By: David Roberge on May 11th, 2018
Why Robotic Packaging Automation is the Future
Equipment | The Business of Packaging | Plant Performance | Investment | Warehousing
When operating any business, being mindful of costs is one of the key ways to maximize sales potential. After all, creating a competitive product is important, but making that product available to the consumer in a cost-effective way sets successful businesses apart from the competition.
Production line automation allows companies to leverage ingenuity and efficiency without sacrificing craftsmanship or quality. With an automated production line, you never have to worry about employees getting sick, you can rest assured that production levels will remain high, and you can feel confident knowing that the end product will be made to a consistently high standard.
Robotic packaging automation in particular mimics human movements to take the human being out of the process without sacrificing the yield of the process. This does not eliminate the need for good staff. Instead, it provides an opportunity to remove the repetitive, unskilled tasks that many humans find boring and unfulfilling yet are critical to meeting production needs.
In other words, robotic packaging automatic provides an opportunity to maximize your staff while maintaining or increasing productivity. That’s a win all the way around.
With robotic packaging automation, software is designed to mimic human movements. Handling products, picking and placing items, packing cases, and palletizing become routine and efficient.
To decide if investing in robotic packaging automation is right for your business, download our free Packaging Machinery Pre-Investment Checklist.
Why Robots Over Humans in the Packaging Industry
When considering why robots over humans are a good choice in the packaging industry, consider the benefits:
- Flexibility- One of the biggest applications of robotics in packaging is flexibility. By incorporating robotics, a line operator/machinist can quickly change the outline for a case or pallet with the simple click of a button, a task that takes far longer manually.
- Accuracy- Pick-and-place robots are outfitted with slim arms and wide reach. They are built with sturdy repeatability and precise tooling making them extremely accurate. This makes them a great fit for many applications in packaging and supply chain operations.
- Consistency- Robot packaging machines are capable of improving the product quality as well as cycle time. As their movements are standardized quality of packaging improves and operations become seamless.
Benefits of Robotic Packaging Automation
Robots are tireless and require minimal maintenance. A robot arm can work at a high speed for 70,000 hours or more before requiring maintenance or experiencing a mechanical failure.
The increase in productivity results in reduced labor and safety costs. A single robot can perform the tasks of multiple humans in far less time and with greater accuracy. Robots are reliable, consistent, fast, and efficient.
Where Robotics Fit into Package Automation
Consider the many motions that robots can perform to add value to your production line:
- Picking & Placing- Sophisticated enough to identify, align, and place the product, robots are outstanding at packaging randomly placed objects as they come down a conveyor belt.
- Depanning– Removing items such as baked goods from containers is delicate work that must be executed with precision. Robot arms can quickly remove items, such as cupcakes or sheet cakes, from their pans, without causing any damage.
- Denesting– Removing empty packages from a stack, to ready for filling with items such as cupcakes or other baked goods, is repetitive and necessary. Robots can do this quickly and efficiently.
- Boxing– After items have been depanned and denested, it is time to box them to prepare for shipment. Robot arms are nimble enough to do this without damaging even delicate items like eggs.
- Palletizing– Preparing items for shipping involves stacking them onto pallets. Reducing worker injury is a particular benefit of having robots perform this function.
- Warehousing– Transporting fully loaded pallets with ease can offer a competitive advantage to food warehousers. The food industry in particular benefits from the efficiency, speed, and safety of automated warehousing.
- STAT: According to a new report published by Allied Market Research, the Packaging Robots Market is expected to reach $4,649 million globally by 2023.
5 Common Pitfalls of Robotic Packaging Automation
While the benefits of robotic packaging automation are many, there are some common pitfalls to avoid:
- Trying to do too Much With the Robot– Robot technology is impressive, and robots are currently performing many functions previously performed by humans. However, overestimating of the robot’s capabilities can lead to increased maintenance costs and lost productivity.
- Misunderstanding Accuracy vs. Repeatability– A repeatable machine may or may not be accurate. Accuracy is key for specific movements, but repeatability is necessary to enact those movements again and again, over time.
- Choosing a Robotics System Based Solely on the Control System– There are many different robotics systems available. The key is to choose the one that best suits the needs of your company.
- Failure to Accept Robotics Technology– Robotic technology can be designed perfectly for a business, but implementation from humans is key. Without end users who understand and appreciate the technology, the production capabilities are limited.
- Failure to Consider Using Robotics Technology– While robotics may not be right for every situation, reluctance to consider using them greatly limits the potential of a business that relies on packaging.
Getting Started with Robotic Packaging Automation
After considering both the pitfalls as well as the opportunities with robotic packaging automation, the next step is to determine where in your packaging system you see the largest need for integrating this technology.
It is best to start by researching companies to learn about the different robotics tools and systems available that might best suit your needs. Take a close look at your current system, and discuss potential integration with key stakeholders.
Once you have chosen the right system for your business, consider your overall budget and plan for expanding your production line to include robotic packaging automation. Finally, debrief your team and share the benefits not only of the system you chose, but also of the advantages of robotic packaging automation overall. Acceptance and excitement from the beginning are key.
The overall benefits of robotics in packaging automation are clear. Quite simply, using robotic package automation allows your company to expand operations with accuracy and consistency while reducing staff injury. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that by using robotic packaging automation, your staff will be free from the repetitive and often dangerous tasks they previously performed. This will make them available to develop new skills to help the company grow.
Increased packaging efficiency, an improved supply chain process, and reduced operational costs are all part of what makes robotic packaging automation so beneficial to many businesses. To determine if your business is well suited to use robotic packaging automation, download our free Packaging Machinery Pre-Investment Checklist.
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.