The packaging sector has evolved significantly in recent years in order to adapt to new challenges, such as the growth of e-commerce. Packaging automation has been core to this, driving improvements in processing power, safety performance, batch control, security, operational integration, waste management and more.
Maintaining an efficient and cost-effective operation without compromising the quality of a product is the number one priority for most manufacturing lines. With increasing demand for advanced packaging technologies that are faster, cheaper and more accurate than human labour, automation has become indispensable to the industry.
We are also seeing the evolution of a much shorter product life cycle, driven largely by the food sector (responsible for 51% of all retail sales in the UK) through its desire for both product freshness and a reduction in food waste.
Packaging machinery and systems exist in many different forms, from semi-automated options to fully automated equipment for packaging lines. Over recent years, the design of innovative packaging machines incorporating mechatronic solutions have enabled the combined functionality of what were once standalone systems, as well as the integration of new fully automated machinery, into existing semi-automated operations.
Many companies have parts of their business already automated – however the technology they have in place is outdated or is no longer meeting their requirements.
STRETCH WRAPPING AUTOMATION
One example is the packaging and logistics department at a leading crisps manufacturer, who had been struggling with their existing semi-automated stretch wrapping system for some time. They were experiencing frequent downtime through film breakages, as well as the system failing to cope with the fragility of the boxes when obtaining the right film tension to contain the load securely. Antalis reviewed their packaging operation and were able to recommend a new and more efficient stretch wrapping solution that would not only save money, but also increase the integrity of their palletised crisp boxes.
The company consequently invested in two new Lantech semi-automatic Q300 stretch wrapping solutions, fitted with special mast extensions to cope with the 2.2m high crisp pallets, as well as switching to FiberFilm, the latest innovation in stretch-wrap film. 250-grams of standard stretch film per pallet was reduced down to around 85-grams per pallet with the new solution, so not only are they using less film, the cost per roll has also reduced, giving them a double saving.
Introducing automation at the point where items are being batched and palletised can deliver substantial savings. In addition, automated systems can make it possible to maximise the stretch potential of the film, increasing the yield of speciality films by as much as 300% per roll and thus reducing the amount of film used, as well as overall consumable costs.
One pet supplies company Antalis assisted was putting 700g of wrapping film around every pallet, essentially losing a significant amount of money, but they were concerned that they wouldn’t get a return on the investment needed to improve the process. By installing a new Lantech fully-automated wrapping machine, they reduced their wrap cost per pallet by 70p, which through 500 pallets a day took out £120k of stretch wrap cost a year, paying for the machine in less than 12-months. The whole process is faster, safer and more accurate.
Semi-automated systems such as the stretch wrappers I’ve mentioned are A very popular solutions, delivering a consistent finish and containment to the pallets, a higher speed of process, and freeing up labour constraints and health and safety issues. They also still allow operators to “adjust” the application of the stretch film if they need to. However, we are seeing more and more customers upgrade to fully automated systems, to deliver a very high throughput and consistent results which simply cannot be matched by labour, and in turn will save money in the long run.
IT’S A WRAP
Whether a company is looking to bring in automated machinery and systems for the first time, or they want to build on the machinery and systems they have in place, there is no doubt that this route offers many benefits for businesses – it’s simply about understanding what you need now, as well as what you might require in five years’ time and where the most value lies for your specific operation.
As well as having the most comprehensive range of equipment and expertise of any distributor in the UK, Antalis Packaging also sells the world’s leading brand in Wrappers and Case equipment with over 2000 placements in the UK market. We also have our own in-house engineering team and facility, and the capability to design and engineer solutions, as well as having high quality partners who we collaborate with on the more comprehensive projects.