Labor shortages are driving consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to adopt automated solutions, according to “The Future of Automation in Packaging and Processing” report released at Pack Expo International (Oct. 23-26, 2022; McCormick Place, Chicago).
The report, produced by show organizer PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, highlights how CPGs are looking to enhance and optimize their production, storage, and distribution processes using automated solutions including automated guided vehicles, industrial robots, collaborative robots, and mobile robots, with some of these technologies being supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced vision tools.
According to the report, e-commerce is fueling the automation trend, moving companies toward more responsive modes of distribution such as Direct-to-Customer, disrupting traditionally highly manual warehousing formats, and in some cases eliminating the need for warehousing.
Additionally, supply chain problems are impacting the availability and cost of raw materials and parts for packaging machinery. Over 90% of CPGs say these problems are either extremely impactful or somewhat impactful and while most companies expect them to be resolved over the short term (within three years) at least 25% of companies anticipate them persisting over a longer time span.
With this boom in e-commerce coupled with the challenges arising from widespread supply chain issues, the Logistics Pavilion at PACK EXPO International (North Building) is particularly relevant. Attendees can find targeted solutions related to the supply chain, including warehousing, fulfillment, distribution logistics services, and transportation providers.
Additionally, 60% of companies report that labor shortages are extremely impactful on their packaging and processing operations, pushing CPGs toward automation, and increasing the importance of developing a skilled workforce. With more than 1,500 high school and college students expected at PACK EXPO International, upskilling the future workforce is front and center at the show. PACK EXPO International offers many activities aimed at getting students excited about careers in packaging and processing and connecting them with professional mentors in the industry.
As CPGs look to automation to tackle these operational challenges, there is no better place than PACK EXPO International to find the right solutions, with over 2,000 leading suppliers showcasing never-before-seen solutions over 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space. This event brings more than 40 vertical markets together to generate a cross-pollination of ideas and crossover solutions.
Further supporting these findings, in a separate PMMI survey of PACK EXPO International attendees asking for thoughts on what they were planning to look for at the show, it is clear automation is top of mind. Once again, the potential for automation and robotics to reduce the reliance on personnel and accommodate lower skilled workers was cited, as was the possibility of reducing the amount of monotonous and less rewarding work that must be done manually. One participant said they would be “looking at technologies to drive out drudgery type work,” while another planned to seek “automation for some of our simpler tasks so we can move the employees we have around to more complex jobs.”
Training and productivity aids and new user interface technologies were of keen interest to some, while several participants highlighted the potential of PACK EXPO International to provide a forum for sharing ideas and innovations, learning from experts and networking, with one CPG stating their aim as “gathering insights from counterparts.”
It seems clear that automation technologies play an increasing role in the future of the packaging and processing industry and are a key focus of companies looking to cut costs, improve productivity, and reduce dependency on personnel as skills and retention problems continue to affect them – and PACK EXPO International is the perfect place to explore the best solutions.