12 Feb What factors influence automating your business?
| Developments in your product and packaging drive capital investment
| Automation beats manual labor on quality, hygiene and efficiency
| For automation a certain ROI based on production volumes is required
What factors influence capital investment in equipment?
The decision to invest capital in food packaging equipment is influenced by many macro and micro factors. For example:
- Developments in your product range
- The demand by customers and/or retailers for packaging materials
- The net margins current and desired
- The developments taking place at competitors (and the drive to stay ahead).
Do you just add people, or is this the moment to automate?
When you want to grow your business, expansion through manual labor seems the obvious choice. It is perceived as flexible, and, very subjectively, it ensures quality control. However, in many cases manual packaging comes with restraints and/or limitations such as required floorspace, finding staff skilled enough to maintain consistent quality, hygiene issues and dealing with staff in general to keep them motivated.
If you go for automation, you need to ensure you will secure a ROI
For automation a certain ROI based on production volumes is required. Do you have the production volume required for a return covered? Do you have the orders from your customers? Or are you operating in a niche where you have a stable but lower volume, which won’t cover the costs of automation?
If all the lights are green for automation you hit the next phase; which machines are best value for your product(s) and factory?
Some types of automation are unavoidable. For example, when packing thermoformed packs, a tray sealer is required. Manufacturers need to invest in either a tray former or buy preformed trays.
For filling the trays, there is in most cases a mechanical or robotic packaging option. The best choice here is dependent on the packaging material of the product(s). It is advisable to also take future packaging needs into account here, and inevitably robotics offers the greater flexibility.
To conclude, there is no right general answer when it comes to automation in food packaging. Every product/market combination has its own limiting or challenging factors. This is what makes the packaging industry so versatile and challenging and a conversation with a trusted OEM to understand the latest developments always worthwhile.
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