As packaging starts playing a bigger role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, manufacturers are looking for innovative systems that can handle the pressure.
For generations, people have been told that it’s what’s on the inside that really matters. Fast-forward to the 21st century, however, and things are changing – in retail, at least. Packaging is no longer expected to just be a barrier between the product and the environment – now it is expected to have innovative, consumer-attracting features of its own. This shift from product sidekick to partner is redefining packaging and creating waves of change in the industry.
Todd Frandsen, operations manager for Benda Manufacturing, Tinley Park, Ill., says one of the biggest areas of change has been the application of flexible automation and robotics.
“As technology advances to make goods faster, the consumer is demanding fast as well,” he explains. “When the market demands a particular type of product, [consumers] simply expect suppliers to respond today and deliver it yesterday. This has caused manufacturers to reconsider equipment purchases, searching for flexibility in the solution.”
Benda isn’t alone in witnessing this demand for flexible manufacturing. Hayward, Calif.-based Heat and Control also has seen the feature creep to the top of its clients’ wish lists.
“There are numerous trends, including reducing packaging material, improving product presentation and reducing giveaway,” says Brian Barr, sales manager – packaging systems. “But most important to many of our customers is finding equipment that is flexible, allowing them to run many different products and packages today, and also have the ability to meet the needs of future customers … without investing in new equipment lines.”
For Dennis Gunnell, vice president of sales and marketing at Formost Fuji, Woodinville, Wash., there’s one trend in particular that’s changed the way both manufacturers and consumers view packaging.
“It’s recloseability,” he says. “To be able to open a package and take a portion of the product out, reclose it and keep it fresher, cleaner.”
Frandsen agrees that ease and convenience are important factors for today’s shoppers.
“Consumers are desiring more and more convenient packaging with their product—prepared foods, smaller portions and reusable containers.”
No longer is packaging an afterthought – instead, consumers are basing part of their purchasing decisions on it. For manufacturers, there’s suddenly a lot riding on that wrapping, and packaging-system suppliers are advising their clients to spend more time thinking about the packaging process.
“The customers that seem to do the best are the ones that sit down and really communicate,” Gunnell explains. “The ones that throw out a little bit of information and say, “Here, run this,” and then are hard to get in touch with don’t do so well. You need a true partnership instead of a vendor-supplier relationship. You have to understand and define goals completely, otherwise there will be surprises, and surprises cost money.”
What can also drive up costs is not considering all the financial aspects of a new machine. Barr urges clients to look beyond sticker price.
“Many companies still don’t look at the total cost of ownership as they compare packaging systems,” he explains. “The initial investment is a key aspect of any project, however, one must look at the long-term costs of any purchase to ensure the best decision is made to ensure their system success. Such considerations include life-cycle costs for material usage, sanitation, maintenance, and product quality issues. Equally important is the supplier’s ability to provide service, parts, training, ongoing development and applications assistance.”
But above all, flexibility seems to be the most valuable feature, and Frandsen doesn’t believe its importance can be overstated.
“Flexible, easily configured systems will be our future,” he predicts, “as clients strive to be lean and competitive in a swiftly changing environment.”
Arr-Tech’s corn tortilla packaging system is designed to automatically count, stack, index and bag die-cut corn tortillas. The production line counts, stacks and indexes 4-in. to 7-in. tortillas in rows of six with a maximum stack height of 4.75 inches for automatic bagging and a maximum production rate of up to 60 packages per minute. Product stacks larger than 4.75 inches and up to 10 inches in height require manual bagging.
866 852 2442
Formost Fuji’s Alpha VI series wrappers are specifically designed for bread wrapping. A cantilevered frame makes for easy sanitation, while the AC servomotor drive systems requires little preventative maintenance. Individually adjustable film spindles and tilting fin sealers provide enhanced film control for tighter packages, and the control system provides online production information that is easily networked with plant information systems.
Formost Fuji Corp.
425 483 9090
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WeighPack has combined its Primo 360 Multihead Weigher with its Swifty Bagger to provide customers with a complete packaging solution. The Primo is available in eight-, 10-, 13- and 16-head models and also is available with 1.3-, 2.5- and 5.5-liter weigh buckets. It’s also equipped with a remotely mounted control box to improve accessibility and maintenance. The Swifty Bagger uses non-wicket premade bags and automatically grabs, opens, fills and seals. This intermittent motion bagger runs gusset, pillow, flat bottom, zipper and stand-up bags. Operators can cycle 40 per minute with one-up, two-up or three-up bags per cycle.
WeighPack Systems Inc.
888 934 4472
BMI’s smart conveyor system automatically combines cartons from multiple production lines into a single file in preparation for labeling and palletizing. The conveyors identify and prioritize the cartons as they arrive at the combining area to keep production organized. The system automatically changes conveyor speed so that cartons travel in an orderly single file.
Benda Manufacturing Inc.
708 633 4600