The consumer-packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers are always studying consumer behaviour and continuously fine tuning their operations to meet with ever changing consumer needs. E-commerce and grocery retail logistics needs to become ever more efficient and responsive. Automation of packaging lines, inbound and outbound warehouse process, and distribution and fulfillment centers are key to managing inventories and ensuring that consumer demands are always met. Stock outs are not an option as customers can be fickle and switch brands.
CPG companies have been automating their packaging lines but the current buzzword is ‘flexibility’ without sacrificing any of the performance and quality metrics. The production lines run shorter batches and need to change over quickly from one format to another with practically zero changeover time. Industry 4.0 practices allow real time monitoring of overall line performance and each of its constituents. Manufacturers demand this level of automation and flexibility of their packaging machinery suppliers.
Thankfully, technological advances in motion, controls and robotics allow packaging machinery suppliers to design and deliver machines that can meet stringent requirements of CPG and other manufacturers. To this end, for the primary packaging equipment, the clean-in-place (CIP) processing times are taken out of the equation by having filling equipment with dual product circuit. This is so that filling of the next format can start almost instantaneously while the other product circuit undergoes CIP. The secondary and end of line machines like case packing and palletising systems changeover quickly or automatically so that whole packaging line can work with minimal or zero changeover time. There are numerous successful examples of such applications and this is no longer a pipe dream. Where required, all the products can be tracked and traced right through the production and supply chain for quality and security.
In most parts of Asia, the level of automation falls dramatically at the feeding of packaging consumables to packaging machinery, or as the products hit the warehouse. The inbound and outbound warehouse processes remain manual or semi-automated. The intralogistics is where all the attention is focused for automation.
Automated Guided vehicles (AGVs) or Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs) with suitably designed accessories are helping to drive automation for moving material within the production space.
Increasing adoption of ERP software is pushing manufacturers to look towards automating their warehouses for seamless tracking and movement of their inbound and outbound inventories. Several cost effective solutions are available. These could take form of dense racking, auto storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) using mother-child pallet shuttle, stacker cranes or AGVs.
Swift growth of e-commerce and grocery retail has supply chain leaders searching for new and innovative solutions for faster and accurate demand fulfillment.
To better position the supply chain for an uncertain future, leading companies are aggressively applying lessons from recent disruptions to improve their supply chain resilience. This year’s MHI survey found that 49% of supply chain leaders have accelerated spending in digital technologies to make their operations more responsive and forward- looking during the pandemic. Cloud computing, robotics and automation, and inventory/network optimization tools saw the biggest jump in terms of supply chain investment.
The top uses for robotics and automation revolve around warehouse movements: picking/packing/ sorting orders (40%); loading/unloading/stacking (30%); and material/product movement within a facility (30%).
At Clearpack Group, via our Packaging Automation and Intralogistics Automation divisions, we strive to provide solutions from Filling to Fulfillment, backed by our reliable machinery and WMS/WCS software.