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Packaging in Logistics: How to Streamline Packaging With Cobots

Alex Owen-Hill
by Alex Owen-Hill. Last updated on Nov 09, 2021 6:04 PM
Posted on Oct 29, 2021 2:15 PM. 5 min read time

Packaging is a core task in logistics. But, a lot of packaging processes are inefficient. They are not well suited to the changing needs of the modern logistics industry.

Collaborative robots are a robust solution for streamlining your packaging tasks. They provide a flexible way to solve common problems in logistics packaging.

The needs of the logistics industry are constantly changing.

Currently, there is demand across the industry for logistics companies to rethink packaging. Companies need to improve sustainability by optimizing packaging use, introducing more eco-friendly packaging materials, and implementing more reuse.

On top of these new sustainability needs, various world events have put extra pressure on the logistics industry. Challenges include disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, labor shortages, and the e-commerce boom.

Cobots are a valuable tool to overcome these challenges and demands.

Common packaging problems in logistics

You might wonder if your company is ready to add robotics to its operations.

When an industry undergoes as many changes as the logistics industry has recently, some companies assume that they just need to put their head down and keep working as usual. They figure that they will innovate "when they have more time."

But, some common packaging problems in logistics won't go away without some innovation.

Such problems include…

High wastage in packaging processes

The demand for more sustainable packaging is only likely to increase in the coming years.

Even following the Covid-19 pandemic (when sustainability took a backseat to sterility), 54% of consumers still consider packaging sustainability when selecting a product.

Conventional approaches to packaging in logistics are often quite wasteful. This makes packaging a good avenue for companies to improve sustainability.

The productivity gap

According to studies, the logistics industry has more sick days than average. As a result, productivity often suffers in logistics.

There could be various reasons for this productivity gap. If musculoskeletal disorders are a cause of the problem, robots have previously been found to help reduce the 35% of sick days lost to injury.

Labor shortages

The rise of e-commerce is generally great for the logistics industry. However, for many companies, it has brought into sharp focus the current labor shortages across many parts of the industry.

As this problem is multi-factored, there is no one solution for improving this skills gap for everyone. However, robot packaging is one way that individual logistics companies can mitigate some of the effects of the problem.

The role of robotic packaging in logistics

Automation is nothing new in the logistics industry.

However, when you think of logistics automation, you might think primarily of the machines to moving boxes and pallets around. You might not think of automated packaging.

Packaging is sometimes thought of as being primarily a human job.

It's traditionally been complicated to perform packaging tasks with automation because of the high degree of variability between packaging tasks. Conventional packaging automation is large and inflexible. It's best suited to highly regular tasks with low variability.

Collaborative robots change all that.

With the right cobot application kit, you can achieve very flexible automated packaging remarkably easily.

These two cobot applications are most suited to packaging:

  1. Pick and place — This is often used in primary and secondary packaging tasks (e.g. putting product into boxes). The robot picks up the product and puts it into a container.
  2. Palletizing — This is where the robot stacks and arranges already boxed products onto a pallet.

5 useful benefits of robotic packaging in logistics

What can adding a packaging robot do to improve your logistics operations?

Here are 5 useful benefits of packaging in logistics with robots:

1. More consistency

The consistency you can achieve with a packaging robot can't be surpassed by human workers.

By nature, we humans are best at tasks that require creativity and problem-solving. We are not great at achieving high consistency. Packaging is a dull, repetitive task so inconsistencies can creep into a person's work over a long shift. A robot will always perform the task in the same way every time.

2. Cost reductions

Robots are also a more efficient way to perform many packaging tasks. After the robot has achieved a return on investment, the labor cost of the packaging task drops to almost zero.

As a result, using a packaging robot allows you to spend more of your packaging budget on other features, such as improving packaging sustainability.

3. 24/7 operation

One area where robots always outperform humans is in their ability to work continuously. If you want, you can run a robot 24 hours a day for 7 days a week.

As the demand for logistics continues to rise, this capability could become a key differentiator between your service and that of your competitors.

4. Better use of floorspace

Collaborative robots are generally smaller than other robots. They are significantly smaller than other forms of packaging automation.

By choosing a collaborative robot solution for your packaging, you can make more economical use of your floor space, which helps make your operation more sustainable overall.

Collaborative robot palletizing and depalletizing cardboard boxes.

5. Robustness to fluctuations

As we've seen in recent years, it only takes one or two major market events for demand to fluctuate dramatically. Whether you are experiencing higher demand than usual, or lower, you need to be able to respond quickly and efficiently.

A great benefit of using cobot packaging solutions is that they are so flexible. You can quickly and easily reprogram the robot to respond to changing demand.

How to streamline with robotic packaging solutions

Are you looking to improve your packaging processes with robotic automation?

The most efficient way to get started is by using a collaborative robot application kit. This includes all of the components that you need to deploy the cobot to your chosen packaging task.

You can find out about our available application kits on our product page.

Meet the Palletizing Solution

Which challenges is your logistics company experiencing right now? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the DoF professional robotics community.

Leave a comment

Alex Owen-Hill
Written by Alex Owen-Hill
Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at CreateClarifyArticulate.com, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.
Connect with the writer:
http://alexowenhill.co.uk/

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