Packaging Automation: Can You Automate Your Packaging?
When you first start thinking about packaging automation, the first question to answer is, can you automate your packaging?
Many companies want to automate their packaging. And they assume that this can be done by purchasing the right equipment and implementing the proper processes.
However, not all packaging can be automated. Automating your packaging may not be an option if your product packaging is very complicated with many steps.
If your packaging is relatively simple, there is a good chance that your packaging can be automated. But, how can you identify if your packaging can be automated?
What questions do you need to answer? How can you find out if packaging automation is in the cards for your business?
Before you attempt to automate your packaging, you will have to answer the questions above. And to do that, you need to figure out a few things in advance.
This article will help you to identify if your packaging can be automated or not.
Is Packaging Automation Right For You?
You want to automate your packaging. You currently use physical labor to manually package your products. But you have been thinking about automating your packaging for some time now.
While you may want to automate your packaging, this may or may not be possible. But how do you figure out if you can automate your packaging or not?
To know if you can automate your packaging, you need to understand your current packaging protocols and if those processes can be done with automated machinery.
But how do you identify if this can be done for your product packaging? Below, we will take a look at the factors that impact the ability to automate. With this information, you will be able to figure out if you can, in fact, automate your packaging.
Packaging Automation: Repetition
The first thing you need to consider when figuring out if you can automate your packaging or not is repetition.
Simply put, the definition of repetition is repeating a process that has already been done. Suppose it is easy to repeat the actions that go into your manual packaging. In that case, it may be possible for you to automate your packaging.
But, how do you know if your packaging is repetitious enough to automate? First, you need to take a look at your repetitive actions being completed on your packaging line.
What are the things on your packaging line that are being done repeatedly within the same area of your packaging line?
The only way you can automate or know that scalable automation works are if something is presented in the same way every time.
Suppose the actions on your packaging line for each product are notably different each time. In that case, automation will not be possible for your products.
Unlike human laborers, fully automated equipment cannot "think on the fly." So if a process needs to change quite a bit from one product to the next, you won't be able to automate your packaging.
For example, if a product is coming down a packaging line and is not coming out in the same position every time, a robot or automated machine won't know to make the necessary changes needed to complete that package.
So if there are any places on your packaging line where human laborers are repeating the same action for the same product repeatedly, that is a good indication that this particular process can be automated.
Packaging Automation: Precision
The next thing you need to identify is how precise an automated action needs to be. For example, let's say you are putting a block inside a box.
Let's say that block needs to go inside the box, but there is very little wiggle room inside the box. If it is a struggle for your human laborer to put that block inside of the box, a machine or robot will not be able to complete that action.
So, to automate this process, you will need to set up the package so that there is more wiggle room for the block to fit into the box. In this case, the process may be automated.
Therefore, if your packaging processes are exact and your human laborers need to be highly focused on packaging the product on an ongoing basis, this is not something you will be able to automate.
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A Question To Answer Before Implementing Packaging Automation
Before you attempt to purchase automated packaging machinery for your in-house packaging line or fully automate your packaging, you need to answer a question first.
And that question is...
Is There An ROI For Your Packaging Automation?
Do you know your ROI for packaging automation?
Automated machinery and collaborative robots are significant investments, sometimes costing more than one million dollars. So, the first question you need to answer is, what can I save if we implement automation on our packaging line?
Are you saving an hour a day? Eight hours a day? Are you cutting out the hourly wages of one person per year or fifty people per year?
What is your cost savings going to be if you automate your packaging? Regardless of the cost of the packaging machinery or robotics, you need to figure out the cost reduction of the automation and if that investment costs you less overtime while paying off the cost of the equipment.
If the implementation of your automated packaging machinery will pay for the cost of the equipment and result in a lower cost than your human labor, what is that total savings?
If the money you can save after paying off the equipment results in more profit, then packaging automation would make sense for your business.
So, if you are only saving a small amount of money from switching to automated equipment from human labor, it would not make sense to purchase a multi-million-dollar piece of machinery because the savings do not justify the investment.
In that case, you may be able to buy a smaller piece of automated equipment, which would justify the purchase to cover the cost of the machine and increase profits while decreasing labor.
So to justify any piece of automated machinery, you need to make sure that the automation will pay off the cost of the equipment and ensure that it reduces your labor costs while increasing profits.
Identifying Packaging Automation ROI
When identifying if the ROI (or return on investment) is justified, you have to identify the time frame in which you will require that ROI to justify the cost of the automated packaging machinery.
Some companies have a one-year ROI requirement, while others may have a three or five-year ROI requirement.
This means that you have to identify the time frame in which you need to have paid off the total cost of the machinery and begun to incur cost savings or reductions which result in higher profits.
So, suppose you can say that the implementation of automated packaging machinery will accomplish these things in the time frame your business needs them to happen. In that case, packaging automation is right for you.
In the end, you need to determine what is suitable for your company and if your automation investment will pay itself off while decreasing costs and increasing profits within the desired time frame.
If you can accomplish that, then automation is suitable for your business. As a general rule, if you can be cost-neutral within the desired time frame for your ROI, packaging automation may make sense for you.
With that being said, you will want to be sure that you can make a profit from the investment within the time required by your company to justify the purchase.
If you are not sure what your ROI time frame is or if automation is a good choice for your company, you will want to speak with a packaging specialist to help you identify if you are in a good place for packaging automation.
Packaging Automation: Space Requirements
The next item of consideration that you will need to consider before deciding if packaging automation is the right option for you is space.
While identifying if the process of automation makes sense in relation to your desired ROI within your desired time frame is a big piece of the puzzle, space requirements will also play a significant role in the decision-making process.
While you may have concluded that implementing packaging automation fits your ROI, time frame, and cost savings goals, it may not be possible if you do not have the required space to house the appropriate amount of automated packaging machinery.
For example, suppose your current in-house packaging lines are placed tightly together with very little extra space. In that case, it is unlikely you will be able to fit the equipment required for automation within that space.
To figure out if you have enough space in your warehouse to install an automated packaging machine or line, you will have to take note of the size of the devices you will need and identify if you can arrange your warehousing space in a way that will allow the physical footprint of your new equipment.
Do You Want To Automate Your Packaging?
Suppose you have identified that your packaging machinery will provide you with your desired ROI within the time frame required, and you have enough space to house the automated equipment. In that case, it is time to consider automating your packaging.
Suppose, however; you lack the physical space and time required while not being able to move past cost neutrality with your purchase. In that case, packaging automation is not the right choice for you at this time.
If you think you may be ready for automation but are unsure how to go about it or would like some assistance, please contact one of our packaging experts!
They will be able to help you choose, purchase, install and maintain the proper automated packaging machinery for your budget, space, and related requirements.
About Nathan Dube
As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.