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5 ways packaging automation can counter UK productivity challenges

  • By Charles Bryan
  • November 15, 2018
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FMCG/CPG manufacturers face an ever expanding list of challenges. Automation provides ways to bring more quality, efficiency and consistency to your packaging operations, mitigate labour shortages and support skills development within your labour force. It’s time to talk about the benefits of end of line (EOL) packaging automation

Putting a label on it

No matter what product you are packaging, the label has a crucial role to play. It affects everything from your tracking capabilities to regulatory and legislative adherence. Labelling is part and parcel of packaging and processing - and the faster and more accurately, the better.

Whether it’s case labelling, tray packs, pallets or even the product directly, automated labelling brings many benefits to businesses, such as improving label quality, delivering consistency and freeing up human resource. Automated labelling could even help to close the productivity gap between UK businesses and their international competitors.

Here are five ways UK businesses can benefit from EOL packaging automation.

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1. Increasing the availability of labour

Manufacturers are under constant pressure to improve productivity as well as efficiency. One way to do that is to relieve staff from the burden of mundane, repetitive tasks and redeploy them in areas where they can add more value to operations.

Many manufacturers are still applying labels by hand. But that’s not necessarily a task that staff enjoy or engage with to bring value to your process. It’s also an inefficient use of your human resource when you consider that, with machine automation, your labels can be applied consistently, mitigating the risk of human error.

This is not a case of ‘the robots are coming’. It’s about a smarter use of your human talent; liberating your staff from the roles that they may potentially not enjoy, so they can provide added value elsewhere in your business and grow in the process.

That’s especially brought into focus in the context of dynamic political and economic climates, with manufacturers across the consumer goods sectors considering ways to offset the potential impact of reduced labour availability in 2019 and onward. The availability of labour is a key consideration in a bid to enhance productivity and continually improve.

2. Improve the efficiency of your operations

Machines can be designed with enhanced performance output and readily deliver repetition. With packaging automation your labels are applied at speed, with - potentially - no human intervention. It’s an ingeniously simple way to boost the efficiency of your packaging operations, and it solves the problem of managing seasonal flux in demand for certain consumer products.

The UK lags behind other major EU manufacturing nations in terms of productivity. It’s time to change that - and packaging automation can be a valuable tool in that journey.

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“45% of end users say robotics programming has become less complicated” https://pmmi.docsend.com/view/ttcbdx9

3. Bring consistency to your labelling

Retailers want predictability and consistency in terms of labelling. That’s where machine automation is highly beneficial. Common errors in hand-applied labelling may include a team member missing putting a label on a pack or even applying the incorrect label by mistake. Technology has been designed to put the right label, in the right place and validate the label content in more sophisticated solutions - time after time - with repeatability and at scale.

Tools such as our user interface design software, QuickDesign, make lighter work of applying variable data to each label of your packaging run. In turn, vision systems verify that each label matches the product that’s being packaged.

Automation of the labelling process can also help improve compliance to (or meeting) industry standards - such as GS1, EU FMD - and legislative regulations, all while ensuring the labels on your cases, tray packs, kegs, sacks and pallets are easier to read and scan along the supply chain.

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4. Gather valuable data and measure OEE

Industry 4.0 is about data. Lots of it. When you automate your EOL packaging and labelling processes through coding automation, you gather data that gives you insight into the efficiency of throughput and quality of your production lines' output. You can also seamlessly track OEE of your printing machinery and make intelligent procurement and production decisions based on factual data.

5. Skills uplift within your workforce

And so we come full circle. Packaging automation doesn’t just free up human resource. It empowers your workforce to develop skills that can drive innovation and growth within your business.

Instead of assigning valuable resources to apply labels to packaging - day in, day out - staff can train in new areas within your business and climb the career ladder. They can study apprenticeship courses in data analysis or work towards Six Sigma certification. Before you know it you have a staff member that has gone from hand-applying labels to the role of logistics manager, or has studied to become part of the engineering team implementing new factory builds or continuous improvement programmes.

High levels of employment in the UK mean that employees can be selective about the type of jobs they take on. By having automation in place, you are freeing people up to build rewarding, stimulating and long term careers for themselves within your organisation.

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How can we help?

Here at Domino we specialise in advanced print and apply labelling technology, used globally across manufacturing facilities in many industries. The Domino M-Series brings simplicity to your labelling operations, increased productivity and can be retro-fitted to production lines. It’s a future-proof way to bring more efficiency, productivity and consistency to your labelling - all while empowering your workforce to upskill for the benefit of both their careers and the future of your business.

Sound like a positive change programme you want to embark on? Come and find out more or talk to a specialist about your packaging and labelling ambitions.

You may also be interested in:

>> What is print and apply labelling?

>> How to choose print and apply labelling technology

>> What is the future of coding equipment for manufacturers?

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