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Robots 2023: Smarter, More Adaptable & More Robust

This year’s crop of new robotic equipment and software leans into AI technology, as well as higher payloads, greater flexibility, and increased ease of programming and handling to alleviate the challenges faced by packagers as a result of the labor crisis

2023 Packaging Robotics Report
Innovations in packaging robotics over the past year include an emphasis on new AI technology, higher-payload cobots, and systems that are easier to program and handle.

The global packaging robots market has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, and this upward trajectory is expected to continue throughout the next decade. According to Precedence Research, the market size for packaging robots reached a value of $5.6 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach approximately $15.73 billion by 2032, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8% between 2023 and 2032.

This growth can be attributed to various factors that have long motivated packaging companies to adopt robotics. These include labor shortages, the need for enhanced productivity, the ability to achieve consistent product handling and repeatable quality, and the paramount importance of worker safety.

However, the magnitude of some of these driving factors, particularly workforce challenges, has been amplified due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, packaging operations were already facing significant obstacles related to labor shortages and rising wages. In the post-pandemic era, these challenges have escalated to crisis levels. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics reveals that approximately 750,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector remain unfilled, despite historically low unemployment rates. Moreover, Deloitte Insights predicts that by 2030, the U.S. alone will have 2.1 million unfilled manufacturing jobs.

   Watch this related video, “The Automation Revolution: Robots Revolutionizing Packaging and Processing Tasks.”

States A3 – The Association for Advanced Automation, “The synergies between the industrial automation and manufacturing sectors have always been important to both, but the current labor crisis has intensified the sense of urgency and is a major driver of automation adoption.”

One obstacle for packaging companies considering the implementation of robotics remains the ongoing lack of skilled staff available on-site to program and operate the machinery. Robot OEMs are engineering new robotics systems that are increasingly more user-friendly and intuitive to program.

Furthermore, the advancement of Industry 4.0 has emerged as another influential force, accompanied by artificial intelligence (AI)-driven machine learning (ML) and intelligent vision technologies. These innovations are poised to enhance robot functionality significantly, making them easier to deploy and expanding the possibilities for robotic applications.

In Packaging World’'s 2023 Report on Robotics, we explore how these trends are shaping the development of new robotic equipment and software solutions. By highlighting a range of innovative systems that have been introduced over the past year, this report demonstrates the transformative impact of these technologies on packaging operations.

AI and ML: The two biggest trends in robotics today

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applications for packaging robotics are growing rapidly, helping robots perform tasks more efficiently and eliminating the need for manual programming.

New Robotics Systems Handle Packaging Customization

Packaging machinery OEMs engineer systems for primary packaging that integrate robotics to speed product customization by eliminating manual processes.

Heavy-Payload Cobots Take on Palletizing

A range of higher-payload, longer-reach ‘industrial cobots’ introduced over the last two years are accelerating the use of collaborative robots in secondary packaging applications.

New Palletizing Solutions Incorporate Cobots

Packaging machinery OEMs deliver new cobotic palletizing solutions that offer features such as a small footprint, AI, smart vision, and quick deployment.

Cobot Deployment Software Results in 90% Time Savings

D:PLOY is an automated platform for building, running, monitoring, and redeploying cobot applications on the factory floor with zero programming or simulation needed.

E-comm Complexity Spurs Smart Robot Systems

Advanced robotics systems provide the ability to handle the different packaging and product shapes, sizes, and materials associated with e-commerce environments.

Pharmaceutical Industry Enlists Packaging Robotics

Two new robotic pick-and-place systems for pharmaceutical applications use a cobot and a 6-axis robot, respectively, to load blisters and to cap primary aseptic pharma packs.

EOAT Innovation Includes Modularity, Intelligence & Flexibility

With recent advancements in technology, the ability of packaging robotics end-of-arm tooling to perform different tasks based on programmed instructions has advanced significantly.

Autonomous Mobile Robots Roll into Packaging Operations

To keep up with packagers’ increased interest in mobile robots, in the last couple of years, more packaging robotics-focused OEMs have entered the market.

Robotic Case Packer Handles Split-Cup Petfood Packs

Petfood co-packer Simmons Foods selects a robotic case-packing system capable of accurately placing varying product shapes, including a split-cup design, into custom shelf-ready trays and cases.

Automation Keeps Kegs Moving at Yuengling

America’s oldest brewery continues a long tradition of using packaging robotics for keg handling, installing two new 6-axis robots that depalletize/palletize kegs at 400/hr.

Robotic Pill Fulfillment Modules at the VA Get a Retrofit

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs calls in help to redesign a robotics system for automating its prescription fulfillment processes, after its first failed attempt.

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