Top Five Functional Machine Improvements for Sustainable Packaging Operations

Packaging methods and machinery must not be overlooked as vital components to a sustainable packaging strategy.

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Approximately 1 in 4 CPGs interviewed for a new report by PMMI Business Intelligence are making machine purchases or modifications specifically to address packaging sustainability goals. Solutions such as integrated monitoring and more flexible machinery can improve packaging operations with improvements to OEE or by offering less waste.

“Packaging sustainability: it’s just the right thing to do. Today, it’s top-of-mind,” said one Manager of Packaging R&D at a shelf stable products company.

Another VP of Technology and Environment advised, “There’s an overall industry initiative for many companies to be 100% recyclable in the years ahead, but more companies need to think about implementation strategies.”

Switching to Paper or Recycled Blister Packaging Without New Machines

According to the report, there are five functional machine improvements that would have the greatest impact on CPG operations for manufacturing a more sustainable package, and OEMs and suppliers must work closely with brand manufacturers to help evaluate sustainability improvements to packaging operations. “Helping our customers meet their sustainability goals and consumers’ expectations of performance is a challenge that requires deep partnerships and innovative solutions,” said one VP of Innovation at a material supplier.

1)   Reliability

Machines need to reliably handle a wide range of substrates, sizes, and shapes. When making adjustments on any part of the machine, there should be an indicator that signals parameters have been accurately achieved.

2)    Flexibility

Equipment must account for material variances as the trend of lightweighting continues to grow. Machines need to be flexible enough to account for variations in material thickness and maintain throughput, pass inspection, and minimize rejection rates. In general, new machines need to be easier to use, service, and clean.

3)    Automated Changeover

More precise settings to achieve greater accuracy when moving from SKU to SKU, which could include material or size changes. Strive to standardize and simplify changeover procedures.

4)    Cleanability

Cleanability is a top-of-mind concern for machine considerations. Manufacturers desire machines that utilize less water and fewer chemicals while still meeting hygienic standards.

5)    Sensor Feedback

Improved online sensors are needed to monitor scrap levels, alert for predictive and preventative maintenance, track quality control, measure yield, track energy and water used, and monitor temperature, time, and pressure.

Technology will also drive efficiency for sustainable packaging, as Industry 4.0 utilizes automation, robotics, and AI to make packaging operations more efficient. Problems will be identified before they occur to reduce material waste and product loss.

Balancing Production Optimization in a Changing World

When looking at how different industry manufacturers are handling the “new or retro-fit” options:

·      Food manufacturers are more often retrofitting existing machines compared to other product segments due to the desire to use plant-based materials that can require machine tweaking.

·      Beverage manufacturers are twice as likely to purchase new equipment when compared to retrofitting, mainly due to shifts in package formats.

·      The majority of personal care companies seek new equipment to replace legacy machines for both primary and secondary operations as they continue to automate and design refillable product solutions.

·      Household product manufacturers are looking for versatile filling machines as well as automating end-of-line operations. Retrofits are needed on secondary packaging machines to handle the variances in PCR content in corrugated materials.

·      Pharmaceutical companies are the least likely to make machine modifications due to strict FDA process validation, and are looking for new machines to fill, index, cap, and seal, as well as robotic and automated solutions for end-of-line.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, “Packaging Sustainability: A Changing Landscape 2020

Download the FREE Executive Summary below, or PMMI Members can download the entire report here.

Make plans to visit PACK EXPO International in Chicago, November 8-11, to see on-trend sustainable processing and packaging machinery and materials.

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