It is safe to say that so far, machine manufacturer Redpack Maschinen has LLC experienced the Corona-crisis in waves, due to its international scope. We spoke with Markus Nöthen, who is responsible for the German-speaking market.
"At first our Italian and Austrian customers were affected by Corona. From there, we received some alarming signals. Then the Corona-crisis arrived in Germany. Another 10 days later or so, I saw the same reactions that we had here in Germany at the beginning, also among our colleagues in Great Britain. Almost all of us had believed that we would be spared, but the lockdown and new, unknown problems came very quickly," Nöthen explains.
Part of the Redpack team at Fruit Logistica 2020.
At the moment, the ability to physical travel is still limited, due to closed national borders. "In order to still be able to offer our customers the best possible service and to be able to carry out ongoing sales projects and plant expansions, solutions had to be found quickly. Packaging for fresh food is currently in great demand for reasons of hygiene. We therefore have to ensure that machines can be serviced and that delivered machines can be set up and put into operation."
At Fruit Logistica, Redpack had already showcased a Microsoft HoloLens 2 Augmented Reality system, showing visitors insights into the machines and production. The transparent display of the Hololeens glasses projects three-dimensional holograms, e.g. installation applications for the start-up of packaging machines, enabling interactive communication between people in different locations.
This way, machines have recently been successfully commissioned without the physical presence of Redpack technicians. "We use Augmented Reality to assist customers who we are currently unable to visit ourselves due to Corona related travel restrictions. The system works contactless and efficiently."
Digital communication technology in general is taking up the lion's share of the workflow due to the Corona-crisis: "Via regular international video conferences, we coordinate our global work flow between the continents and our service network, which continues to be available to customers 24/7. Of course, these digital possibilities have been around for a while, but we have not used them to their fullest extent and with this intensity. The intensity of digital communications has increased and it certainly has its advantages." Sales activities like customer acquisition and knowledge and information transfer have shifted to some social networks. "Everyone is currently 'online' and easy to reach. Reaction times have dropped," Nöthen says.
The current crisis situation opens up new possibilities, and people have found uses for Redpack's packaging machines that were unknown up until this time. "Some of our customers are packaging urgently needed medical hygiene material, i.e. face masks, gloves, gowns and other products, with a machine originally built to package beans and other vegetables in flow packs. It's interesting to see how new markets emerge in times of crisis and how new packaging products gain in importance. Our machines are even more universal than we ourselves knew."
Behaviour is changing due to the virus - this is seen most clearly in the packaging debate, which until a few weeks ago was still the main topic. "At the moment we even have inquiries for completely product-untypical packaging types. As long as people go shopping with gloves, masks, disinfectants and corona fear, their individual perception of hygiene will remain influential. Our aim, however, is still to show how the amount of material used in packaging can be reduced sensibly as much as possible or how material alternatives can be used, because these times will hopefully come to an end at some point".
Parsley root after being just 24 hours out of the refrigerator, when stored in the same room. Photo: Redpack