Achieving Success: A Digital Transformation Roadmap for CPGs

By following a proven map, CPGs can successfully implement smart technologies, unlock data and gain valuable insights that can continually optimize operations. © artefacti –


By Silvia Gonzalez, Director Product Management at Emerson

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies use many types of equipment across their production lines and facilities. These machines can differ greatly based on age and original equipment manufacturer (OEM), making it a significant challenge to functionally integrate and run as a highly efficient whole.

While truly optimizing these assets was once a dream for many CPGs, it’s now becoming a reality. Through digital transformation, companies are now obtaining and analyzing previously inaccessible machine and device data and receiving actionable insights that they can use to improve productivity, efficiency, sustainability and more.

Digital transformation is a process a facility, system or machine undergoes to increase certainty and intelligence. By integrating smart technologies and unlocking trapped data, users gain operational visibility and enhanced control to optimize manufacturing operations.

While incorporating smart technologies in a significant and successful way can feel overwhelming, CPGs can follow a proven roadmap to digitally transform their equipment, lines and facilities. By taking steps such as assessing readiness, starting small and proving success before scaling up, CPGs can ensure the smoothest journey possible – as well as a competitive edge.

Assess digital transformation readiness, including automation maturity

For a digital transformation project to be as successful as possible, it’s important that a company understands how prepared its people and existing infrastructure are. Companies can gain this insight by performing an assessment based on simple questions: Is there staff available to implement technology and work with data? Do they have the skills and training necessary? Does the company already have systems in place to aggregate data or is data completely siloed?

One of the most critical parts of the assessment is determining where the company falls on the spectrum of automation maturity. Automation maturity refers to the company’s range of technical capabilities. The spectrum includes islands of automation at one end, which corresponds to low automation maturity, and insight-driven operations at the other, which demonstrates high automation maturity, illustrated by the diagram in Figure 1.

Figure 1: To assess digital transformation readiness, it’s important that companies determine where they fall on the spectrum of automation maturity. Image courtesy of Emerson.

Define the challenge and goals

In addition to a company’s readiness and level of automation maturity, it’s important to establish the challenges the digital transformation project should solve as well as its goals.

Again, a series of questions can help provide clarity:

  1. What are the specific constraints, pain points and areas that require improvement? For instance, a facility may have high levels of energy or resource waste.
  2. What is the desired outcome? Some examples include reducing energy use, increasing productivity, ensuring quality, minimizing downtime, empowering personnel, improving safety and achieving greater efficiency.
  3. What is the value of success versus the cost of doing nothing? This will help a company understand if the investment is worth pursuing.
  4. Is there buy-in from all stakeholders? This can include engineering, maintenance, operations and sales teams as well as customers and distributors.
  5. Where is the information that’s needed to solve the problem located? This may be a specific device, machine or system.

By breaking down the problem, clearly defining it, quantifying the expected value and involving everyone who will work with the technology or receive benefit, companies can establish a strong foundation that makes it easier to select and successfully deploy the right solution.

Choose a digital transformation platform and partner

Once CPGs are clear about their digital transformation readiness, challenges and goals, it’s time to select a hardware/software platform and partner. However, if these first few steps feel daunting, companies can start their journey by selecting a digital transformation partner to support them through all steps. In any case, it’s important to choose an experienced partner with proven success. That way, CPGs can minimize the learning curve, benefit from established methods and best practices, and focus on their businesses instead of time-consuming implementation details.

When considering a partner, it’s critical to consider the platform it offers. A complete digital transformation platform will be scalable to meet projects of all sizes and include field devices, such as sensors, actuators, motor controls and more, as well as offer computing options for gateways, PLCs/PACs, edge controllers, operator interfaces and industrial PCs. For the greatest flexibility and control, it’s essential that software and development environments are consistent and interconnected for control logic, HMI/SCADA, data servers, edge computing and connectivity, and analytics for efficiency and energy management.

Digital transformation projects are best served by a platform built on recognized and proven industry standards. It’s important to choose one that is interoperable with both operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) requirements and provides seamless integration from the factory floor to the cloud (Figure 2). Cybersecurity must be built-in throughout the platform, using proven secure-by-design and defense-in-depth measures, and it should also interface well with legacy systems.

While it can be tempting to source products for digital transformation projects from several vendors, this can introduce cybersecurity risks that are difficult to anticipate, test for and address.

Figure 2: The Emerson platform of Floor to Cloud™ solutions includes field devices, computing hardware, software and services that give CPGs real-time visibility and control that can optimize operations. Image courtesy of Emerson.

Start small, prove success then scale up

One of the most important things to remember about digital transformation is that it’s a journey rather than one all-encompassing project. The most effective journeys often begin with a small, defined area, such as one machine, line or facility. This can make it easier to integrate, measure parameters, make adjustments, achieve meaningful results and demonstrate the business case. In fact, many overly ambitious digital transformation undertakings have failed to deliver desired results due to their unwieldy size.

Once a CPG has successfully proven return on investment (ROI) in one area, then it can scale up. The next areas of opportunity often present themselves as digital transformation within an organization evolves and progresses.

Figure 3: One CPG reduced compressed air use by 15% using Emerson AVENTICSTM AF2 Flow Sensors combined with Emerson PACSystems edge controllers, Emerson MoviconTM software and the CPG’s existing systems. Image courtesy of Emerson.

A roadmap for digital transformation

Digital transformation gives CPGs greater visibility and control over their operations, making it possible for them to continually optimize sustainability, productivity, efficiency and much more. Although the journey is different for each company, using a proven digital transformation roadmap that serves projects of all sizes and stages of automation maturity can help ensure success.

Like any map, a digital transformation roadmap gives companies the clarity they need to get where they want to go faster and more efficiently. By assessing readiness, defining challenges and goals, choosing a platform and partner, and starting small before scaling up, companies can best position themselves to optimize their operations – and gain the competitive advantage.

Real-world energy savings

Challenge: As part of its net-zero strategy, one CPG company wanted to reduce the compressed air waste of its packaging lines. To achieve this, the company sought a way to monitor usage in real-time without impacting current production.

Solution: The company integrated smart pneumatic flow sensors in its lines that connected to an edge controller running visualization and analytical software. The sensors, deployed as standalone devices or as part of air preparation systems, use a calorimetric cell to accurately measure key parameters, including flow, pressure, velocity, volume and energy. Using this data, the sensors calculate and store statistics that can be sent to higher-level systems.

Success: Using the insights gained, the company detected compressed air leaks in their early stages and optimized supply pressure to machines, reducing compressed air use in its lines by 15%. (Figure 3).

About the Author

Silvia Gonzalez is the director of product management, software for Emerson’s controls and software business. Silvia is responsible for developing IIoT, industrial automation and controls technologies that bring increased value to customer operations. Learn more at

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