An increasing number of US manufacturers of automated packaging machinery are basing their business strategies on sustainability – particularly innovative original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Certainly, sustainability can give those who make and use automated packaging machinery a major competitive advantage.
One of the greatest concerns of companies that are considering investing in packaging equipment is the need to ensure that they will get a decent return on investment (ROI). Benefits that they stand to gain include:
- Cost savings from using fewer materials
- A decrease in greenhouse gas emissions
- Lower water usage for production of packaging materials
Sustainable Business and Sustainable Manufacturing with Automated Packaging Machinery
Several years ago the US Department of Commerce launched a Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI) that was intended to inform private and public sector stakeholders about the challenges, best practices, and unrealized opportunities relating to sustainability in the manufacturing sector. In a report titled Packaging Machinery: Sustainability and Competitiveness author Padraic J. Sweeney made a number of important findings:
- OEMs in the packaging machinery industry face an increasing demand for sustainability globally.
- Even though they aren’t end users, retailers play a vital role in driving demand for more sustainable packing in the supply chain.
- Packaging machinery OEMs that have included sustainability into their definitive business strategy have a common objective: to reduce consumption of packaging materials and related products to the benefit of their customers.
- OEMs have also vowed to reduce their customers’ water and energy emissions of greenhouse gases.
- Innovation and opportunity are key to any successful manufacturing related strategy that is based on sustainability.
- The sustainability strategies followed by OEMs become closely integrated with their relationships with customers, leading them to identify and follow innovative opportunities.
However, the report states that there is a lack of demand for packaging machinery that has sustainable characteristics as such. Nevertheless, Sweeney said demand was growing as customers’ needs for reduction of water and energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste increases. Currently, European regulations, laws, and standards are shaping the world market for automated and manual packaging machinery. However, as definitions, standards and specifications in the US were increased this would begin to increase demand, he said.
Sustainable strategies followed in the packaging machinery industry are usually focused on:
- Developing automation and integration services that include remote monitoring of machinery
- Reducing energy consumption related to the production of ancillary products
- Developing innovative ancillary products
- Developing new, better packaging systems
The OEMs that were included in Sweeney’s study were known to have previously formed strategic relationships with companies that either supplied or converted packaging materials and ancillary products. All had used recognized methodologies to assess and measure benefits of sustainable strategies including:
- Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
Ultimately, Sweeney concluded that OEMs both big and small were achieving “competitive success” with business strategies that were based on sustainability. Many of their customers in the packaging supply chain were also embracing sustainability strategies and reaping the benefits. The challenge, though, was to encourage more end users to use automated packaging machinery that is more sustainable.
Sustainability as Competitive Advantage
The most significant cost of packaging is the materials used to manufacture it. Additionally, a broad range of packaging materials offer noteworthy opportunity for innovation, including:
- Plastic films
- Corrugated board
- Line lubricants
Automated packaging machinery has many sustainability benefits. For example, it enables:
- Contract packagers working with consumer packaged goods (CPG) to achieve the volume and consistency required to be competitive
- Operators to do advanced monitoring and achieve control capabilities that will enable them to maintain increased up-time for packaging lines, and reduce energy consumption, packaging waste, and the volume of rejected packages
- Packaging companies to improve worker safety with ergonomic design that reduces hazards including repetitive motion injury risks
These sustainability benefits can be further improved with other technologies including telecommunications that enable remote, real-time reporting of the status of automated packaging lines.
Flexibility is a major consideration that has become a substantial design challenge. Older machines were designed for one specific type of packaging operation; today modular components are often incorporated so that one machine can accommodate different formats. There is also the option of redesigning systems to improve them.
Of course, there is more to it, but ultimately OEMs are increasing sustainability for customers and helping to cut operating costs. In a nutshell, automated packaging machinery can enable operators to save water, energy, and natural gas.
Technik Packaging Machinery understands the automation process and value of automated machines. If you want advice or are already convinced of the need to upgrade to automated packaging machinery, contact us today.