The Advantages and Challenges of Packaging Machine Flexibility

05 November 2021 //

Packaging Line EfficiencyPackaging System Upgrade

In packaging machinery, the term flexibility is almost exclusively used in a positive light. Machine flexibility describes a piece of equipment’s ability to handle many different products or formats. While flexibility is certainly a noble goal, failing to acknowledge that a packaging machine that handles many products or functions will require some compromises can often lead to unpleasant surprises and lost efficiency. Think of it in terms of a car. You can’t expect to purchase a vehicle that will be the best at transporting the kid’s hockey team in comfort and doing hot laps at the track.

A good starting point to achieve the most benefit from packaging equipment flexibility while minimizing the potential downsides is to be aware of the advantages and challenges that it offers.

What Are the Advantages of Using Machines?

Automated packaging machines use packaging machinery at multiple states of the packaging process, such as sealing boxes or coding and strapping products. Packaging machines can be either fully or semi-automatic and can aid in numerous tasks. Semi-automatic packaging machines require additional manual input when compared to fully automatic machines.

The type of automated packaging machine that’s right for you depends on the kind of products you need to package regularly and the return on investment you can receive by implementing these machines. Whether choosing semi- or fully automatic packaging machinery, your business can take advantage of many benefits. Some of the most common advantages of packaging machines include:

  • Extend useful lifecycle: Flexibility in design can extend the useful lifecycle of a particular piece of equipment. This is particularly true for consumer products, where the lifecycle is much shorter than it used to be. A customer recently shared that they plan to use a piece of secondary packaging machinery for approximately four to five years before losing the competitive advantage on a new product and packaging format and retooling that line to do something else.
  • Increase reaction time: Flexibility in packaging machinery allows for rapid reaction to minor or temporary changes required in secondary packaging formats, even when the primary product remains common. For example, supplying club stores with secondary packaging formats that are unique and temporary.
  • Accommodate variations: Flexibility allows for the accommodation of variations in the product being packaged. An example of this would be products that have density variations due to manufacturing processes or changes to input components.
  • Enhance productivity: Mannually packing boxes, pallets, or other products can be a time-consuming process. Additionally, most employees experience fatigue or lose motivation performing strenuous and monotonous activities each day. Packaging machines can efficiently package materials at higher speeds without the burnout associated with manual processes. Automated systems are also more consistent to improve cycle time and overall operations.
  • Improve customer confidence: The aesthetic of a product and its packaging directly influence a customer’s opinion of your business as a whole. Automated packaging can promote your brand and foster a more positive first impression, improving customer confidence. Higher levels of customer confidence increase the likelihood of customers choosing to purchase from your company again, increasing profits and revenue.
  • Lower expenses: Manual processes can be time-consuming, expensive, and fluctuate in price, making it difficult to calculate appropriately and budget packaging costs per product or order. On the other hand, automated packaging machines provide consistent workflows, making it much easier to determine a fixed price of packaging per order or product. Additionally, you can reduce manual labor requirements, allowing your employees to work on other essential tasks. Another benefit of automated packing is that these machines are precise and only use the amount of material they need to produce an order, greatly reducing waste.
  • Increase return on investment (ROI): While automated machine packaging may seem like an expensive addition to your business, many businesses can cover the costs of this expense in just a few months because of the increase in productivity and efficiency. In some cases, you may even be eligible for certain tax benefits, including write-offs.

What Are the Challenges of Using Machines?

While automated machines are a highly effective and efficient solution for many businesses, they come with some challenges to consider when determining if automated packaging machinery is right for you and your business. Before implementing automated package machinery into your business, you may want to consider these potential challenges:

  • Discipline in operation: Flexibility in machinery requires discipline in operation. This typically relates to adjustments of a mechanical or electronic setting and the need for operational discipline to establish centerlines needed to run a particular product or format. In many years of designing equipment, we have realized the root cause of efficiency losses is not having established procedures and protocols for when and how to use an adjustment point.
  • Compromise: Flexibility in packaging machinery will always require compromise in at least one key area: performance, speed, price, changeover time/consistency, footprint, or complexity. While undesirable, this challenge can be mitigated by analyzing these areas and proactively determining the order of compromise. Acceptance and management of this can also help in supplier selection. If someone tells you that you can have it all without any compromise, you may want to think again. It’s kind of like a used car salesman telling you the 5,400 lb., 8-passenger SUV you are considering will also deliver the “best” mpg and 0-60 mph in 5 seconds.

Premium Production Solutions

Flexibility in packaging machinery is an excellent solution for businesses, but knowing the potential challenges of adding too much is crucial. Our team at EDL will help ensure that you get the most out of your new packaging machine. Contact us today if you need help prioritizing your needs and understanding the right balance between design and flexibility.