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#PACKAGINGKNOWLEDGE
ULTIMATE PACKAGING  AUTOMATION GUIDE

Converting to an automated packaging system can save you time and money. 

DO ANY OF THESE SOUND FAMILIAR?

  • Your packaging line can’t keep up with your production rates.
  • You’re experiencing bottlenecks in your packaging area causing ripple effects up the line.
  • You’re struggling to keep up with customer demand.
  • You’re so dependent on manual labor that one employee missing their shift affects your entire day’s production schedule.
  • Packaging is sloppy and reports of product damage are rising.
  • Packaging quality goes down as shifts progress.
  • Packaging is taking up too much space in your facility.
  • You’ve got workers suffering from repetitive strain injuries.
  • You’re losing both product and profit.

With costs increasing daily, how can you stay competitive? You need to increase your throughput while reducing costs. It seems counterintuitive trying to do more with less resources, but that is the direction of American manufacturing. With imports arriving daily produced for much less, American companies are turning to new and innovative ways to make sure that they are competitive in the constantly evolving world economy.


THE BASICS

When it comes to purchasing, customer satisfaction is relative to the size and price of the products that they are having shipped. The more money they spend, the more likely they are to be concerned about the potential for damage. And knowing that they can return a product will do nothing to alleviate the anxiety and negativity they will feel should they need to exercise that capability.

End-of-line package automation is the new packaging buzzword because it saves time and money while decreasing product damages sustained in transit. When using automation, you’re using less materials, you’re ensuring a cleaner application, and, at the same time, you’re removing some of labor intensive aspect of packaging.

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT

Consumers have fairly simple and reasonable shipping expectations:

  • Deliver ordered items in a high-impact and long-lasting comfort cushion
  • Wraps the product without hiding it in annoying loose fill
  • Secure the item with less product and something that is a sustainable solution
  • Protect fragile, odd-sized, and odd-shaped products
  • Reduce the worry about product performance and the need to return
  • Lower or maintain current customer share of shipping cost

The majority of managers and the general public have very little understanding of the critical role that packaging plays. 



 FUNDAMENTALS OF AUTOMATION

 

Everything you’ve read and all the research you’ve found says automating the end-of-line packaging processes at your facility will help your overall goal of doing more with less. 
And, sure, it all sounds good, but how do you know if it’s right for your facility? Where do you start? What do you look for? And what about the return on your initial investment?

BUT, WHERE DO YOU EVEN START?

  • First, the solution needs to be simple and easily upgradeable. This ensures that you are capable of running future products at the future speeds that your market will inevitably demand. It also enables operators to change between products without having to make too many changes to the machine.
  • Second, remember that these machines, like any other, will need regular maintenance to prolong their life, minimizing downtime and maximizing utilization.
  • Third, the materials that you use in your machine play a critical role in their functioning. To perform at high efficiency, machines need to use high quality and consistent materials.

It all starts with a correctly assembled box.

Case erecting is a very time consuming and highly intensive manual proposition, especially because it takes time to properly position cases. Having them perfectly square ensures that your boxes are more durable, helping to withstand the rigors of shipping. 

Without ready cartons, your production line grinds to a halt. And, while installing a case erector will definitely increase your packaging and production speed, it can also help with other money saving efforts.

Automating this system can increase productivity up to 9 times having someone doing it by hand.

Make sure your cases are properly sealed.

There are two ways to seal your boxes: by hand or by machine. Hand sealing is slow, messy, and may require multiple strips which could possibly still not effectively hold because the pressure by which they were applied was not right. And with more workers on the floor comes additional labor costs and the propensity for injuries from repetitive motion.

According to major shippers, improper tape application is the leading cause of closure failure on a shipped box. Inconsistently sealed boxes create weak seals, leading to potential theft, damage, or product contamination.

It's what is inside that counts.

No matter what type of void fill you use, be it styrofoam, paper, air, or a foam-in-place system, it's critical to remember these main points:

  • The total cost of ownership of the solution: in-, into-, around-the box.
  • Look at the entire carton fulfillment and shipping process, providing the perfect package and protective elements, optimizing the package itself, minimizing labor, justifying application of automation, and optimizing the facility, as well as the capital expenditure and space utilization.
  • Reduction of delivery costs by minimizing package volume and optimizing freight and parcel transportation.
  • Reduction of unnecessary packaging, improving the appearance of the delivered parcel, and protecting the contents of the package the most effective, efficient, and sustainable way.

