Packaging lines play an essential role in the daily operations of countless manufacturing facilities worldwide. With the help of an effective packaging system, companies can house their finalized products for shipping, handling, and eventually, retail sale with full protection against possible damages along the way. Further, both primary and secondary packaging materials provide ample space for workers to place traceable markings required by both supply chain channels and government regulations.
Primary packaging materials, such as flexible film and paperboard boxes, are a great canvas for companies to place traceable markings like barcodes, expiration dates, and serial numbers using continuous inkjet or thermal inkjet hardware. This step is especially important for pharmaceutical and food packaging companies that must comply with labeling regulations enacted by the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture or else face expensive fines. Secondary packaging materials, like cardboard cartons, also play an important role in traceability, as shipping labels enable businesses to precisely locate where products have moved along the supply chain.
Although packaging lines are essential, it’s often difficult to create one that functions at 100% uptime. Companies need to strategically develop workflows, comprehensively train employees, buy and incorporate line equipment, utilize cost-effective materials, and more. With all of these factors to consider, improving packaging line efficiency can be quite a challenging task.
To begin packaging line improvements, we recommend the three steps detailed below.
Manual labor is incorporated in many traditional packaging line setups. Given that manual labor requires little capital investment, companies will often hire a small batch of workers to perform simple tasks like label application or carton building, filling, and sealing. These duties require minimal training to execute, so manual labor is seen as a cost-effective and quick way to keep production moving.
However, manual labor does have several drawbacks. For example, costs add up over time. According to recent reports, the average packaging line worker makes around $9.56 per hour to perform mostly repetitive tasks. In terms of salary, one worker costs the company $19,000 a year. Furthermore, many states (including California, Washington, and Massachusetts) have minimum wage requirements ranging from $13.50-$14 an hour. These wages push yearly costs to approximately $27,000 per worker, excluding any additional costs like unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation.
Additional manual labor drawbacks include:
With automated equipment like print-and-apply machines, companies can eliminate these issues, thereby improving packaging line efficiency overall. The presence of automated hardware also lowers manual labor needs, leading to lower annual labor costs.
To create an efficient packaging line, companies must first create efficient workflows. For workflows to function properly, employees must be able to perform all of their required tasks in a correct, orderly manner. This requires proper employee training.
Without quality employee training, productivity inevitably falls, as workers are unable to perform daily processes in safe, repeatable ways. When companies fail to provide adequate training, they are likely to face:
Well-designed training programs provide workers with insight into how they should perform their daily tasks and why. With this knowledge, workers can prevent unnecessary delays by successfully using the tools at their disposal and avoiding situations that put their bodies in harm’s way.
Packaging companies can improve their training programs by:
While finding flaws in existing processes can be difficult, carefully recording daily operational results can help illustrate where improvements can be made. For example, if considering a change to automated labeling, it’s essential to know how it will affect:
In many cases, switching from manual labor to automated labor results in lower annual costs, even when considering hardware upkeep and a steep initial investment. However, it’s essential to analyze all available data before making the change.
Similarly, carefully recording daily production times, costs, and outputs can help businesses discover flaws in their processes and discover ways to enhance workflows.
When a company improves its packaging line, overall productivity increases as well. Packaging line upgrades can boost overall throughput, lower labor costs, eliminate labeling mistakes, and ensure that products stay protected during every shipping stop. With these benefits in reach, investing the time and money to make packaging line improvements can be an easy choice to make.
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