The company I work for is undertaking some interesting tech advances (not to high tech, just advancing from where we are today).
We manufacture flavorings for tobacco products. When the company was started in the 70s this was pretty much limited to cigarettes, making products that were designed to make African and Asian tobacco taste like American tobacco, which is far superior.
The company then expanded into flavorings for snuff and snus, and then into fruity flavors for cigars. These products have been extremely popular.
A logical extension from there was flavorings for shisha (tobacco for hookahs). This resulted in a huge explosion in the number of products offered, by now a few thousand different flavors.
Then came e-cigarettes and vaping. These products essentially are hookah flavors that have small %s of nicotine added, along with considerable amounts of propylene glycol (PG) and glycerine.
Up to this point, all flavors were compounded manually, with workers measuring out liquids into large tanks according to a recipe (developed by our R&D flavorists) and mixing them together.
Believing that the e-liquids represent the future, we are building a new on-site facility that will be dedicated to e-liquid production using a highly automated two-step process.
The first step brings in pure nicotine and combines it with PG to produce a 10% nic solution.
The second step combines the 10% nic, more PG, glycerine, and a variety of flavor concentrates (produced in the original building) to make e-liquid, which then will be put into cartomizers (for e-cigarettes) or bottles (for various types of vaping units).
Both steps of the process are highly automated, using a computer control system that contains the recipes for the e-liquids. The computer system controls storage tanks and a system of piping, pumps, and valves to measure out the inputs according to the recipe, mix these together, and decant them into storage containers.
This is a very exciting project to be a part of!
The cost of the new building is ~$4.1MM. The computer controlled compounding system is ~$1.6MM. Supposed to begin production in May.
At the same time we are implementing a new ERP system for both facilities which is going live in 3 weeks (fingers crossed, I'm PM of this portion of the project). This ERP system will have significant integration with the compounding control system.