Don't forget about what you need to ship it.

Automating the wrapping or strapping portion of your shipping preparation allows you to obtain the highest performance from the material, while eliminating the difficults of manual work. 

Consider the following when you start the process of determining if automating is right:

  • How many loads are you currently or do you foresee shipping?
  • How are you currently palletizing and how many people does it take?
  • What types of loads are you working with? Are they irregular shapes, fragile, etc.? Are the loads heavy, light, stable, unstable, etc.?
  • Are you experiencing shipping damages? If so, do you know what is causing the damage?
  • Are you operating multiple shifts?

JUSTIFYING THE INVESTMENT

Return on investment: the three words that make or break a capital expenditure request. Learn how you can justitify the expense of automation in five specific ways.

DAMAGE REDUCTIONS

Nobody likes damages: you don't and your customers certainly don't. But, like it or not, the average estimate is that 1 in 10 packages is damaged in transit. 

Let automation fix your damage woes, once and for all.

When a person is responsible for erecting, packing, sealing, and wrapping cases, there is a higher chance for damage. That person will do a decent job at first, but after a while they will begin to produce inconsistent and substandard work. Machines have the ability to perform to the same levels for hours at a time without jeopardizing quality.

Using automation also removes the human error aspect of packaging that typically leads to damage. Prevention starts with the right evaluation of your process, followed by the proper automation to reduce damage.

INCREASED THROUGHPUT

It goes without saying: the key to successful warehouse operations is smooth, efficient product flow.

  • One person can erect about 3 cases per minute; one automated case erector can assemble approximately 27 boxes per minute.
  • One person can only seal 10 cases per minute; a case sealer can seal nearly 40 uniform boxes per minute.
  • One person can hand wrap approximately 15 pallets per hour; a semi-automatic machine can wrap up to 35 loads.

Machines can work long hours, as well as at night and on weekends, providing an overall increase in productivity. A cost comparison is the best analysis to determine if increased productivity can offset the incurred staff-related costs.

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MATERIAL USAGE REDUCTIONS

Anytime that you can reduce the percentage of material used, but keep
the same production levels or, even, increase your output quantity,
you’re automatically saving money. 

Consider this simple example: an automated sealer uses a single 1,500 yard roll of tape to yield an output of 3,176 boxes; by comparison, a person would utilize a 220 yard roll and yield only 110 boxes, equating to 6,352 yards of tape to achieve the same result as the machine. A 1,500 yard roll of tape will cost less per inch and will be need to be replaced far less than a 220 yard roll, potentially saving hundreds of dollars per year.

Additionally, you're ensuring consistency - consistency in the number of wraps, the number of straps, the amount of tape, and the amount of internal protection. 

LABOR SAVINGS

The cost of labor is steadily going up at an annual rate of 2%. Many companies estimate that up to 60% of their total packaging costs can be traced back to labor costs.

Despite the rise in labor costs, it’s possible to trim some costs in ways you may have never imagined. Ask yourself: will a machine cost more over its expected life than the labor you’d be replacing would cost? Can labor costs be saved elsewhere by freeing up expensive manpower for more valuable positions in your facility? And does it remove workers from safety risks that could cause accidents or injuries?

You can actually avoid some of these tedious steps when you automate your packaging process. When you eliminate unnecessary steps, you eliminate labor inefficiencies, refocusing on other more necessary tasks.

IMPROVED SAFETY & ERGONOMICS

Did you know that musculoskeletal injuries are the leading cause of employees missing work? And that non-fatal workplace injuries related to musculoskeletal disorders cost businesses more than $21 billion every year, accounting for over 40% of total cost burdens to business? 

The average back injury can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 in direct costs and from $30,000 to $100,000 in indirect costs. And warehouse workers are 8x more likely to sustain an on-the-job back injury than other workers.

The use of automated equipment is an effective way to prevent worker injuries. People may be needed to operate and program the equipment, but the actual hands-on work is left to the machine, protecting the health and safety of staff.

READY TO DIVE DEEPER?

We've given you the basics, and you're well on your way to making some very smart decisions about your total packaging process. Now is the time to dive deeper with our specialists.

Get our free eBook.

It's been proven that converting to an automated packaging system can save you time and money. Automation is the key to productivity.

  • Damage Rate Decreases
  • Labor Rate Decreases
  • Process Improvements
  • Material Usage Decreases
  • Worker Safety Increases
Download this guide today: no forms or contact info needed. Because when you're ready, we're here.
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