How big does my company have to be before an industrial packaging machine starts to make sense?

T&T_Article4imageWe talked in previous posts about how industrial packaging machines can bring a series of benefits to a company, especially when compared to hand packing. Benefits included more visually appealing packages, more precise weighing, less labor, and increased speed, among others. There is not a magic number that your company must achieve from a production, labor, or revenue perspective that means you are ready to purchase a packaging machine. Rather, in order to determine that the time is right for you to buy an industrial packaging machine, you need to evaluate all the benefits against the costs associated with buying and owning such machines. It can become a complicated calculation with several variables, but our objective here is to provide one simple example to help you think about this process.

One important factor is how much labor savings an industrial machine can bring to your business. We have documented some cases in which the manual packaging line required five full-time employees. After the machine installation, the company was able to run the same quantity of product in less time and with just two full-time employees. Depending on the type and cost of the machine, it may mean a payback period of less than a year, which is an extremely good number for a capital investment. Even a three-year payback period would still be very good. This analysis is not even including all the other benefits, including increased precision and quality of the package.

Should the number of different products or package sizes make a difference in my decision to purchase an industrial packaging machine? 

An industrial packaging machine is designed to increase speed and volume of production.

First of all, to make different types of packages, your company will need different types of machines. For example, the machine that makes pillow bags is different than the machine that makes stand-up pouches (SUP). You may find some machines that can do both, but they will be either much more expensive or will require more setup and changeover time.

Second, if you have different sizes of the same package, you can usually accommodate them in the same machine, but it may require one or more additional sets of tooling. This is still much cheaper than having to buy two different machines.

Finally, if you want to pack different products in the same machine, you will have to plan your production to change from one product to another and clean at least all of the parts that were in contact with the first product.

In summary, if you have fewer products and fewer package configurations, it will be easier to make the purchase of your first industrial packaging machine economically viable.

What kind of flexibility can I get with an industrial packaging machine?

We will explore the topic of flexibility in more detail in a later blog post of this series. For now, let’s just say that there will always be a tradeoff between speed/volume vs. flexibility, as well as automation vs. flexibility. The fastest way to pack is to pack one product in one bag size in a fully automated machine, running almost twenty-four hours a day. This means zero flexibility. On the other hand, you can use a scale to automatically weigh your product and then fill different bags manually, giving you much more flexibility in package types.

In essence, each client situation is unique regarding number of package types, products produced, and output quantity needs. A single machine may suffice, or a fleet of machines may be what you need to meet your production needs. Consulting a packaging expert is always a smart move as your specific packaging needs can be analyzed and taken into consideration.

Mr. Sanchez is Vice President at Masipack Group, and has 30 years of experience in the packaging industry.