Packaging system and container producer Alpla Inc. is rolling out its Industry 4.0-related Mission Control concept and preparing in mid-2018 to add two more U.S. production sites.
"2018 will be a big year for us," said Philipp Lehner, general manager. Alpla's parent firm is based in Austria.
"We will fully implement Mission Control in all sites," starting with a rollout at Alpla's McDonough, Ga., North American headquarters plant near Atlanta, he said. Sequentially, Alpla is implementing the virtual-reality technology in five other facilities during October and November and ultimately will link with the remainder of its 14 plants in the U.S.
For additional capacity, Alpla is developing a 180,000-square-foot plant and hiring 80 people for a site near Allentown, Pa., for production of food, household and cosmetic product containers.
At the same time, Alpla is establishing a 120,000-square-foot facility and hiring 40 people for an operation in Salt Lake City for multilayer and monolayer food packaging.
"Mission Control will be critical for the startup of our new production sites," Lehner noted in a telephone interview.
Alpla created a separate team in 2013 to develop the virtual-reality concept and, in September 2016, began trials monitoring process-relevant data. Jodok Schaeffler heads the team.
Now in McDonough, "we have six development people plus external experts and a partner with cutting-edge software," Lehner said.
The Alpla initiative links existing machine sensors with data transmission systems. It overlays a level of intelligent software to allow a Mission Control operator in McDonough to connect through virtual reality and troubleshoot an issue at a plant.
The process involves seeing reality and experiencing overlaying support combining human-led and computer-led guidance.