The Positive Impacts of Packaging Automation for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Packaging plays a vital role in today’s fast-paced business landscape, ensuring product protection, preservation, and presentation. As the packaging industry continues to grow and adapt to changing market demands, it’s crucial for companies to stay ahead and offer exceptional packaging solutions. To provide insights into this dynamic landscape, we have developed Packaging Talks – a series of conversational panels with Crawford’s packaging experts. Whether you’re a business owner, a packaging professional, or simply curious, our panels aim to offer valuable information and inspiration.  

In this installment of our Packaging Talks, we chat with Yvonne Butler, Crawford’s General Sales Manager, about the positive impacts of packaging automation for small and medium-sized businesses.  


How can packaging automation benefit small and medium-sized businesses? 

Packaging automation significantly enhances operational efficiency and flexibility, which is increasingly necessary for small and medium-sized businesses to stay competitive. Take, for example, a medium-sized food processing company that implemented automated packaging lines. Before automation, their process was manual and generally slow, with frequent bottlenecks and quality inconsistencies. After introducing a fully automated shrink-wrapping system and adding a robotic palletizer, they saw a significant reduction in packaging time and a consistent increase in product quality. The robot could handle different packaging sizes and types with minimal reconfiguration, offering the flexibility to switch between various products seamlessly. This was crucial for them, as they can now act faster and be more responsive to market needs.  


What impact does packaging automation have on employee retention and job satisfaction? 

The short answer is “huge.” When you look at a single box, it is obviously no big deal to move and place it on a pallet but think about doing it repeatedly for six hours. This can be a challenge. Many industries these days face labour shortages, and if they end up finding this skilled worker, think about retaining them. I’ve heard so many stories of hourly employees leaving shortly after joining a firm. It’s unbelievable. Packaging automation is one of those things that can have a very positive impact on employee retention and job satisfaction. It minimizes repetitive and physically demanding tasks, such as manually moving and palletizing boxes for extended periods. Robots and collaborative robots so called cobots, can take over these labour-intensive roles, reducing the risk of injury and fatigue among workers. But probably the most important thing is that this shift allows employees to focus on more engaging activities, increasing job satisfaction and making it easier for businesses to attract and retain talent. 


How can small and medium-sized businesses justify the return on investment (ROI) for packaging automation given their scale? 

I think that justifying the ROI for packaging automation can be approached strategically by starting small and thinking long-term. A small logistics company, for example, might begin with a basic automated line rather than a full-scale system. Over time, as the business grows, the initial investment pays off through increased production efficiency and lower labour costs. Additionally, the company could later integrate more advanced automation as needed, leveraging the existing system’s flexibility to handle various packaging tasks. The key is to view the investment as a scalable solution that will grow with the business. I can think of many examples of small manufacturers who initially invested in affordable cobots for palletizing and gradually expanded their automation capabilities as they saw tangible improvements in productivity and cost savings. This incremental approach helps mitigate the initial financial impact while ensuring long-term benefits. To further support this decision-making process, companies like Crawford Packaging offer ROI calculators that help customers clearly understand the financial benefits and timeline for return on their investment. 

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