Overcoming Automation Challenges in the Food Packaging Industry

Andrew Lightstead Last Updated on July 09, 2024, by Tom Barton 3 mins well spent

Andrew Lightstead, Sales Director for UK & Ireland, discusses the challenges facing the food packaging industry.

The decision of how and when to automate remains a crucial challenge for UK food manufacturing businesses, significantly influenced by factors such as cost, skill, and knowledge. Despite the prevailing message that automation and robots can solve everything, a recent report by Automate UK highlights that over 81% of end users identified automation as their primary challenge in 2023. These challenges are distilled into three main areas:

Key Challenges in Automation:

  1. Automating bespoke products.
  2. The need for skilled labour to support automation.
  3. Keeping up with technology developments.

However, cost remains the most significant barrier, with 72.63% of end users citing it as their primary concern.

When considering high-speed multi-robot pick and place automation, an area in which PWR specializes, these factors become even more critical as this technology cannot be evaluated in the same way as typical packaging automation.

Typically, one machine completes 100% of a task, such as a case erector that extracts, erects, and glues a case one step at a time, completing each functional step 100% before moving to the next. Conversely, multiple robot picker lines are a comprehensive system, with each robot performing a portion of the task, such as loading cookies into a tray.

One robot doesn’t fill one tray completely. Therefore, complex algorithms are required to ensure all good products are picked and all packaging is completely filled. This is just one of the critical elements to evaluate in detail with any robotic solution provider to ensure the proposed solution meets your expectations. Coupling this with ensuring only good products are packaged, maintaining their original state during the packaging operation, and being understood and operated by your operations team highlights the importance of the Automate UK report. Help, however, is at hand!

PWR’s Solutions for Automation in Food Packaging

At PWR, we lead the way in addressing these challenges, offering proven solutions that make multi-robot pick and place automation accessible and efficient for businesses in the food packaging industry. Here’s how PWR is helping to overcome automation hurdles:

  1. Cost-Effective Automation Solutions:

By collaborating with our customers to understand where value can be delivered through automation, PWR offers solutions tailored to fit the investment capabilities of manufacturers of all sizes, from SMEs to multinationals. PWR can implement systems predisposed for growth, reducing initial costs and releasing the benefits of automation to the business.

  1. Customized Automation for Bespoke Products:

In high-speed pick and place robotics, every product is “bespoke” when packing naked food products into their primary packaging. The critical focus is differentiating good products from bad products and handling the good products without altering their original state. PWR | Clear Vision, PWR’s proven solution, utilizes the latest in vision technology and extensive experience to deliver precise product definition and handling, ensuring your customers get what they expect.

  1. Comprehensive Training and Support:

As automation suppliers, we have a responsibility to support our customers in developing the knowledge needed to make effective choices when selecting the right automation solution for their business. The global shortage of skilled labor means manufacturers must work with available resources. A machine that is simple to understand and easy to operate is fundamental to PWR’s design philosophy. If your team is accustomed to operating packaging machinery, they will find a PWR solution easy to use. PWR provides 24/7 service to support your team and offers extensive training programs tailored to upskill your existing staff. We want your PWR to consistently deliver at the performance level for which you invested.

  1. Staying Ahead with Technology:

It is our job to bring the value of the latest technological advances in a robust and fit-for-purpose package. PWR continually invests in research and development to stay at the cutting edge of automation technology. By partnering with leading technology providers, PWR ensures that their solutions incorporate the latest advancements, providing clients with state-of-the-art automation systems.

While automation presents significant challenges for the food packaging industry, PWR offers solutions that address cost, skilled labor, and technological advancement issues, enabling businesses to overcome these hurdles and achieve greater efficiency and productivity.

Report: 2024_automate_insights_report.pdf (automateuk.blob.core.windows.net)