Sandvik Coromant, part of Sandvik Group’s machining solutions division, is launching an optimized packaging solution to increase its operational sustainability.Developed by R&D engineer and system developer Maria Rajabzadeh Namaghi as part of Sandvik Coromant’s Automation Platform team, the solution uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the smallest possible packaging required to contain a product, reducing costs and CO2 emissions in the process.
Packaging is a necessary evil for manufacturers. It raises many environmental concerns due to its demand for resources, including energy, water, chemicals, and materials. Packaging is also a huge source of waste. For example, in the U.S., 28 percent of total municipal solid waste is attributed to packaging, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Recognizing this problem, Rajabzadeh Namaghi was given the task of selecting packages for Sandvik Coromant’s products that were as small and lean as possible, with the aim of cutting costs and reducing Sandvik Group’s overall carbon footprint.
To solve the problem, Rajabzadeh Namaghi considered the possibility of applying a genetic algorithm (GA) using AI. GAs are used to solve optimization problems and work by imitating natural selection. By repeatedly modifying a selection of possible solutions, a GA allows the solution to “evolve” until the ideal result is found, in line with Darwin’s theory of evolution. Although GAs are nothing new, applying them to packaging solutions is a less common application.
Rajabzadeh Namaghi’s innovative idea has been realized in collaboration with Samir Balic, product manager, packaging and labeling at Sandvik Coromant, as a Package Selector Application (PSA). The PSA analyzes a 3D CAD model of the product and by identifying the product’s critical points—in combination with the company’s rules for package selection—the AI algorithm calculates its rotation and recommends the smallest packaging possible. Using the PSA also enables centralized and unified package selection across Sandvik Coromant.
“The PSA is incorporated directly to product designers’ CAD programs, so the most suitable packaging for a product can be determined before a physical copy of the tool itself has even been created,” explained Rajabzadeh Namaghi. “The solution completely automates the packaging process, streamlining operations and supporting Sandvik Group’s wider sustainability goals.”
“Sandvik Group is committed to making the sustainability shift across all its business areas,” added Mats Lundberg, head of sustainability at Sandvik Group. “Sandvik Coromant’s packaging innovation not only results in less waste, but also improves sustainability throughout the value chain.
“Optimized packaging selection avoids excessive packaging use, opening up the potential to transport more products at once, increasing shipment capacity,” he continued. “In turn, increased capacity could result in less loads to transport the same number of products, reducing fuel consumption and supporting Sandvik Group’s company-wide target to halve its CO2 impact by 2030.” Sandvik Coromant expects to launch the PSA by the end of 2021.
Sandvik, a global engineering group based in Stockholm, has 38,000 employees and is focused on several markets, including tools and tooling systems for industrial metal cutting equipment and tools; service and technical solutions for the mining and construction industries; and advanced stainless steels and special alloys as well as products for industrial heating.