The plastics and rubber industries are subdivisions of the chemical industry; around 60% of the world’s rubber is now produced synthetically. Global plastic production is led by China. It was 350m tonnes in 2017, with packaging accounting for 36% of the total. The world market for plastic products is forecast to reach US$1.2 trillion by 2020. By 2050, production is expected to have tripled and to account for a fifth of global oil consumption. It is used in automotive, electrical, chemical, health, construction, communications and food and drink industries.
Although plastics and rubber require less energy and have lower greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing than comparable alternatives, the industry has become the focus of global concern about pollution and waste. Consumers and governments require manufacturers to operate responsibly. New material sources including bio-ethical and recycled plastics, such as rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), are gaining ground.
Manufacturers will constantly have to monitor their systems to ensure their suitability for new demands and be prepared to change and adapt, rapidly. Accurate records ensure that the right materials are used in manufacturing processes, avoiding cross-contamination and minimising costly mistakes.
Complex supply chains
Plastic manufacturing is a long process. The journey from the provision of raw materials to distribution takes several stages. Material supplies come from diverse sources with differing lead times.
Visibility of the supply chain enables accurate tracking of materials, right through to final product. Integration of production with CAD programs assists with the balancing of inventory. Accurate data, provided in real time, supports product quality.
Oil prices have fluctuated by over US$100/barrel, making planning difficult. Fluctuating supply availability can impact profits and ability to deliver.
Collection of visible data in real time enables manufacturers to minimise waste and identify opportunities for improvement, reducing vulnerability to price variation.
Producers of raw and part-finished materials, and of commodified products that can be transported long distances, have moved to lower cost countries. Manufacturers in higher-cost areas have to look for premium and higher quality products while controlling production costs.
Maximising profitability, maintaining competitiveness and optimising market share relies on effective management of all resources. Automated data collection helps optimise workflow and seamlessly connect planning and production activities.
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