Wal-Mart strikes again

Machinery OEMs who supply the equipment now automating the packaging lines that funnel product to Wal-Mart shelves take note: It’s unlikely your job is going to get any easier any time soon.

Talk at a recent industry outing included the news that Cott Beverages, the beverage giant that provides private-label soft drinks to Wal-Mart, may have to eliminate the corrugated tray it now uses in shrink-wrapped multipacks of containers. Why? To meet Wal-Mart’s “suggestion” that it shave another few pennies from its cost structure.

This move affects not just the builders of the automated multipacking machinery but those who build conveyors and other downstream handling systems, too. Picture the roller conveyors, for instance. Designed to transport a flat-bottomed multipack, they’ll now have to cope with a 12- or 24-pack that no longer has a smooth, one-piece surface.

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