Could Robots Overcome These 5 Packaging Industry Challenges?
Posted on Oct 01, 2021 11:09 AM. 4 min read time
Is your business suffering from these 5 packaging industry challenges?
Could robots be the solution that you're looking for?
A lot is has been going on in the packing industry recently. Companies like yours have been hit hard by a series of global events. Things don't look likely to get much better in the near future.
Robots are increasingly being used by companies across various industries to improve operations and help them thrive in the current climate.
Could robotic automation be the right solution for your company?
If so, what's the best way to deploy a robot application so that you get the most out of it?
5 packing industry challenges that might be affecting you
It won't have escaped your notice that times are tough right now for many in the packaging industry.
Perhaps your company was hit hard in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Perhaps you have been experiencing challenges for several years due other pressures from the market.
Or, perhaps your company is doing very well!
Even if you haven't personally experienced as many challenges as others in the industry, you are probably very aware of the potential difficulties you could face if you "took your eye off the ball."
Here are 5 common packing industry challenges that are either already affecting you or could affect you in the near future:
1. Supply chain problems
Several major international events have upturned the packaging supply chains recently.
The Covid-19 pandemic obviously hit many parts of the supply chain hard. But, other events have had equally big impacts on the packaging industry.
The demand for corrugated packaging surged at the same time as many of the largest paper mills experienced extensive downtime. Extreme weather in Texas impacted the supply of polymers. This hit plastic costs which were also influenced by the blockage in the Suez Canal in March 2021.
As a Wall Street Journal article said "Everywhere you look, the global supply chain is a mess."
2. Digitization of packaging workflows
Even before these recent events, several other challenges had been affecting the packaging industry.
For some years, many packaging companies have been struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for them to digitize their workflows. Customers increasingly expect they will be able to hook into your processes digitally. This requires that you have the systems and technology in place to support the new ways of working.
3. Rising demand for products
There is increasing demand for packaging products thanks to the rise of e-commerce and mail-dependent services. According to a McKinsey report, some parts of the packaging industry are more affected by this demand than others.
Rising demand is usually a good thing. However, problems arise when you can't keep up with the increased production requirements.
4. Cost pressures
Along with rising product demand, people are also becoming more demanding about their packaging needs.
Customers want higher-quality packing, faster, and with more customization options. They also want all of that at the same price as they are paying now… if not cheaper. If your company can't keep up with these needs, you will likely lose out to competitors.
5. Staffing difficulties
If things weren't challenging enough for packaging companies, the industry has also experienced various staffing issues lately.
Potential new hires sometimes think of the packaging industry as "less interesting" than other industries. As a result, it can be hard to attract new people to the industry. As many workers from older generations are retiring, this makes it increasingly difficult to find good people who understand the industry.
How robots can help with these packing industry challenges
How can robots help you to overcome these challenges and improve your operations in the current climate?
The reason that many companies are turning to robotics right now is their high level of flexibility. Compared to more conventional forms of automation, robots can handle many different applications and tasks across the packaging industry. They also tend to be more cost-effective than the alternatives.
Robots can address the packaging industry challenges because:
- They are applicable to many tasks in the supply chain including packing, sorting, and palletizing. This makes them a good long-term investment as a robot can easily be redeployed if a specific task is no longer needed. We've written before how robots can improve supply chain problems.
- As a digital technology, robots can fit seamlessly into the new digital systems. Because robots are easy to program and redeploy, they can adapt to the rapid changes that often accompany digital operations.
- Thanks to their potential for 24-hour operation, robots can improve the productivity of your facility. This allows you to keep up with rising demand in a way that is more scalable than relying on outsourcing or hiring.
- Robots also have the potential to reduce the unit cost of your products while simultaneously increasing quality consistency.
- Adding robots to your operations allows you to get the most from your people without having to hire many extra workers. This can help enormously if you are finding it hard to find new hires.
Robotic palletizing: A great first application for packaging companies
What task should you automate first with a robot?
In the packaging industry, a major bottleneck is often the palletizing process.
Palletizing is a dull task for people to do and can often cause injury due to the repetitive nature of the task. This makes it a perfect job for a robot!
You can get a palletizing robot up and running as quickly as possible by using a collaborative robot application kit. This provides all of the equipment you need to perform palletizing with a robot.