Trends in machine innovation will impact sustainability in 2012 and beyond.
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With every year that passes, manufacturers face increased pressure to
demonstrate sustainable practices on a global scale. Increasing demand from
consumers, retailers, brand owners and industry regulators has shifted the
focus on sustainability from materials and the “final package” to considering
the impact of total systems on waste and energy reduction across the supply
PMMI’s report “PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011: Upbeat and Setting Records,” indicates
an increased role for machinery in sustainability considerations. Exhibitors
and their customers focused largely on energy savings, waste minimization and
solving handling problems related to adoption of source‐reduced materials/containers.
Common themes included “streamlining operations,” “minimizing operational
costs,” “total cost of ownership,” “reducing downtime, changeover time and
labor,” “lowering utility usage (water, compressed air and electricity),” and
“increasing throughput”. All of these descriptors point to a sustainable
footprint in the manufacturing environment and ultimately, the need for
innovative machinery technology.
Taking a total systems approach to sustainability is not without challenge.
Manufacturers are charged with finding new machinery solutions or retrofitting
existing machinery to accommodate new, thinner materials, while maintaining
efficiency and minimizing downtime.
Meanwhile, brand owners must ensure the aesthetics and performance of their
new, sustainable package design are not compromised or distorted in any way
during the manufacturing process to keep consumer loyalty intact. Undoubtedly,
as sustainable materials and technology continue to develop, so must packaging
machinery to meet the needs of these new packages.
Spotlight on Innovation
Fortunately, there are many new machinery solutions on the market that address
the concerns of both manufacturers and brand owners in implementing sustainable
A major trend cited in PMMI’s PACK EXPO 2011 post-show report is the rising
number of machines that are engineered for ease of use, incorporating
technologies such as Human Machine Interface (HMI) panels. These panels can
enhance efficiency by minimizing operations downtime. For example, ABB Robotics
(www.abb.com/robotics) displayed a four-axis IRB460 palletizing robot
at PACK EXPO 2011 featuring Palletizing PowerPac software, which simplifies programming,
particularly for personnel with limited experience with robots. After the
software simulates the task the robot should perform, the routine is downloaded
to the controller, enhancing efficiency and ultimately, sustainability. These
machines are also engineered to be lighter and less bulky, so they fit better
at the end of the packaging line. Reducing size and weight shortens travel
distances, increases speed and reduces power consumption.
Developments in vacuum technology can also contribute to sustainability during
the manufacturing process. Pneumatics demonstrations, using less air were
prevalent at PACK EXPO 2011. Energy efficient pumps allow manufacturers to
reduce energy use in the plant and maximize efficiency.
As the spotlight on sustainability continues, manufacturers and brand owners
will undoubtedly continue to evaluate machinery technology across the supply
chain to provide products with a sustainable footprint and to maximize
efficiency of the production operation.
Learn more about PMMI and the PACK EXPO trade shows atPMMI.organdPackexpo.com.
Tom Egan, Vice President, Industry Services, PMMI