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Thinking about packaging automation? 5 key things to consider

You’d be amazed at the number of conversations we had with people about packaging automation at this year's Foodtech Packtech 2018. It was a hot topic, that’s for sure. Which makes sense given current problems with labour shortages in some sectors and, certainly at the moment, food contamination scares.

With the growing implementation of robotics and automation into production lines, there is the opportunity to reduce costs, provide more consistent quality products and improve profit margins. But just how much automation do you really need on your packaging line? How do you ensure you don’t impact your current operation and customer experience? And how do you know whether it’s time to take the plunge?

 

We work with businesses all the time who are taking that step. We have found there are some key points that need considering prior to committing to the capital equipment. Here are 5 simple questions worth asking.


1. Could you be selling more product?

Are you struggling to keep up with demand for your product? Or if you could make more product can you secure more sales?

 

2. Would you benefit from reduced labour costs?

The obvious answer to this question is ‘yes’. The real question is the Return On Investment (ROI)? Sometimes the capital expense is daunting however often once the ROI has been penned on paper it stacks up surprisingly well.

 

3. What is the cost of the ongoing consumable that is required for the level of automation you are considering?

More often than not, changes in automation require a change to the packaging. With the consumable being the ongoing cost we encourage anyone considering a change to ensure marriage between the machinery and the consumable is considered for the most economic outcome long term. Once the capital equipment has been committed to there is no reverse!

 

4. Do you have any risks?

With people in the mix, does your product pose any H&S risks? What is the risk of intentional or unintentional product contamination? Could this be mitigated through automation? The answer is yes, more often than not.

 

5. Are you prepared for the upfront investment?

Packaging automation doesn’t come for free. But your initial investment is only part of the picture. You need to take into account the total cost of ownership. Do some forecasting and calculate how much you will spend if you maintain the status quo versus your estimated future spend if you automate. You’ll soon work out how much time it will take to get a return on your investment (or not).


Always start with your product

Perhaps most importantly, when you’re weighing up your packaging automation options, you need to start with your product. What are the important factors in terms of your product’s shelf life, transport/handling, point-of-sale etc. You need to get the packaging right and match it to the automation process. And that’s where we come in here at Smart Pack.

Our 360-degree service looks at how your packaging fits into the big picture of your business. We are able to customise the design of your packaging to suit the requirements of your product from the production line to the consumer. We work closely with packaging machinery suppliers to ensure you get a product that is right for your customers and your business.

With the increased throughput that packaging automation can provide, storage space, cash flow and lead times can be tricky for any business. To help we offer a tailored inventory management service, where we can hold your product in stock for you and make things run a little bit smoother.

So if you’re thinking about packaging automation, contact us. We will work with you from start to finish to make sure you get the best product for your needs.