Operational Excellence in Packaging Operations is Key to Remaining Competitive in Today’s Market

Emerson's Derek Thomas

Author: Derek Thomas

Today’s manufacturers of consumer packaged goods (CPGs) are facing new and significant challenges stemming from extraordinary changes in consumer preferences, increasing global competitiveness and a diminishing skilled-labor workforce.

Unchecked, these challenges undermine the ability to meet market demand and threaten profitability of CPG companies. What’s more, the decades-old approach of simply cutting labor costs or reducing material inputs is no longer sufficient; many CPGs are already running lean, having grown adept at accomplishing more with less, yet still find themselves vulnerable to these issues.

Fortunately, the outlook isn’t all gloom and doom. To the contrary, there is an incredible opportunity to overcome these issues and dramatically improve packaging operations by focusing investments in four critical areas: reliability, production, safety and sustainability.

By attaining operational excellence in these four key facets of manufacturing, CPGs can position themselves to more effectively respond to consumer demand, reduce operational losses and drive profitability. That’s why Emerson is actively engaging original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and manufacturers in the packaging market with innovative technologies and applications expertise specifically targeted at recapturing operational losses and improving performance in these key areas for end users.

Limiting Variability to Ensure Reliability

Advanced automation technologies provide the opportunity to increase overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) by limiting variability in a CPG’s process streams, materials, machine setup and utilities. That can have a serious impact on manufacturing operations since packaging lines with low OEE experience increased stops, excess scrappage and a greater amount of quality issues. Perhaps that’s why nearly 80 percent of food processing and packaging companies measure OEE and are looking to maximize their uptime. Emerson experts recognize that identifying and understanding the sources of manufacturing variability – from improper setup and poor maintenance to utility and material inputs – is critical to limiting variability. By incorporating Emerson’s technologies into machine designs, OEMs can empower end users with real-time insight into machine and process performance so that they can take immediate corrective action. Potential failures can be prevented and off-spec products can be significantly reduced with field devices that offer more accurate fills, more effective product seals, more reliable power, and improved operating performance. Emerson’s packaging technologies can also make setup and changeover more repeatable, ensuring machines run at centerline for maximum efficiency.

Gaining Flexibility to Improve Production

Operational Excellence in Consumer Packaged GoodsFor packaging lines, improving productivity and throughput means effectively responding to the increasing demand for product variety and convenience, driven by shifting consumer demographics. For example, in the United States where more than 60 percent of households consist of only one-to-two people, single-serve food packages are gaining popularity. In addition, an increasingly “on-the-go” society is demanding more portable packaging formats such as flexible and resealable package types.

What all of this translates to is amazing levels of package variety and complexity that manufacturers must find ways to accommodate. In fact, package variety is increasing at such a rapid rate that in the food processing industry alone, four out of five companies surveyed by PMMI reported having more than 100 product SKUs – and more than half predict SKUs will continue to increase.

While more SKUs offer added convenience for consumers, they create significant operational issues for packaging lines designed without the necessary flexibility or with aging technology. Those lines can experience lost throughput due to longer and more frequent changeover, excess waste and scrappage, and increased rejects – ultimately resulting in a need for more capital equipment or loss of profit for the manufacturer. At Emerson, we believe that technologies that remove limitations and allow machine designers a higher degree of freedom, enable efficient, repeatable performance, and improve quality inspection and control can make significant impacts on the productivity and performance of machinery. At the same time, these technologies can offer the flexibility necessary to accommodate the variety of package complexities facing producers.

Enabling Safer Interactions to Reduce Operator Risk

Another area of concern for packaging operations is safety. Given the growing complexity of packaging and machines, increased operator interactions, and constant pressure to deliver upon customer expectations, risks to packaging line operators are greater than ever before. In food manufacturing, alone, nearly five out of 100 full-time workers incur injury or illness each year, among the highest total recordable cases in manufacturing. Safety incidents can mean damage to property, fines, higher insurance rates, loss of productivity, and, most tragically, personal injury or loss of life. Data from a 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index reveals the most serious, non-fatal disabling workplace injuries cost nearly $62 billion in direct U.S. workers compensation claims, and the National Safety Council estimates a single fatal workplace injury can cost an average of $3 million in direct and indirect costs. To help reduce this risk, Emerson’s technologies foster safer interactions between operators and machines through innovative solutions such as zoned safety, which only shuts down the area where the operator is engaged, and control power UPS systems that enable safer shutdowns and restarts, protecting a packaging line’s people and assets without compromising production.

Reducing Scrappage and Waste to Foster Sustainability

For CPGs, limiting scrappage and waste just makes sense. It decreases manufacturing costs and reduces the roughly 169 million of tons of trash that end up in landfills each year. While the benefits are clear, implementing effective sustainability efforts isn’t always easy, especially as packaging designs increase in variety and complexity. These designs often require CPGs to work with new materials, such as thinner-gauged plastics, and introduce additional points of failure for a package, which could result in more failures on the line. Couple that with the constraints imposed by inflexible machinery, and CPGs can be forced to accept more losses as well as more waste in the manufacturing process. By partnering with Emerson, OEMs can help CPGs minimize wasted material and product failures by implementing technologies that greatly reduce product losses, require less material for sealing and joining, and offer more effective quality control That means CPGs can create the right package for the consumer while experiencing fewer rejects and less overall waste.

Responding to Change with Better Machinery

In the face of these changes and in order to continue to meet consumer demand and remain competitive, CPGs must adapt or risk being left behind. As they look to improve their packaging operations, they must find ways to accommodate more product complexity while limiting losses and safeguarding their personnel and assets.

The answer lies in packaging machinery that utilizes innovative technologies aimed at improving a packaging line’s reliability, production, safety and sustainability. OEMs that recognize this and incorporate solutions from Emerson’s leading portfolio of technologies into their machine designs can provide CPGs with a cost-effective means of achieving performance gains in these critical areas. This enables CPGs to extract greater value from their investments, adjust to future market changes, and drive profitability.

Contact our packaging experts to discuss your path to improved production, safety, sustainability and reliability.

Derek Thomas is vice president of marketing for Emerson’s Discrete & Industrial business group, which provides innovative automation solutions for the global factory automation and industrial machinery market. He is responsible for strategic marketing and global marketing communications for discrete automation products and services, supporting the growth of Emerson Automation Solutions into discrete markets.

One comment so far

  1. I personally believe Digital Transformation (DX) of how the plant is run and maintained is key to achieving operational excellence such as improve reliability, reduce maintenance cost, improve energy efficiency, reduce HS&E incidents and response time, and increase productivity etc. Many plants are already successful with digital transformation including a mix of on-premise digital and IIoT solutions starting from digital sensors on wireless and fieldbus. Learn how other plants do it from this essay: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digital-transformation-what-actually-means-plant-jonas-berge

    Digital inspection
    Digital collaboration
    Digital document box

    Digital distress calls
    Digital safety checks
    Digital mustering headcount and rescue locating

    Digital operator rounds
    Digital logbook
    Digital package unit management

    Digital energy management

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