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Consider Repack Automation in Food & Beverage

June 17, 2024
Packaging is a highly automated process in almost all food & beverage plants. But repackaging – if you do it at all internally – lags behind.

By Geoff Coltman of Catena Solutions

 

The food & beverage (F&B) industry is a dynamic and competitive industry where efficiency and cost control are paramount for success. In this industry, optimizing packaging processes plays a crucial role in increasing profitability, ensuring quality and maintaining a competitive edge among other companies. Optimizing the packaging process is especially pertinent as many food & beverage manufacturers repack products, transferring them from original commercial packaging to packaging suitable for consumer consumption or retail.

The traditional form of repacking is typically labor-intensive, which is why some manufacturers outsource repacking to a contract packer (co-packer). A co-packer packages and labels products for the client, which can save them time and labor. However, using a co-packer means less control since the manufacturer must abide by the co-packer’s production schedule and costs, which can create inefficiencies for a company.

To combat some of the inefficiencies and issues that can arise by outsourcing work to a co-packer, companies are turning to repack automation solutions so they can handle operations on their own.

In this context, repack automation refers to the use of advanced technologies and machinery to automate the repackaging of food & beverage products. This includes tasks such as portioning, labeling and packaging, which are essential steps in the manufacturing and distribution process.

Unlike manual repackaging, which can be slow and resource-intensive, automated systems are capable of handling large volumes of products with speed and precision. Repack automation is changing the game, offering significant benefits in terms of cost reduction and operational efficiency.

One of the most significant advantages of repack automation is its ability to cut costs for F&B organizations, since approximately 20% of labor is allocated to packing tasks, positioning it as the third most labor-intensive function within a warehouse. By reducing the need for manual labor, automation can help lower labor costs significantly.

Additionally, automation optimizes inventory management by providing real-time data on stock levels and expiration dates, allowing organizations to minimize overstocking and stockouts. Furthermore, automated systems streamline the usage of packaging materials, reducing waste and saving money on packaging supplies.

In addition to cost-cutting benefits, repack automation also can enhance efficiency within F&B organizations. By utilizing these automated systems, organizations are able to increase production speed and throughput, allowing them to meet growing demand without compromising on quality.

Moreover, the introduction of automation can enhance consistency and accuracy in packaging, helping to reduce the risk of errors. Real-time data monitoring and analytics provided by automated systems enable better decision-making and resource allocation, further enhancing operational efficiency. Additionally, integration with other systems, such as inventory management and order fulfillment software, streamlines operations and reduces processing time.

Looking ahead, the future of repack automation in the F&B industry is promising. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics are poised to further revolutionize packaging processes, unlocking new levels of efficiency and cost savings. However, while implementing repack automation in F&B organizations offers benefits, investing in these solutions alone cannot fully maximize efficiencies and prevent disruptions.

The introduction of automated systems should be integrated with human expertise rather than replacing human skills to minimize disruptions, enhance productivity and gain a competitive edge. Upskilling employees and maintaining effective change management alongside the automation introduction are essential steps in this digital transformation journey.

Providing training and upskilling opportunities for employees ensures smooth integration with automated systems, and when done in tandem with the automation implementation, the balance between automation and an organization’s people can result in enhanced productivity, among other benefits.

Embracing automation and pairing it with human expertise is not just a strategic choice; it’s a necessity for those looking to stay ahead of the curve, drive profitability and deliver superior value to customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.


Geoff Coltman is senior vice president of Catena Solutions (www.catenasolutions.com), a supply chain consultancy that specializes in supporting supply chain organizations with business initiatives including digital, financial, human capital and supply chain transformations. Email him at [email protected].

 

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