The Latest Trends in Case Packing Technology
Case packing equipment fills a vital role in the supply chain. They are an important piece of an assembly line and a costly investment that has a true impact on the final product. Let’s take a closer look at the latest trends in case packing technology. We’ll also address the factors driving these changes in case packer machinery.
We’ve seen a rise in case packer machinery designed to be versatile. This evolution in case packing technology was enabled by the growing use of servo technology.
There is a clear business case for machines that accommodate packaging variety. Businesses cannot afford to have multiple pieces of equipment to accommodate a variety of packaging formats or case sizes. Nor do they want to have to spend a long time switching out equipment. They’ll pay more for versatile case packing equipment that lets them handle almost any type of packaged final product and a wide variety of case sizes with only the change of a few parts. The ability to quickly change-over is certainly a plus when customers want the right product in the right place as soon as possible.
Retail-Ready Case Packing
Retail-ready packaging has secondary packaging that advertises the product while protecting it. The retailer simply receives the box full of retail-ready packaging and stocks the shelves with it. The labor savings and simplicity is causing manufacturers to put their products in retail-ready packaging.
The challenge for case-packaging equipment manufacturers is handling all the different types of packages destined for retail shelves and producing smaller-count cases at the high speeds that were expected of traditional case packing. Another issue retail ready packaging brings is caused by the clear plastic windows on many of these packages. The windows or exposed carton corners require lower surge pressure during the packing process and lower pressure conveyance.
The machines have to take extra care with the packaging because damaging it or marring it affects the ability of the retailer to sell the item. Pick-and-place robots generally cause less damage than conventional drop-pack systems, but that shift may not be good enough for end users. This has led to more robotics, since they can efficiently handle the lightweight packaging.
The Evolution of Packaging Itself
The packaging itself is changing in a number of ways. The default packaging option used to be virgin corrugated board boxes. Now case packers have to deal with boxes made with a greater percentage of recycled content, and this requires greater tolerances in sizes and strength of boxes and trays. Demand for sustainability through the supply chain is pushing businesses to use thinner bags, cartons, and boxes. This means machines have to be designed to handle everything more gently than before, at the same high speeds.
These requirements force case packers to use low-pressure conveyance, robotics, and servos while using more tolerant machines. Some manufacturers of case packing equipment are switching to carbon fiber for end-of-arm tools and other lightweight materials to provide greater precision and control.
The need to streamline operations from labor to material usage is forcing case packing equipment makers to radically redesign their equipment. The desire to meet the needs of an ever-changing market has only accelerated a few trends that were already underway.