Uncovering The Benefits Of Packaging Automation


Supplier Showcase Stage  — When it comes to automation in the world of secondary and tertiary packaging, there is a common misconception that there is generally only one method of criteria to determine if automation should be executed: the elimination of labor. Rick Gessler, vice-president of engineering for Delkor Systems, Inc. shared that while this is a factor in the return on investment, it is not the only factor. As a matter of fact, he said there are many more compelling reasons that will drive ROI as reasons to strongly consider automation.

“It is true; robots do not get sick, the do not go to the bathroom, they show up for work, they do not need continuous training, and they are they are extremely efficient. But there is far more to automation than just the robot and labor elimination,” he said.

The reasons to look at robotic automation include labor reduction, packaging material savings, ergonomics, efficiency, and productivity gains, according to Gessler. But he noted that many of these are never part of most companies’ ROI calculations, even though they might have financial benefits far beyond labor. 

What has turned into one of the biggest benefits of robotic automation is the ability to alter the case styles while creating the ROI for an automation project. In many cases, Gessler said, customers are used to what they have always done. This includes continuing to use the inefficient RSC cases that were developed many years ago to be easily set-up by hand. 

With the advent of automation, these cases are being converted to cases that are formed from a blank. This gives them the ability to form not only a perfect case, but a case that uses far less corrugated, he explained. The corrugated savings by switching to flat blanks is astonishing and often becomes the key driving factor for automation, Gessler told attendees.

Customers can save up to 30 percent in their corrugate usage which drops directly to the bottom line, he said, adding that it is also important to note the benefits of sustainability and reducing materials. Corrugate reduction nails this for CPGs and retailers who have made commitments to this goal, he said.

All of this should be considered when calculating the ROI of any project. Taking that a step further, automation now allows for the robotic lines to load many different case styles on the same line, he said. The formers that produce cases and trays from a flat blank are no longer a one-trick pony. “In five minutes, you can change from a very small retail-ready case for Soby’s where product is loaded flat and shipped flat, to a large club store tray for Sam’s Club where product must be shopped in an upright fashion,” Gessler said.