IMA and thinking digitally

One of Italy’s foremost manufacturers, IMA made news at interpack with a presence that could not go unnoticed: 3,500 m2 with machines and lines for processing and packaging, the culmination of a purposeful engineering that transforms “thinking globally” into concrete, sustainable action. During the official presentation of IMA Digital, the company announced its personal journey with 4.0, winning over upwards of 4,400 visitors at its stand.

At the end of February 2017, IMA’s Chairman and CEO Alberto Vacchi presented the firm’s upper management with the IMA Digital program, consisting in a series of projects representing the company’s commitment to the smart factory and smart products. In order to oversee these projects, a management apparatus was developed ad hoc to engage with the most advanced technologies and apply IT logics to existing relationships, both inside and outside the concern.

  IMA Group: machines on stage
At interpack, the IMA Group has presented new machines and complete lines for the processing and packaging of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, tea, coffee and food. A wide range of solutions to meet all requirements, of which we present a selection.
CROMA, the new machine for continuous coating

And so, with the whole team convinced that digital innovation is key to further enhancing the group’s competitiveness, Vacchi himself declared:

«Making use of the tools of the information society has been in our DNA since these were first applied to mechanized systems, but today it is necessary to go further, and we are organizing ourselves in order to go about it in the best and most concrete possible way. But we are also alive to the potential strengths and weaknesses of fully realized Industry 4.0, and this is why we have also been engaged in a constructive conversation with labor in order to better understand the forces at play in the so-called “fourth industrial revolution”».

P100, packaging machine for portion cups


Being Smart
Just a few months separate that statement and the official presentation of IMA Digital at interpack, but at the fair the message was made with clarity and transparency, laying out the group’s roadmap to the Smart Factory, Smart Machines, Smart Organisation and Smart Services.

The common goal: revisiting business and machine concepts from an Industry 4.0 standpoint to deliver further innovation to users.

Following a precise timetable, the areas on which the research and innovation team coordinated by Dario Rea and that coordinated by Pier Luigi Vanti (ICT corporate manager) will be the IoT and digitization of the supply chain and internal processes. In practice, IMA Digital will be engaged in developing digital dialog between the concern, the machines and “the things”, but also between the concern and its suppliers and, in the medium-term, between customers and employees.     

FTC 578-C, continuous high-speed vertical cartoner

More dialog and information
By relying on IoT tools, the group will first of all be able to enhance the capacity of systems to dialog among themselves, communicating remotely through a control room and using helper robots to assist operators in tasks that require little training.With this approach, it remains essential that personnel be trained to work with the machines, whether in-house maintenance technicians or the operators of customers that use IMA machines for day-to-day production.To this end, they will be supplied with tools that act as an interface with the plants, enabling immediate access to information, which is especially important for maintenance.

VERTI | CARE, vertical cartoner

For example, using augmented reality devices, a tablet and an app currently in development, technicians will be able to easily identify the component in an installation in need of attention by navigating intuitive menus from which they can select only the information required for the specific maintenance task. This lays the groundwork for efficient scheduled maintenance. Indeed, researchers are studying technology that could assess wear and consumption of machine components through built-in communication and networking processes that transmit warning signals directly to the operator or to the control room.

595, single serve coffee capsule filling and sealing machine

The practice of virtual reality
It almost seems like a contradiction of terms, but IMA has already been experimenting for some time with combining augmented reality and traditional design tools. This was demonstrated in full by the concern’s presence at interpack. As both Rea and Vanti observed, virtual reality opens «a path of opportunity dominated by wearable technology, which is changing the way developers and customers approach, handle and study products».

C27-E, a 300 bags/minute packaging solution with knot technology for tea and herbs

With the purpose of enhancing sensory perception through the addition of electronically processed and transmitted data that would be otherwise impossible to see and touch, IMA is applying virtual reality to its marketing/sales and design operations.

In the case of the former, the aim is to offer an unprecedented and impactful experience to the potential user of one of their machines, inviting them to study its mechanisms and functioning even before acquisition.

C1290, automatic tube filler
SENSITIVE AP400 COMPACT, latest development in carton labelling

As for design applications, augmented reality already makes it possible to inspect mechanical systems, enabling assembly and disassembly.

It can also facilitate communication among designers and planners across the globe through the use of model/prototype projections that make wood and plastic mock-ups obsolete.

Organizing knowledge (and knowhow)
In IMA’s view, digitization will inevitably impact the places in which the company operates and maintains collaborative relations with a diversified network of suppliers.

The same goes for internal business organization tout court. With this in mind, it is up to the management to face a major cultural transformation, one which entails a willingness to create maximum interaction between structures – be they technical, administrative or financial - so that a common language is spoken at all levels of business.   


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