Remember the first “automation” that caught your interest? Maybe it was Rosie from The Jetsons, automatically cleaning the household and offering domestic assistance. Maybe it was Dick Tracy (yes, I’m old) talking into his watch. Or maybe it was the crew from Star Trek was traveling all over the galaxy. It seemed unimaginable that we would ever see these innovations develop, yet here we are with robots all over the place, space travel occurs almost constantly, and I’m looking forward to talking into my Apple watch in just a few weeks.
The packaging industry is certainly utilizing these advances and the technology is more available than ever before. Robotics, while they’ve been around for years, continue to grow in popularity. A trip to any major packaging trade show will introduce anyone to their use in case packing, pick and place, palletizing, sorting, labeling, and on and on.
For some, the influx of robotics may seem to threaten employment by replacing badly needed jobs. In our region, most robots are being considered not in lieu of hiring but rather to perform the tasks that most workers simply will not do or to perform difficult tasks where frequent staff rotations are necessary.
Despite their widespread use, robots often carry the stigma of high cost. Many don’t consider this technology because they do not realize just how feasible robots have become. Just a few years ago a robotic palletizer might easily exceed $250k, making the ROI on them a bit high for many potential users. Today, many of our turnkey packaging line installations include robotic palletizing and the robot is nowhere near the highest cost item in the line. And the price tag is very feasible compared to the cost of labor that would be required to hoist 50 lbs at the rate of 25 times per minute, for example.
In addition to labor savings, packaging line automation may help with line layouts and space usage, handling of difficult, heavy or fragile items, and productivity/uptime on your lines. Robots, Case Erectors, Stretch Wrappers and other automation possibilities are extremely reliable and rarely take vacations or call in sick. Their footprints often fit into line layouts better than operator stations and the machines can be set up to handle many different items. Some of the robots we have provided even automatically change their own tooling- Amazing!
Considerations for packaging automation upgrades require a delicate balance of many factors including cost, efficiency gain, and long-term benefits. If you are interested in some help sorting these things out our sales and engineer representatives can assist. In addition, our service department is very skilled at ongoing operational maintenance to maintain the efficiency of these systems for years to come.