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Co-packers challenged to leverage automation

A new report from PMMI, “Vision 2025,” enumerates those challenges that contract packagers face when automating and offers suggestions on overcoming these hurdles.

New report from PMMI looks at co-packers' automation challenges.
New report from PMMI looks at co-packers' automation challenges.

A new report, “Vision 2025,” from PMMI – The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, is a compilation of insights from packaging and processing professionals from operations and engineering, including CPGs, contract packagers, and OEMs, who got together at PACK EXPO International 2018 to discuss the challenges and solutions they employ to leverage automation in operations.

Among the greatest challenges noted by contract packagers:

  • We are constantly challenged by the best way to manage modular, castors, or flexible systems so that upon project completion, the next one can begin easily with equipment redeployed to meet ever-changing customer demands.
  • We are constantly looking for ways to embed automation technology and flexibility into our machines to survive in this new manufacturing environment.
  • With smaller lots and runs, automated processes constantly challenge film performance and costs.
  • We aren’t currently up to speed regarding built-in-speed diagnostics in many of our production operations.
  • Even when we learn about automation best practices, we often struggle with implementing throughout our organization.
  • Implementing predictive and autonomous maintenance is currently one of our production operations’ shortcomings. We need a predictive maintenance structure with robust connectivity to our equipment.
  • Difficulty keeping different control systems talking to each other—especially with safety data—and with affording equipment controls updates.

Among the solutions:

  • Embracing and utilizing more automated maintenance management systems.
  • Testing some predictive technologies to help make some of our operational challenges more visible to us.
  • Working to capture the tribal knowledge in our company regarding the operation of equipment and other processes in our overall production operations.
  • High priority is the development of an overall obsolescence strategy throughout our production operations.
  • Working to mitigate obsolescence challenges by creating local fabrication shops, leveraging eBay for obsolescent parts, and upgrading older technologies.
  • Looking for a proactive design of predictive equipment, e.g., “maintenance needed soon” and other predictive capabilities—the goal is for less or redeployed labor.
  • Leveraging VR/AR technologies to enable technicians to experience a new plant design virtually, provide feedback, and help improve the design before building.
  • Leveraging VR/AR technologies to conduct FATs virtually before physical on-site inspection.
  • Looking to leverage new robotic technologies, especially the use of collaborative robots.
  • Streamlining and removing unnecessary adjustability in equipment.

Download the complete report.

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