Is Your Business Ready for Packaging Automation?
Manual packaging processes make sense when you’re working with low throughput quantities.
However, when you face increased consumer demand, it is up to you to make a decision whether or not to invest in additional, more automated capital equipment. Making the shift from manual to automated packaging can seem like a hassle for new and small businesses, but bear in mind that avoiding the change can cost you even more in the long run.
Here are three basic steps that should help you to determine if packaging automation should be the next step for your product and business.
- Evaluating Your Business Goals
Identifying your business goals is the first step when determining if your business should move from manual to automated packaging. If your goal is to ship to a limited number of local stores, automated packaging probably isn’t the right solution for you. On the other hand, if you seek to expand your business into 100 regional stores, automation is something worthy of consideration. Defining your goals will help you discover which direction your business should take and if you should invest in new equipment.
- Analysis of your Current Packaging Environment
If you don’t know where you are, you can’t get where you want to go. This also applies when you are looking for a way to grow your business. An analysis of your current manufacturing process can help you discover the level of automation your business needs for the future.
Manufacturing areas you should assess include:
- Current output rates
- Any process bottlenecks
- Primary packaging types
Go deeper into product and packaging types you want to develop in the future. Also, make sure to analyze the guidelines and requirements set by your current or potential product retailers. All of this should help you when identifying packaging and equipment goals. Consider:
- Packaging weights
- Carton/case dimensions
- Pack counts
- Handhold requirements
- Analyze Your Material and Labor Costs
You don’t have to necessarily go for high-speed, fully-automated lines. Some small manufacturers run effectively with a semi-automatic, or slow- to medium-automated packaging lines. When analyzing secondary packaging options, make sure to look at all of the factors that can affect your bottom line, including:
- Time and resources associated with manually packaging and pallet-loading cases
- Material, storage and freight costs associated with corrugated shipping containers
- Equipment and material space savings
You’ll then be able to conclude if automation is feasible for your organization, what are your potential dollar savings and how large your capital equipment budget should be.
After you’ve completed your fact-finding steps, you are ready to make an informed decision about automation. If you share your findings with any potential packaging equipment manufacturers, they can develop a system according to your product and business goals. Automation is a prominent trend, but keep in mind that investing in automation has to make financial sense for your businesses, regardless of trends. If you are having second thoughts about automation, here are six signs that could show if your company needs to automate.
Sign 1 – Increased Production Demand
Does your main piece of equipment keep breaking down? Can your current production methods keep up with customer demands? Choosing the right automated system can help you achieve more efficient production and the ability to service big contracts.
Sign 2 – Increased Labor Costs
Employee safety in the workplace is a critical issue, especially in tough environments. Food processing or manufacturing jobs often mean working in wet and cold workplaces. Health issues due to working in unfriendly surroundings and repetitive motion injuries due to manual work are the main causes of absenteeism. Absenteeism, in the long run, increases your labor costs and decreases efficiency.
Sign 3 – Increased Competition
Your company probably needs to compete with similarly sized companies or with low-cost-labor companies from overseas. Automation is a good selling point. It shows your customers that you are able to provide a product or service at a lower cost and higher quality than an overseas provider. This can be a great advantage, especially when calculating time and cost needed for shipping.
Sign 4 –New Markets and New Opportunities
If you are a company that makes only one product for one industry, you may be facing a tough choice: expanding to new markets or going out of business. If cheaper products from overseas threaten your existence, you should consider automation and expanding your production to new markets.
Sign 5 – Too Much Waste
Automation can support your decision to reduce wasted materials, wasted time, and wasted effort in pursuit of lean manufacturing objectives. Flexible systems can save both material waste and reduce production time.
Sign 6 – Demand for Ultra-Precise Assembly
Today’s assembly spaces are getting smaller, creating the need for precision beyond human abilities, especially in electronics. Besides electronics, this trend is affecting the assembly of automotive parts, household appliances, and surgical devices.
Deciding to automate your packaging process is a big step and in order to make it happen, you will need a trusting partner. Nortech Packaging is dedicated to developing automated packaging solutions that will respond to the client’s unique needs. If you are considering automated pouch packaging, cartoning, palletizing, case packing, case loading, case erecting or line tracking, get a quote, and let’s get the automation started!