With the evolution of consumer goods markets, manufacturers have to adapt to irregular business cycles and shorter production series without increasing their manufacturing costs or delivery times. Fully aware that excellence is more than ever expected on packaging lines, machinery manufacturers are developing news solutions that combine productivity and flexibility.
Increase the use rate of manufacturing lines in order to avoid unnecessary overcapacities
As Pierre-Yves Berthe underlines in his Packaging Trends opinion column, just-in-time requirements from mass-market retailing can lead manufacturers to overinvest in production capacities in order to be certain to meet the demand. It is to avoid these unnecessary investments that machinery manufacturers work on increasing the overall equipment effectiveness and the global performance of packaging lines. Their quest for improved efficiency focuses on two main points : downtime reduction and interface optimization. (for more information on this subject, see the opinion column of Pascal de Guglielmo)
Simplified changeovers as an answer to hyper-segmented markets
Wider product ranges meant to cover the needs of every customer segment often mean shorter production series, leading to frequent changeovers. The main target for downtime reduction is thus the time spent to adapt the machines before starting a new series. This is why machinery manufacturers are now designing simpler and easier to clean machines, that require a minimum number of operations to switch from one series to another. They are also working on machines that are able to process different products, to adapt to different materials, including recycled ones, and to lighter packagings. (see the opinion column of Arnaud Rolland to get the point of view of a beverage manufacturer on that subject)
Mechatronics and robotics revolutionize the packaging processes
Andrea Barbolini explains in detail in his opinion column how the development of mechatronics has radically changed the way packaging machinery are designed and allowed to produce more while introducing more flexibility. More recently robotics spread in turn amongst packaging processes, moving from the end of line to primary and secondary packaging operations. This growing success is with no doubt linked to the fact that robotics offers maximum flexibility with a minimum footprint. (for more information on this subject see the opinion column of Florence Bertaux)
Clearly, flexible automation has become the number one priority of machinery manufacturers in order to sustain the competitiveness of packaging processes. Primarily meant for economic purposes, this evolution also had interesting side effects as it led to enhanced ergonomics and more safety for operators, two increasingly important requirements for industrial companies as Nathalie Pereira explains.