The Evolution of Automation in Packaging Machinery

Like automation in any industry, automation in packaging machinery has evolved over time. From simple handheld tools to fill, cap, and otherwise prepare products for consumers to fully automatic packaging lines that simply require set up and monitoring, packaging machinery automation today includes a multitude of automation levels. These distinct levels of automation allow businesses of any size to add efficiency, consistency and reliability to their packaging process.

Manual Packaging Machinery

The first step toward packaging machinery automation began with labor-intensive and time-consuming manual packaging machines. While these machines may or may not have added speed to a process, depending on the actual task being performed, manual packaging machines benefited packagers by allowing for filling, capping, and other processes to be completed both consistently and reliably. Some of these machines remain today as viable solutions for smaller packagers. Manual, handheld chuck cappers allow a small business to tighten screw-on type closures, removing issues such as cross-threads and loose caps. For those with larger demand, however, manual machines will likely not be an option today.

Semi-Automatic Packaging Equipment

Semi-automatic packaging machinery reduces the manual labor necessary by combining the labor with machine automation. This combination allows a packager to speed up most processes while again ensuring consistent and reliable rinsing, filling, capping, and other processes. Tabletop semi-automatic filling machines, for example, simply require an operator to place bottles and activate the fill, simplifying the procedure and speeding up the process of filling bottles by volume, level, or other principle. Tabletop machines, as the name suggests, also allow packaging processes to take place in small spaces, removing the need for extensive production space. Semi-automatic equipment can also be manufactured on a full frame, and while these machines will again be limited to packagers with small or medium production, some full-frame machinery leaves packagers the option to upgrade the automation in the future.

Automatic Packaging Lines

Packaging machinery reached the full automation stage by incorporating sensors, programmable logic controllers and other technology to nearly remove the need for an operator. Automatic packaging lines will still require manual labor to set up the machinery pre-production, adjusting guide rails, setting up individual machines and providing bulk components such as product, bottles, caps, and labels. Once set up, however, automatic equipment can run continuously if the bulk components remain in supply, greatly increasing the efficiency and output for the business without sacrificing consistency or reliability. Power conveyor systems will typically feed each of the machines on the line, allowing a packager to start up a system and prepare products from loading and rinsing bottles through labeling, coding, palletizing and more. These different levels of automation can also be combined to create unique packaging systems, allowing for packagers of any size to create a system that meets their own specific needs.

Moving from manually preparing products to automated packaging machinery may seem like a complete evolution for equipment. But as more and more products hit the shelves, and consumer tastes continue to change, packaging machinery will continue to evolve to meet the needs of both packagers and consumers while remaining consistent, reliable, and efficient. With the advancement of AI and other technology, solutions for packaging products will continue to change to meet current needs.