Moving from manual packaging to an automated packing line may seem complex, but it doesn’t have to be. If you ensure that the equipment’s specifications match your needs and product offerings, you’ll simplify the company’s daily operations and get a higher ROI. In this guide, we’ll discuss a few signs that it’s time to automate a company’s packaging processes.
The Target Market’s Level of Supply and Demand
Understanding the company’s growth potential and target market may, in some cases, justify the purchase of automated packaging equipment. Are there plans to add new product offerings? Is the company expected to go through a prolonged period of growth? Even in cases where demand is likely to decrease, automation may help lower overall operational costs.
Your Workforce is Overwhelmed by the Level of Consumer Demand
When considering the purchase of automated packaging equipment, the labor force is one of the first things to think of. If more orders are coming in and the team is finding it difficult to meet its production goals, it may be the right time to implement automated packaging strategies.
Time-consuming packaging processes may lead to delivery delays, which in turn cause opportunity losses due to client dissatisfaction. If you’re finding that the team can’t deliver, the knee-jerk reaction may be to increase the size of the labor force. However, it’s equally important to examine the impact of the company’s current processes and its manual packaging machinery. When machines do more work each day, they need more frequent preventive maintenance. Furthermore, you’ll have to consider downtime when making monthly, weekly, and daily production schedules.
Increases in demand may prove to be too much for employees to handle, and they may lead to higher turnover and an increased risk of injury. When a company encounters these issues, it’s time to consider packaging automation.
It Takes Too Long to Restock
When the supply of packaging materials is short, most companies notify their vendors and place orders. After the order is accepted, production begins, with quality checks and shipping to follow. For large orders of packing materials, the entire process may take a month or more.
These delays can present problems for companies that don’t keep enough packing materials in stock, especially with sudden surges in demand. In these cases, prompt vendor responses are a lifesaver. Conversely, if it takes too long to restock, the company may incur losses and miss big sales.
This phase of the packaging process can be automated via the establishment of an open PO (purchase order) with a packaging vendor. These materials are typically ordered in large quantities across several SKUs, which leads to multiple purchases and delivery dates. When packaging is needed, open purchase orders can decrease stock replenishment times by up to five days.
Automation through open POs removes any chance of error, as things can be overlooked or go missing. With this form of packaging automation, you won’t have to spend time placing repeated orders for the same packaging materials.
Fulfillment Costs are Rising
Some companies aren’t sure how much order fulfillment costs. The total includes facilities, labor, inventory costs, equipment, returns, chargebacks, and the cost of packaging, among other factors. As a business grows, its per-unit fulfillment cost should decrease. However, a movement toward faster shipping and fulfillment, along with inefficient use of space and labor, can turn a profitable company into a loss leader. With an automated box making line, you’ll do much to lower fulfillment costs.
When Labor Costs Exceed the Expense of Automation
Another reason for packaging automation is to save on labor costs. If employees are paid to work with machines, costs include hourly pay, benefits, insurance, and more. If you were to add up all the money saved on labor, automated packaging machines can pay for themselves and turn a profit in a year or less.
Number of Boxes Per Minute
Determining your current and future PPM (product per minute) requirements may dictate the need for automated packaging equipment. Are your products loose when they’re moved to the packaging area, or do they arrive directly from a production facility? If products are loosely transported, the packing machine will determine the PPM. Automating the packing line will expedite the process and save a substantial amount of time.
Regardless of how a team has been trained, manual packing always comes with a greater chance of loss than there is with an automated packing line. This equipment is more precise than a human worker could ever be. For instance, when employees manually assemble boxes and wrap pallets with plastic, the film is often wasted. However, an automatic box building or wrapping machine allows for more consistent packaging usage.
Operations are Getting Too Monotonous
Do your packaging line employees do numerous repetitive tasks that a machine could do much faster? If your box-making employees are doing repetitive tasks, a machine can do it quicker. With automated box-making machines, you’ll save on labor costs and allow the factory’s workers to direct their focus to other, more important tasks.
Multiple Change Times and Products
When a company makes several products throughout the week, time may be lost during changeover periods. Pauses in packaging are costly, not just because they decrease production, but because they tie up the labor force.
An automated packaging line allows you to switch between different box sizes and it reduces the need for packaging lines. Choosing machines that accommodate boxes of varying sizes helps companies save money and optimize factory space.
When Maintenance Gets Too Tough
While box-making machines are designed to work for years, daily use takes a toll. One of the most evident signs that a piece of equipment is past its prime is an increased need for maintenance. Frequent breakdowns, production bottlenecks, problems finding parts, and slower performance are indicative of machines that need to be replaced. Repairs and downtime make it hard to meet marketing and productivity goals, but an automated packaging line will help increase profits.
When the Competition Pulls Ahead
Packaging is changing by the minute. New formats, SKUs, and technologies are emerging in support of new marketing strategies. Companies must change to keep pace with market innovations and customer demand. An automated packing machine will help you keep up with trends, fulfill customers’ needs, and offer them the experience they deserve.
A Need for Greater Accuracy
Anytime people are involved in production, there’s a margin for error. Manual packaging can be a tiring, monotonous job, and people may spill contents or make other mistakes. Packaging automation ensures high quality and consistent accuracy while reducing mistakes.
Product Safety Concerns
As in other industries, safety is a primary concern in the packaging sector. If products aren’t well-packed, customers will simply take their business elsewhere. Problems are much more common in places using manual packaging assembly. Automated box-making machines create packaging products consistently and safely, eliminating the risks associated with manual intervention.
Too Much Time Has Passed Since the Last Process Audit
Many companies use manual labor, but they often encounter problems during periods of rapid growth. When this occurs, it’s easy to make business decisions out of desperation and a need to keep customers satisfied.
Though rapid growth is a great thing, it can lead to other issues. Once things have settled down, though, it’s best to consider a process audit. Many companies run inefficiently, especially in the packaging department. Here, automated processes make good financial sense.
You’re Running Out of Room
If the warehouse is always overflowing and there’s not enough room to move, your first reaction may be to rent more space. However, a well-implemented automated box building line, along with optimization of the factory’s layout and other processes, can generate a higher throughput from the same size space. By automating your packaging line, you can postpone a move to a bigger facility, even if the business is growing.
How Packaging Automation Helps
Automation technology improves the performance, optimization, and speed of systems and equipment at the business, facility, line, and unit levels. In the recent past, numerous developments have substantially improved box fabrication line operations. These advances include:
- Servo drives and other motion control methods
- Machine vision systems and sensors
- Touchscreen interfaces
- Wireless communication capabilities that allow facility managers to monitor equipment from anywhere there’s an internet connection
If you’re looking for ways to streamline operations, decrease costs, and optimize the labor force, an automated packaging and box building line is a great way to do it.
As companies like Amazon raise customers’ expectations, it’s more important than ever to provide fast, safe, and secure shipping and packaging services. Process automation helps but automating a packaging line can be quite confusing. To get started, consider talking to a partner who will look into your company’s needs and plans for future growth. The team at SBL Machinery can identify areas for cost reduction, productivity, and packaging line efficiency. Download our product catalog, contact us by email, or call us to get started.