Adapting to increased demand as your business grows is essential for safeguarding your success. Packaging automation can significantly impact your production capabilities and profit margins, but understanding your options and how to get started can be challenging. In this guide, we will help you understand when it makes sense to implement packaging line automation, as well as the types of automation available and how they work.
When to Automate Your Packaging Line
Deciding to invest in new technology is a big decision for any business. If you’re exploring your options, the following considerations will illustrate when it’s most essential to introduce automation to your packaging line.
Growing Markets and Demand
Review your target market and projected growth potential. If you’re adding new products in the near future or anticipating large amounts of growth, automation can help you keep up with demand. Determine what your packages-per-minute (PPM) currently is and consider what you expect your output to be over the next 12-24 months.
Your Employees Can’t Keep Up
When researching packaging automation, a business’s labor force is one of the first areas that should be reviewed. Automation is particularly beneficial in situations such as:
- Your demand is increasing but your team is struggling to make their targets
- You have a high employee turnover rate
- You’re experiencing a significant amount of workplace injuries
If these situations are directly related to your packaging processes, automation can decrease repetitive strain injuries and worker compensation claims, and reduce the need for investing in improved ergonomics.
Free Up Employees Performing Repetitive Tasks
When your workforce performs repetitive tasks, they are more likely to experience injuries and feel unfulfilled. Introducing automation not only improves your production speed but also allows your employees to focus on more rewarding tasks. One example of this is using a case erector to form the boxes your products are shipped in. Automatic and semi-automatic case erectors operate quickly and effectively, boosting packaging productivity.
Need to Reduce Waste
No matter how well-trained your team is, when manual labor is used in packaging lines there will be an increased amount of waste material and damaged products. To minimize these issues, solutions like stretch wrap machines and case sealers consistently use the right amount of product to protect your shipments.
Reduced Time Spent Waiting for Lengthy Changeovers
If you produce multiple types of items, facilitating product changeovers can be time-consuming, even requiring as much as 4 to 8 hours to complete. Automation reduces the time needed to perform these tasks.
Types of Automation
Now that you know some scenarios in which automation would be most helpful, let’s explore the various packaging line automation types. Automated technology can be categorized into three types:
- Hardware automation. Equipment is dedicated to performing a specific task or group of tasks. Hardware automation is ideal for high-throughput operations without variation. These machines are typically custom-made and best for applications where product requirements will not change as implementing modifications in the future is challenging and costly. Examples include case erectors, case sealers, sorters, and conveyors.
- Programmable automation. This type of automation is more flexible than hardware automation. It is computer controlled and, unlike hardware automation, can be remotely adjusted and reprogrammed to handle production changes. The central computer facilitates smooth and rapid process changes, such as product design variations or continuously producing mixtures of products. Programmable automation is ideal for businesses that know their needs will change in the future or need to run multiple batches of similar products. Examples include palletizing robots and cobots.
- Flexible automation. Flexible automation is also programmable but with nearly no downtime or manual procedures required to switch between tasks. These solutions involve a programmable robotic arm and either custom or off-the-shelf end effector attachments. With this technology, there is no need to group your products into identical batches and no downtime for configuring production equipment.
For many businesses, the best automation solution is not only one type of technology but rather a combination of multiple types.
Planning for Automation
When you’re beginning the process of implementing packaging automation, determining your needs and planning carefully is crucial. The best way to accomplish this is by selecting the right automation partner. TPC has nearly 60 years of industry experience and has helped thousands of customers adopt innovative automation solutions.
When you partner with us, we will guide you through the entire process and ensure you obtain the ideal solution for your needs. If you’re starting your project, some initial considerations you can begin with include:
- Your throughput, accuracy, and changeover time to measure the level of automation you’ll need
- Your packaging line footprint and how much space is available for equipment
- Product variability
- Process bottlenecks
- Long-term goals and costs
Our team has brought the most advanced packaging automation technology to many demanding industries. We take the time to understand your needs and can help you plan a successful automation project.
Benefits of Automating Your Packaging Line
Investing in packaging line automation can deliver numerous advantages for your business:
- Save money while increasing output
- Take advantage of tax deductions for capital expenditure
- Increase packaging speeds
- Minimize repetitive tasks by improving ergonomics to help eliminate workplace injuries and workman’s compensation premiums
- Reduce material costs and lower carbon footprint
- Experience enhanced production capabilities with an excellent ROI
- Improve your product’s look and quality with perfectly erected and sealed packaging
Whether you’re dealing with an inability to meet demand, a challenging labor market, or workplace safety issues, TPC can help you find an automated solution that delivers the benefits you’re looking for.
Automate Your Packaging Line with TPC Packaging Solutions
At TPC Packaging Solutions, we offer automation technology for every stage of the packaging process. From entry-level packaging automation to complete turnkey systems, we provide optimized solutions tailored to your business’s unique needs. We also provide ROI statements to help you understand how quickly your new equipment will pay for itself. To learn more about our packaging line automation solutions, contact our team today.