February 24, 2022 

The Most Important Packaging Industry Trends 2022

Packaging industry trends for 2022 include PALM system advancements, a heavier AI presence in palletizing and depalletizing, and changing work protocols to adapt to a changing labor market.

As we reflect on 2021, it’s impossible to ignore the COVID-19 pandemic when it’s still heavily affecting the daily operations of packaging groups around the world. Supply chains are still facing complications, labor availability is often scarce, and e-commerce is reportedly more profitable than ever before. 

In response, 2021 (and 2020, for that matter) was all about adapting to new circumstances to survive. For example, line operators had to keep devising new work protocols to ensure worker safety amidst evolving health guidelines. Those involved in food packaging and consumer good manufacturing introduced more protective, tamper-evident packaging (e.g. flexible pouches and blister packs) into their operations to boost consumer confidence in the face of health concerns. In the most extreme cases, some manufacturing operations even pivoted production to focus on creating goods that were made scarce due to supply chain issues. 

Moving into the next year, we foresee the most important packaging industry trends for 2022 revolving around improving efficiency as supply chains increasingly move towards a sense of normalcy.

Below, we describe some of the trends that we see as being the most impactful for the packaging industry this year and how they will continue to advance coding and marking operations in the future. 

Three Impactful Packaging Industry Trends for 2022

Although the packaging industry is experiencing many changes and shifts due to the current global business and economic climate, the following trends are what we feel will be the most important in 2022.

1. Print-and-Apply Labeler Advancements

Every year, hardware advancements promise to bring higher levels of efficiency to packaging operations worldwide. As we move into 2022, one of the machines that we predict will experience the most improvement is the print-and-apply labeling machine (PALM).

Right now, PALM systems are in an interesting position in the coding and marking field. Although they are commonly used in a wide variety of contexts (e.g. chemical packaging plants and beverage bottling facilities), well-known coding manufacturers like Videojet and Markem-Imaje don’t invest in PALM systems like they do with their continuous inkjet printers or laser etchers. This has allowed smaller companies like Panther to develop print-and-apply labelers that lead the industry in speed and reliability.

For 2022, we foresee the PALM marketplace truly opening up to innovation and availability. Expect to see:

  • More machines that excel in either end-of-line or in-line positions.
  • Increased competition between smaller PALM developers and big-name manufacturers.
  • Faster labeling speeds and more reliable operations.
  • Innovative applicators that can place multiple labels in one motion.

2. Heavier AI Presence in Palletizing and Depalletizing

For decades, artificial intelligence (AI) has been an essential tool for packaging operations across the world. Used to discover packaging mistakes, sort through vast quantities of materials, and streamline variable data printing, AI is utilized in many different ways in the packaging industry, and new uses emerge every year. In 2022, we expect AI to assume a larger role in palletizing/depalletizing applications.

Palletizing and depalletizing robots have existed for several years, and it’s easy to understand their appeal. Palletizing and depalletizing are labor-intensive, physically demanding tasks—consequently, manual palletizing positions often experience high turnover, which can strain an operation’s ability to meet production quotas. 

Although palletizing and depalletizing machines aren’t new, they have had their share of problems in the past. Perhaps most notably, they were often limited to simple stacking and required expert-level programming to complete complex tasks like mixed load depalletizing or chaotic storing. This is where AI comes in. 

Hardware developers are working to expand the capabilities of palletizing and depalletizing solutions with the help of vision systems and machine learning. Using these tools, the solution learns how to pick, sort, construct, and deconstruct pallets made of differently-sized boxes and items. These developments will reduce the amount of hands-on programming required to operate a palletizing solution and make the hardware more efficient and versatile than previously possible. 

3. Changing Work Protocols to Adapt to the Shifting Labor Market

Moving into 2022, it’s clear the workforce is changing. Labor shortages have proven to be a persistent problem, and although some economists are hopeful they will end by the middle of the year, others are not so sure. In response, many packaging operations are looking towards adjusting their work protocols and acquiring new machinery to adapt to these changes. However, this can be a very tricky task to complete.

To those not directly involved in warehouse operations, automation may seem like a net good. After all, stacking and labeling hardware performs tasks at a rate faster than human laborers can match. However, there are a multitude of factors to consider when thinking about automating an element of your packaging line. For example:

  • There are no significant upfront costs to consider.
  • Workers often need to receive training to use the new equipment.
  • Operators need to devise new working protocols and change directions to ensure ongoing productivity.

However, introducing new hardware isn’t the only reason to adjust work protocols. In many scenarios, simply adjusting a few working practices can increase productivity. For instance, reevaluating material usage and shipping practices can make a line more efficient and save money on variable costs.

As companies continue to look for ways to adapt to the changing labor market, we expect to hear lots of reports on improved work policies and new line configurations.

Want to learn more about the most important packaging industry trends of 2022? Stay connected with C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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