Growth in eco-friendly packaging, retail-ready packaging and private labeling among the factors driving automation in packaging across food and beverage, CPG sectors worldwide, says Yaskawa America manager at WestPack

LOS ANGELES , March 13, 2013 () – The upward trend in sustainable packaging, retail-ready packaging and private labeling are among the factors driving the global adoption of automation in packaging across the food and beverage and consumer packaged goods (CPG) sectors, said Shishir Rege, of Yaskawa America Inc., at the “Robotics in Packaging” seminar at WestPack, The West Coast’s Packaging Trade Show & Conference, on Feb. 13.

Globally, food and CPG companies have installed 25,500 robots between 2007 and 2011 for an average annualized growth of 10.25%, with 25% of those robots in the North American region, according to IFR Published Statistics and RIA Statistics, Rege cited in his presentation, “Packaging Trends: A Case for Robotics Solutions.”

A number of consumer and retail trends are influencing the move to robotics, which are primarily used to pick, pack and palletize, said Rege, the product marketing manager of CPG in Yaskawa America’s Motoman Robotics Division.

For consumer trends, he highlighted the rise of healthy and organic foods that may have a lower shelf life due to a lack of preservatives; various size choices that include single-serve, family, variety and bulk packs; packaging that caters to different generations and ethnicities; and cost-conscious consumers. These trends call for frequent changeover and just-in-time production, Rege said.

“If you can’t do it more efficiently, it will cost a big bite out of your bottom line,” he said. “Some of these costs can’t be transferred to consumers.”

As for retailing trends, the rise in retail-ready packaging has translated to a global demand of 27 million tonnes of material in 2011 that’s worth more than $54 billion, according to Smithers Pira. And that number could reach 32.1 million tonnes and $63.4 billion by 2017, according to the study.

Retailers want to minimize damaged products and the use of people pulling goods out of boxes and stacking them on shelves, Rege said. Other retail trends include the growing private labeling market, the reduction of backroom space and product, and pallet customization per retailer.

Lastly, packaging trends could also drive changes to product handling and machinery, as a commitment to sustainability could mean thinner, softer and more fragile packaging and possibly slower production rates. The changing of packaging to differentiate products could also come into play as marketers aim to connect with consumers through packaging.

Interest is also high in the pharmaceuticals side, according to Rege, who cited a December 2012 PMMI report, which indicated that 65% of pharmaceutical companies plan to use robotics in their packaging line while that percentage surges to 100% for medical devices companies.

According to the report, 91% of pharmaceutical companies and 71% of medical device companies plan use or plan to use robotics to improve cartoning, case packaging and palletizing.

Companies are aiming to reduce manual labor in their packaging processes and turning to robotics for flexibility in adapting to new packaging processes and enabling the automation of manual tasks, Rege said.

“Every time someone touches a product there is a cost,” Rege said.

He noted that industries are moving from an era of mass production to mass customization, which calls for highly efficient and agile production lines. 

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.