Flexibility Remains Key in Future Packaging Machinery

Flexibility Remains Key in Future Packaging Machinery

Recently in the beverage industry, it sure feels like the number of new companies and products hitting the market is seeing a sharp increase.  Segments such as distilled spirits and beer are seeing increases in the number of players, with new craft distilleries and breweries seemingly appearing on a daily basis.  Bigger producers are also expanding their reach, entering markets such as teas, smoothies, health drinks, sports drinks and more.  For packaging machinery manufacturers like Liquid Packaging Solutions, this simply means that flexibility in design will become even more important in the future.

First, let's quickly define flexibility as we use it referring to packaging machinery to avoid confusion.  Flexible packaging has a specific definition in the industry, referring to containers such as bags, pouches and similar packages made with yielding materials that respond to the product, readily changing shape.  When we speak of flexible packaging machinery in this article, we are referring to packaging machinery that can handle a range of products, containers (flexible or not), closures, labels and other package components. 

As new packagers evolve, very seldom will they rely on one bottle and one package for all of their product or products.  From economy sizes to family packs, flexibility in packaging machinery has always been a benefit and an asset.  However, as Bill Anderson points out in his article "All the Lines Are Blurring" in the October 15, 2014 issue of Beverage World:

"What's in the bottle is also blurring.  In the beverage alcohol segment, we're seeing wine-infused beers and spirits, hopped spirits and spirit-flavored beers.  It's as if the winemakers, distillers and brewers are taking some of the best ideas and flavors from their brethren in other categories and making them their own."

For packagers, it is not just the container, cap and label that change from one production run to the next, but more and more it is becoming the liquids themselves as product lines expand and grow.  Flexible packaging machinery will allow for quick and simple changeovers and an easy cleaning process while having the ability to handle different viscosity and ingredients.  For filling machines, this can mean, among other things, manufacturing equipment that can handle different or varying viscosity, or perhaps dual or multi-filling principle machinery, such as pump and gravity combinations.  Tool-free adjustments and PLC controls with recipe screens can make the changeover process a breeze, allowing for less down time during the production day and machinery can also be equipped with clean-in place systems, allowing a few cycles to prepare the filler for a new product.  

As for other equipment, the same holds true.  Capping machinery that can handle different size and type closures will be more appealing to a packager.  Labeling equipment that can apply wraps, front and backs and panels will keep sell better than single application machinery.  In the end, packaging machinery manufacturers need to put even more emphasis on the versatility of the equipment to better serve a changing packaging industry.

For the full October 15, 2014 Beverage World article by Bill Anderson, click here