Americans will be using 32,850 million more rigid plastic and flexible packs in 2017 than they were in 2012, making these the fastest-growing segments in the US packaging industry. The requirement for greater convenience and cost-effectiveness will drive the use of lightweight flexible and rigid plastic packaging with innovative pack shapes, closures and dispensers.
“The key advantage of flexible packaging is its low intrinsic weight, which ensures lower transportation overheads and reduces the overall supply chain costs. These incremental weight savings not only provide cost benefits, but also reduce transportation costs and overall breakages,” says Dominic Cakebread, director of Packaging Services at Canadean (canadean.com).
Although there is a lot of pressure to reduce packaging materials weights and gauges/thickness, the finished pack itself is still expected to have the same technical performance characteristics and functionality as existing packaging formats, which makes the production of lightweight packaging materials ever more technically demanding.
New technologies support the growth of plastics
Bio-Plastics made from agricultural by-products, is one of the most recent innovations within the plastic packaging industry. The new materials can offer manufacturers the opportunity to reduce carbon footprints and better protect the environment through a reduced dependence on petro-chemicals and other mineral rich packaging materials.
Such materials claim to offer important environmental benefits, reducing fuel consumption by 70% per ton and releasing significantly less carbon into the atmosphere. However, there also exists environmental controversy over the use of valuable and often scarce agricultural land for growing bio-polymers instead of food, which longer term could lead to substantially higher food prices.
Manufacturing processes lead to cost savings for producers
While the flexible packaging industry offers considerable growth opportunities, it faces challenges such as the unstable prices of raw materials and the lack of skilled labour. Multi-tasking packaging machines enable packaging companies to achieve efficient use of resources and minimise their costs.
US based Schneider Packaging has developed the Robox Vi/Spider series, which is designed to perform multiple tasks such as case packing, specialty cartoning, and high-speed picking. With integrated vision intelligence, the Robox Vi/spider can deal with conventional complex product handling, and improved overall equipment efficiency through low maintenance costs, quick changeovers, and ease of operation.
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