FMCG manufacturers face an ever-expanding list of challenges, and 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.
In light of so much economic uncertainty, the pressure is on for industries to change their approach to maintain productivity levels. Labelling is part and parcel of packaging and processing - and the faster and more accurate, the better. By optimising business processes, automated labelling could be the key to closing the productivity gap between businesses and their competitors.
Charles Bryan, National Accounts Manager at Domino Printing Sciences, looks at five ways UK businesses can benefit from EOL packaging automation.
1. Smart use of human talent
As a result of the dynamic political and economic climate, manufacturers across the consumer goods sectors are preparing for and considering ways to offset the impact of reduced labour availability. In a bid to enhance and continually improve productivity, the availability of labour is a key consideration.
Despite the arduous nature of applying labels by hand, many manufacturers are still relying on it as a process. However, this in itself is an inefficient use of human resource. Machine automation offers labelling at a constant speed, eliminating the risk of mistakes through human error, thereby helping to preserve the quality of your final product. It’s not about displacing jobs with robotic automation, it is about using your talent smartly to unlock added value elsewhere.
2. Operational Efficiency
In terms of productivity, the UK is lagging behind other major EU manufacturing nations. It’s time to change - and packaging automation can be a valuable tool in that journey. 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. Automation allows for an uplift in speed, boosting the efficiency of your packaging operations and in turn can help address the problem of managing the seasonal flux in demand for certain consumer products, ensuring that all orders can be fulfilled.
3. Consistency is key
Retailers want predictability and consistency in terms of labelling. That’s where machine automation is highly beneficial. Manual processes can expose vulnerability to the supply chain such as a team member missing putting a label on a pack, or even applying an incorrect label by mistake; both of which are common errors in hand-applied labelling. 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.
Automation can also help to improve overall compliance and 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.
4. Gather valuable data
Industry 4.0 is about data - and lots of it. In the process of automating packaging and labelling processes through coding automation, the data gathered provides insight into the efficiency of throughput, as well as the quality of a production lines output. You can also seamlessly track the overall equipment effectiveness 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 the business and climb the career ladder.
Automation provides ways to bring more quality, efficiency, and consistency to packaging operations, mitigate labour shortages and support skills development within your workforce, which both enhances and strengthens the business. Ultimately, companies must adapt to keep up; through automation industry challenges can become exciting opportunities.