The year so far has come with mixed blessings. While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the packaging sector in many ways, new trends are ensuring that it remains robust despite the numerous obstacles it is faced with. Packaging has changed significantly in recent years, which has triggered a noteworthy evolution in both packaging processes and the equipment used in it. Although we are approaching the half-way mark of the year, now is as good a time as any to have a closer look at some of the top packaging equipment trends that are shaping the industry in 2020.
Improved efficacy and higher throughput
Packaging lines have a reputation for being the first zone in a plant to profit from evolving technologies, including digitalization and automation. Due to this, the rate of production (throughput) is significantly increased. While companies with stable product lines can typically enjoy a steady throughput, those that change over their lines at regular intervals need to counter the additional downtime as best as possible. One way this will be achieved is to ensure that uptime is utilized to the max by improving the proficiency of the slowest pieces of machinery on the packaging line. Greater emphasis will also be placed on the upkeep of machinery, with many companies opting to employ in-house technicians and invest in diagnostic and repair tools to limit downtime further. The use of borescopes, for instance, saves time by allowing inaccessible areas to be inspected without having to disassemble the machine.
Robotics is growing in popularity
Robotic use by packaging concerns has increased exponentially over the last decade and continues to do so this year. According to the 2019 Robotics Innovation 2 Implementation report, the use of robotics in primary packaging has increased by 9% compared to 2014, while secondary packaging displayed an increase of 22% (from 48% to 70%). Some of the driving forces behind this trend are the higher speed and greater degree of accuracy at which robots work, a reduction in safety and labor costs, and a decrease in damage to products. Collaborative robots (cobots) are becoming particularly popular as they are not only considerably more versatile than standard robots but more compact as well.
Digital printers are the future
Although digital printing is by no means a new concept within the packaging industry, 2020 will be remembered as the start of a decade that will be unequivocally dominated by digital technology. Although most packaging concerns have made the change from analog to digital within the past decade, it does take a significant amount of time to completely retool a factory. Design and packaging concerns will invest heavily in state-of-the-art digital printers that not only improve the workflow but allow for innovative marketing as well. According to recent studies, digital printing on packaging will continue to skyrocket in popularity until 2024, when the market will be worth in excess of $28 billion.
The packaging industry has evolved substantially in the last decade. Thanks to constant technological innovation, the equipment used is not only allowing for time and money to be saved but for packaging as we know it to become increasingly more appealing and functional.