesses gather intelligence on customers in real time.

Putting customer satisfaction first creates a virtuous cycle in the workplace. Companies focus on meaningful products and offerings. Workers play intricate roles that lead to increased business success. Automation removes uninteresting jobs from worker responsibility. Workers have more time to innovate and make decisions. The company produces better (and better aligned) products. Customers are happy. They buy the meaningful products and offerings. The cycle continues.

The future relies on automation. Automation will bring greater worker satisfaction. New technology will continue to meet customer needs. Paper and packaging, along with an array of other industries, will benefit.

Learn more about how SAP supports the Pulp, Paper and Packaging industry in its Digital Transformati...