4 Packaging Automation Expectations Vendors Must Meet (and Exceed)

Rick Leonhard

There are certain cost centers in business that leaders look at as inherently tied to efficiency demands. Compliance will never make money for a business in the same way that packaging for CPG companies is an unavoidable cost.

This is why there is a constant demand for packaging innovation. Whether companies are looking to cut costs by decreasing downtime, energy usage, or increasing power/speed,Packaging Innovation.jpg there’s no doubt that leaders are under ever-increasing pressure to boost efficiency in packaging.

As manufacturers look to cut packaging costs, machinery vendors must stay on top of the latest trends in efficiency. According to a panel of manufacturing brand owners at the 2016 PMMI Annual Meeting, modern packaging vendors must meet the following 4 expectations.

1. Changeover Overtaking Running/Output Speed

When you think about greater packaging efficiency, the first thought is often increasing running/output speed. However, sometimes there is only so much speed you can add before you have to look elsewhere for efficiencies.

Packaging machinery is being indirectly affected by trends toward personalization in industries like CPG and healthcare. As manufacturers meet demands for more and more SKUs, shorter production runs are putting pressure on packaging machinery to speed up changeovers.

The motto at the PMMI Annual Meeting was “no time, no tools, no talent.” As a packaging machinery vendor, this is the changeover expectation you must meet with your equipment offerings.

2. Machinery Must Reduce Learning Curves

One expert on this panel said that “mechatronics students have jobs before we can even talk to them.” There is an obvious skills gap as packaging automation vendors continue to innovate and the hiring pool doesn’t seem to be keeping up.

Packaging machinery must solve the hiring problem in two ways—first, by reducing the learning curve for existing employees; and second, by leveraging artificial intelligence to reduce labor needs.

Because the packaging industry is constantly changing, it might seem difficult to invest in “smart” technology because it could be obsolete so quickly. Flexibility in machinery will be key moving forward to avoid this issue.

3. Machinery Should Execute Multiple Roles

Floor space is always a metric that manufacturers look to control and optimize. However, packaging machinery used to be static—one machine for one function. Designing machinery in this way helped ensure consistency on the factory floor.

_mg_5546.jpgNow, technology has advanced to the point that manufacturers expect more dynamic machinery. For example, a packaging machine that acts as both a labeler and a multi-packer.

This doesn’t mean you should overhaul your entire line of machinery. But be aware that multi-functional machinery is a must-have for some manufacturers and add that to your innovation plans.

4. Greater Performance at Lower Costs

This expectation shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone—manufacturers will always want more affordable machinery (especially as technology cycles continue to speed up).

Because ROI is such a concrete measurement for manufacturers, machinery vendors must pay special attention that innovation doesn’t compromise affordability.

Meeting Expectations Isn’t Enough—You Have to Continuously Exceed Them

As we’ve said, the packaging industry is constantly changing as manufacturers look to optimize the cost center in their organizations. These might be the top 4 expectations for brand owners today, but what’s going to happen as machine learning, the Internet of Things, augmented reality and more continue to advance?

The key to exceeding manufacturer expectations as a packaging machinery vendor is to remain flexible and stay on the cusp of innovation. However, it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest innovations in packaging machinery and automation.

If you want to learn more about how packaging machinery vendors are staying ahead of manufacturing expectations by delivering ongoing innovation, check out this segment from Innovations on the Discovery Channel.

Watch Innovations on Discovery