Packaging automation for small businesses offers a unique opportunity to increase efficiency. Many of the manual processes that are required in the packaging line can be made more safe, effective, and scalable by introducing automation.
Let’s take a look at why companies are choosing automation and the types of automated equipment available for distribution centers. We’ll also answer the top questions that people have about automation in packaging.
Why Companies are Choosing Automation
Automation has many benefits, even for small businesses. Whether you are a boutique manufacturer of shoes in Wyoming or a global distributor of consumer products, your company relies on efficiently getting products out the door. Here are ways that companies benefit from automation:
- Speed: As companies grow and demand increases, the output must increase too. Humans have a maximum capacity and a maximum speed. Machines, on the other hand, are programmable and can operate exponentially faster than humans. This allows companies to scale and keep up with demand.
- Reduce costs: While there is an initial investment, the long-term savings make up for the equipment costs.
- Consistency: Human error is only natural. Machines can create a more consistent product each time. Consistency in materials used and material application saves costs and brings integrity to the final product.
- Worker safety: Supply chain workers are often placed in compromising environments, so anything you can do to improve working conditions is valuable. Repetitive motion often causes worker injuries and long-term damage. Semi-automated equipment is designed to improve worker conditions and take this burden off workers
Types of Automation Equipment
For starters, there are two classifications of automated equipment: semi-automated and fully-automated. Semi-automated equipment works in conjunction with human labor to execute an operation. Fully automated equipment does not need a human to facilitate the labor process.
At Hughes, we offer a wide variety of semi-automated and fully-automated equipment for small businesses that are interested in getting started with automation to their distribution centers:
- Cappers and Fillers: for bottling everything from pharmaceuticals to beverages to household products – and everything in between
- Case Labeling: includes simple label applicators up to high-speed label printer applicators; bar coding machines, laser marking equipment, customized labels, and thermal transfer ribbons
- Case Packing: reduces labor-intensive processes and packs the cases more efficiently and more consistently
- Hand-Held and Tabletop Packaging Equipment: this includes applications like twist tie machines, bag openers, and label dispensers, to speed up production processes
- Industrial Bagging Systems: fill and seal bags with ease and efficiency
- Palletizers: load products onto pallets with accuracy and minimize damage
- Shrink wrapping equipment: precise sealing that creates a safe, secure, and professional product
Top Questions Small Businesses Ask About Automation
(1) What is automation in a distribution center?
Techopedia defines automation as “the creation of technology and its application in order to control and monitor the production and delivery of various goods and services. It performs tasks that were previously performed by humans.”
(2) Should I be looking at semi-automated or fully-automated equipment?
This will depend on your needs and your budget. Small businesses often start with semi-automated equipment to get accustomed to the tools. As your output grows, you may want to upgrade to fully-automated equipment. A Hughes packaging expert can help you determine which application is right for your packaging needs.
(3) Will automation replace jobs?
The goal of automation is NOT to displace workers from their roles. The idea is that packaging lines become more efficient and workers are able to work in safer environments. Semi-automated and fully-automated equipment still rely on workers and give workers other opportunities within the distribution center.
(4) Can small businesses afford automation?
Many companies believe that they are too small to afford automated equipment – which is not true. There are options for companies of all sizes. Many automated equipment companies also offer leasing and financing to make automation more affordable.
(5) How can automation help to grow my small business?
By investing in automation, companies are often able to grow faster due to higher output and more efficiency within the distribution center. If you can’t meet customer demands or if products take too long to get out the door, your customers will eventually become turned off and find another solution.
Is automation right for your company?
If you haven’t already introduced automated equipment to your packaging line, you have likely considered it or investigated your options. Consult with a Hughes packaging expert to get advice on how automation can improve your business.