How to choose the optimal packaging machine?

There are few things that cannot be packed automatically. Packing machines can gracefully put eggs into egg boxes as well as cartridges into the magazine of an AK-47 rifle. No wonder that if you pack and send more than 10 parcels a day, you may think that life would be better with a machine. But which packaging machine should you buy? When is automation worth investing in? How to choose the optimal packaging machine from the wide selection on the market? Reading further, you’ll find that it is not so difficult.

Packaging machines may impress with their capabilities. Like all automated machines, they can perform very complicated, repetitive tasks with a precision unachievable by humans. They don’t make mistakes or get tired, or take holidays, and they don’t expect a salary or social benefits.

It makes you start to compare them to people performing the same activities. Although it’s cynical, next you are considering if an investment in a packaging machine is justified.

Packer versus packaging machine

It is not about the human-robot struggle, but rather about quite brutal arithmetic: what is the relation between the price of a packaging machine and the annual labour costs of the packer/s. If all packaging tasks are beyond the capabilities of one packer and you have to employ another, you have to start thinking first about buying the simplest machine for cardboard box sealing.

If you need to employ two or three people, it will start to make sense to buy a fully automated sealing machine which is adjustable to different sizes of cardboard boxes. Or maybe it is even worth considering combining such a machine with an automatic stretch pallet wrapper via a roller conveyor.

Sometimes you may be forced to purchase a packaging machine as your product needs special packaging “treatment”, e.g. when you need to package jars or glass bottles. Packaging them in any other way than automatically wrapping them in heat-shrinkable film means a significant increase in costs. Even the simplest shrink wrap machine may be a necessity for a small plant producing for example organic preserved products from fruits and vegetables.

Price-performance ratio

The optimal packaging machine capacity should meet your needs, preferably even slightly exceed them. It would be best to express those needs in numbers.

You don’t have to go through the complicated technical specifications of the machine, just a phone call or e-mail to the producer stating simply “5 thous. twist-off jars, 373 jars a day, in packs of 12” or “200 boxes per hour, of size 9 x 9 x 6 cm, in packs of 3” will do. Let a consultant take care of the rest.

You may ask a few producers the same enquiry and choose the most beneficial offer. Or the offer you can afford right now. Ok., so what now? Purchase? Yes, but first …

Try packing before paying

Even if you have seen a machine working somewhere and you are told that it is working perfectly, it is better to see for yourself. So you should ask the producer about the possibility of testing before buying, especially when it’s your first machine or you consider buying a more expensive model.

In this way you may get at least two important benefits:

  • the possibility to check whether your choice is correct – “passing” your product through the packaging machine will allow you to check whether the machine is optimal or whether you need something different;
  • the possibility to verify the seller/manufacturer attitude to customers – if the selling company rejects your request to test a machine before buying, maybe you should look elsewhere, as your relationship with the seller will continue after the purchase.

The machine needs an algorithm

Getting deeper into the packaging process automation, you will also have to consider the automation of the packaging planning, starting from planning the distribution of goods in parcels, then of parcels on pallets or in containers, and finally of pallets in trucks, etc.

A packaging machine means such a high turnover that packaging planning algorithms do not only facilitate work and make it much faster, but simply become an economic necessity. In this case, optimisation results should be assessed by comparing the software price (or the cost to access the application in the cloud  – a link to the text “Packets are coming from the clouds. Packing algorithms in the SaaS model”) to the labour costs.