The integration of (smart) technology in bulk packaging

Posted on 28 February 2024

Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) are traditionally considered the workhorses of bulk material transportation. But like many things, they are entering a new era of smart operation, thanks to the integration of cutting-edge technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and various sensors. 

Let’s have a look at just how smart these bulk bags can be, and how this affects the application possibilities of FIBCs.

The rise of ‘’smart’’ FIBCs

Traditionally, FIBCs have been valued for their cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and durability. 

Big Bags are made from woven polypropylene or other plastic fibers, and are used to transport up to several tons of dry products, from food grains and pharmaceuticals to chemicals and construction materials. 

But the physical robustness of FIBCs is no longer their only selling point. The integration of smart technologies is changing how bulk materials are stored, handled, and transported.

IoT devices and sensors in FIBCs

The Internet of Things (IoT) is what we call a network of physical objects ("things") equipped with sensors, software, and other technologies to connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet. 

And IoT can also be applied to FIBCs. In this scenario, IoT devices and sensors can monitor a range of factors in real-time: temperature, humidity, and even the integrity of the container itself. Here’s what that might look like:

  • Temperature and humidity sensors: these sensors can alert users to changes in conditions that might compromise the quality of the contents, which can be critical for food and pharmaceutical products.
  • GPS tracking: integrated GPS devices enable real-time tracking of the FIBC's location throughout the supply chain, enhancing visibility and security.
  • Stress and pressure sensors: these can detect undue strain or punctures to the FIBC, potentially preventing spills or exposure to environmental contaminants.

Read more about our own range of sensors: Prevent waste with Somsix sensors and smart monitoring 

Benefits of smart FIBCs

There are plenty of advantages to incorporating these technologies into FIBCs:

  • Enhanced product quality assurance: continuous monitoring ensures that the products remain within specified conditions, preserving their quality from origin to destination.
  • Improved supply chain visibility: GPS and other tracking technologies provide stakeholders with precise information on the whereabouts and status of their shipments, reducing the risks of loss or theft. This data can also help optimize the supply chain in general.
  • Increased safety: early detection of damage or adverse conditions can trigger alerts, allowing for timely intervention to prevent accidents or contamination.
  • Data-driven decisions: The wealth of data collected by these sensors can be analyzed to identify trends, optimize routes, and make informed decisions about inventory and distribution strategies.

Overcoming challenges: what are the drawbacks of smart FIBCs?

While the potential of smart FIBCs is huge, we need to keep some realistic challenges in mind:

  • Cost: integrating sophisticated sensors and devices into FIBCs adds to their cost. Businesses must weigh these costs against the potential savings and benefits.
  • Complexity: deploying IoT technology requires a certain level of technical expertise, both in terms of installation and ongoing data management. You don’t want to misinterpret the data you base big decisions on. 
  • Durability and reusability: the sensors and devices must be as durable as the FIBCs themselves and not interfere with the bags' recyclable properties or reusability.

Looking Ahead

The integration of IoT devices and sensors into FIBCs represents a significant leap forward for the bulk packaging industry. Smart FIBCs promise not only to improve operational efficiencies but also to open new avenues for ensuring product quality and safety, and a more sustainable future.

Here at Masterpack, we provide a range of additional features for our FIBCs, like Modified Atmosphere Packaging and smart sensors. Get in touch to find out more.

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