Which Packaging Machine is Right For Me: Flexibility v. Speed v. Automation
Choosing which packaging machine is right for your company’s needs is no easy decision, and far from one you should take lightly. As you’ll read, a company’s packaging needs are ever-changing, meaning the target at which you’re aiming to achieve maximum return on investment (ROI) and profitability is also in constant motion as well.
How do flexibility, speed, and automation relate in the realm of packaging machinery?
How the concepts of flexibility, speed, and automation interplay can be thought of as items falling along a continuum. In the beginning stages of most companies, production rates tend to be lower. Early-stage companies also require more flexibility in order to produce different types of packages, sizes, or products. To facilitate this, they need to rely on a few different machines to meet their production needs.
Once the company achieves enough production scale in one or more products or packages, it can dedicate a full line to the specific product or package type. A fully dedicated line will bring much higher speeds and productivity at the expense of flexibility. Finally, if the company achieves a very large scale of production of one product or package, it can fully automate a dedicated line, further increasing speed and productivity, but lowering flexibility. Usually, a company can only achieve a reasonable ROI for automation when it has a high production volume.
Is there a sweet spot in this production puzzle?
There is no such thing as a single production sweet spot, as it is entirely situationally dependent. A company must simultaneously consider its current packaging needs and anticipated future needs when finding its sweet spots at each step of company growth.
For conversation’s sake, let’s say a company’s production level starts off small as it sells to a local grocery store and finds a certain sweet spot at this step of growth. Perhaps the production level is predicted to increase as impending contracts with national retailers are expected to kick in six months to a year down the road; this will result in a new and different sweet spot for the company. Because sweet spots vary not only among different companies, but also within the same one (depending on which growth stage the company falls), it is always recommended that you consult a packaging equipment and operations specialist to discover which packaging machine is right for you.
Mr. Sanchez is Vice President at Masipack Group, and has 30 years of experience in the packaging industry.