David Roberge

By: David Roberge on October 8th, 2014

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Automated Packaging vs Manual: Potentially Reducing Labor Costs

Equipment | The Business of Packaging

Do You Produce Enough to Justify an Automatic Shrink Wrapper?

It's all really a function of how many packages per minute (PPM) you need and how much you are spending on labor. Here's what you are looking at with going automatic or staying manual with your packaging machinery:

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Your Equipment

Manual Packaging Equipment

Lower Capital Investment
  • Its cheaper initially, so no need to worry about a large investment.
Odd Shaped/Unusual/Large Products
  • If you have a product you are packaging that is oddly shaped, unusual in nature, or very large it may not be easily automated. Take a look at the packaging machinery available and see if your product fits within the specs. 

You Might Not Be Taking A Long-Term View Of The True Cost

  • We see a number and automatically think $$$. Not weighing out the options, we just don't see the future benefits of the initial cost being returned quickly. Sometimes spending more initially saves you BIG BUCKS! Think long term when making your decisions.

Automatic Packaging Equipment

Reduce Headcount
  • Automated packaging can reduce your staff headcount.
  • Lets say you have one employee working the manual equipment. Lets just say their pay is $15.00 per hour, fully loaded. You know, Social Security payments, worker’s comp, unemployment  insurance- $31,200+. Even if you hire temps and pay minimum wage, each employee is costing you over $20,000 per year (in Massachusetts anyways).

Your Needs

How many Packages Per Minute (PPM) do you need? 

  • Is packaging speed determined by upstream production (Your product is spitting out at X/min)? 
    • If so, your production speeds set your PPM.


  • Is your product accumulated and brought over to the packaging equipment in bulk? 
    • If so, your packaging machine sets the PPM. If you are accumulating before packaging you could run 1 day on the packaging lines instead of 2, you just need equipment that runs fast enough. There is a potential to save $6,000 annually depending on your labor cost structure

If you could run the line faster, could you reduce labor costs? 

  • How much are you spending on labor to run your packaging line?
  • How many hours does the line run?
  • If you eliminate 1 position, the savings is anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000 or more annually, again depending on your labor cost structure. 

Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to go over your current annual costs and weigh your options.

Are you asking your supplier the right questions to your team for your next machinery purchase? Download this checklist to make sure:

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About David Roberge

I am grateful for my 9 years as part of the outstanding Industrial Packaging team. I was able to hang out with some of the most knowledgeable folks in the packaging industry. I feel even luckier that I was able to share that knowledge with you. I love learning, hiking, and growing people and teams both personally and professionally, and helping companies grow better.