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Machine Efficiency and the Impacts of Sustainable Packaging

Many primary packaging lines are no longer dedicated to a single product as SKUs increase, impacting line efficiency. Sustainable material changes may also create challenges.

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According to a new report by PMMI Business Intelligence, there are challenges CPGs face when moving to more sustainable packaging. “OEMs need to work closely with material suppliers to test new materials and be part of the process when changes are being considered to present and suggest solutions for machine modifications or alterations,” said one Sr. Director of Plant Engineering at a confectionery.

See: Syntegon Unveils Sustainable, Intelligent Machine Design

Here are some of the areas that have been impacted, according to CPGs interviewed for the report:

Thermoforming Operations

• Substrates have different melting points and do not flow the same, causing performance issues when forming trays.

• Polypropylene (PP) is now a popular mono-material but running it on existing thermoforming packaging machines is more challenging than with other plastic materials.

Capping/Sealing Station

• Sealing is a challenge when filling varied shapes and sizes; a stronger seal is needed.

• Machines that can efficiently handle and seal lightweight plastic trays are needed to minimize food waste and materials.

• Mono-materials are gaining attention but sealing can be a problem at high speeds.

Line Speed

• When using PC recycled content, there are many more variations in the material, and it impacts machine speeds and reliability.

• Paper is more prone to tearing at high speeds and can be harder to contour.


• Need filling equipment that is able to handle thinner walled bottles.

Labeling Improvements

• Print and apply labelers can achieve more uptime, improving production efficiency.

• High speed digital printers could eliminate label changes, reducing material usage.

• Labeling has improved with rotary-type labeling which is faster and more precise, reducing errors and rejections with new materials.

See: L’Oréal Replaces 5 Machines with One Smart System

Respondents also feel there should be a focus on using automation/IIoT connectivity to reduce material loss during production:

Case Packing Robots

• Utilizing robotics for case packing can improve packaging efficiency and decrease material waste to reach sustainability goals.

Eliminate the Corrugated Shipper

• Ziplock bags are eliminating corrugated shipping cases; bags are bundled and shrink wrapped, requiring a thicker bottom tray or board pad.

Case Erecting and Packing

• Case erectors and packers need to be more robust and flexible to handle more recycled content as industries move away from virgin material.

• Need a versatile machine to run all types of boxes: RSC, HSC, display cases, trays, and wrap around.

Lightweighted Corrugated

• Machinery innovation is needed to erect lightweighted corrugated containers.

PCR Content in Corrugated

• Corrugated with more recycled content increases the chances of having issues with machine performance.

• Cardboard that comes with variations in product quality and PCR content.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, “Packaging Sustainability: A Changing Landscape 2020

Download the FREE Executive Summary below, or PMMI Members can download the entire report here.

Make plans to visit PACK EXPO International in Chicago, November 8-11, to see on-trend sustainable processing and packaging machinery and materials.

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