Earlier this year, BASF received the German Innovation Award 2021 in the Excellence in Business to Business-Chemical Industry category for a project involving the use of smart intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). These awards are presented by the German Design Council to recognize aspects of product innovation within different industries that offer additional benefits compared with previous solutions.
The project is a joint effort between BASF, Hesse Lignal, and Packwise. Integral to the project is the Packwise Smart Cap, which is used to create a digital twin of the IBCs and transform them into smart IBCs. In the pilot project, these smart IBCs provide a range of information about the product as it moves through the supply chain. Tracked details include filling level, location, exposure to shock, movement, and temperature through different sensors.
“Dealing with our customer Hesse Lignal, we faced challenges regarding the transparency of our supply chain that resulted in slow decision-making processes on both sides,” said Markus Hofmann, senior team lead Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence of BASF Dispersions & Pigments. “We decided to add more capabilities to the material flow and selected Packwise as our service provider.
“We saw more potential in the pilot phase, and we are now talking about a genuine supply chain upgrade. What started as a joint attempt at simplifying business processes has become a journey of an integrated supply chain between business partners.”
Scope of the Joint Pilot Project
The pilot project focused on shipments of Joncryl® products from BASF Nederland B.V. in Heerenveen to Hesse Lignal in Hamm, Germany. Product movements were fully transparent from the point of dispatch of the materials to the pickup of the empty containers for reconditioning.
Key Smart Cap Performance Attributes
- Tracks fill level, location, shock, movement, and temperature
- Remains maintenance-free for up to five years
- Can be retrofitted at any time
- Enables automatic reordering, production planning on demand, pay-per-consumption, and avoidance of bottlenecks
- Ensures secure operation through theft protection, complete traceability, temperature and damage control
- Reduces administrative
The collaborative nature of the project benefits from the shared visibility of the entire supply chain across traditional company boundaries. The simultaneous availability of information fuels the ambition to reduce overall lead times through improved responsiveness. This is achieved through process automation based on the newly available data and is supported by new levels of collaboration to bypass the traditional, sequential flow of information.
Geofencing allows the IBC to alert stakeholders at the start of its journey, at its arrival on site, or at other milestones along the way. Knowing the filling level of the IBC, the Smart Cap delivers valuable insights for inventory management and replenishment activities.
“This is a great example of how new technologies and smart data management can unlock new potential in supply chain management,” said Frank Hildebrandt, digital champion Supply Chain for BASF Dispersions & Pigments. “Especially in inventory management, process flow management and condition monitoring, these new data points allow us to further develop and enhance our services together with our customers. Filling in the white spots on the physical flow of material is another step towards building the foundation for an autonomous supply chain.”
Note: Opening image courtesy of BASF.