How packaging automation can release warehouse space

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The current economic environment presents many challenges for businesses, related to rising costs and shortage of labour. 

Rents have been steadily increasing across the UK over the past few years, with an average annual rental growth rate of 4.2% estimated between 2022 and 2026.

Optimising your warehouse space is key to helping keep the costs down and ensuring your packing operation runs smoothly. 

In this blog article, we will look at packaging automation and how it can help you reduce costs and maximise your warehouse space.

packaging automation

What is packaging automation?

Packaging automation is the process of introducing automated tools and packaging machinery to increase the speed of packing without manual intervention. It ensures consistency, reduces material waste and helps generate cost savings in the long run.

Types of packaging automation

There are different types of packaging automation, depending on your needs. You can automate pretty much anything from packing and void filling cardboard boxes to taping and wrapping your pallets ready for shipments. Some of the most common solutions include:

  • Box automation – case and box erecting solutions, as well as automated boxing machines, designed to open, fold and seal your boxes, depending on the equipment used. Automated box-sizing machines measure the size of products and adjust the box size to offer the best fit for the content.
  • Protective automation – examples include semi and fully automated void fill systems, as well as air cushioning and air pillow machines. Depending on the model, air cushions can be automatically inflated, cut to size and placed inside the boxes.
  • Paper automation – this can involve anything from void filling, through to wrapping and cushioning. Paper void fill dispensers can be programmed to release specific lengths of material for each of your pack options.
  • Automated taping – semi and fully automated tape dispensers and machines that can automatically release and cut your tape to specified lengths. This helps ensure you are getting the right amount each time.
  • Automated bagging – fully and semi-automated bagging solutions that can automatically prepare, fill, cut to size and seal your bags to ensure optimal fit.
  • Stretch Automation – these include fully and semi-automated pallet wrappers, horizontal and vertical stretch wrapping machines, as well as rotating arm stretch wrap machinery.

We also distinguish between semi-automated and fully automated packaging processes.

A semi-automated process is part manual and part automated. For example, an operator may start the process, but an automated packing system may finish it. This is typically a cheaper option if you are looking to introduce some automation but are working with a constraint budget.

A fully automated packing process is programmed from the beginning to completion. This can include everything from picking, packaging application and palletisation for dispatch.

packaging automation

The benefits of packaging automation

Packaging automation has many benefits to offer. It helps lower your operational costs, improve pack line productivity and save valuable storage space. It also ensures consistency in packing, warranting all products are packed to the highest, uniform standard.

Smaller, compact parcels, that result from using automation, will take up less space on your delivery vehicles. This means you will need to make fewer trips to deliver your products, reducing your fuel costs and keeping your cardboard emissions down. 

The initial investment involved in purchasing and setting up the required packaging machinery may be off-putting, however, automation will help you generate significant cost savings in the long run.

Ultimately, you will be spending less on your materials, labour and transportation. Optimised packaging will also help reduce the risk of product damage in transport, minimining costs involved in processing returns.

Packaging automation and storage space

Packaging automation can play a big role in optimising your warehouse space. It helps reduce the amount of packaging products you need to store in your warehouse, which creates more room for other operations and saves costs. 

Automated packaging solutions ensure your parcels are neatly packaged with just the required amount of material. This helps prevent overpacking and material waste, freeing up your storage space.

packaging automation

Is packaging automation right for me?

If you are struggling with warehouse space or are simply looking for ways to improve the efficiency of your packing operation, packaging automation may be the right solution for you.

Signs your business is ready for packaging automation include:

  • Your packaging is increasingly taking up room in your warehouse
  • You continually need to hire new staff for your production and/or pack line
  • Your packs per hour aren’t increasing in line with demand
  • Your business is creating increasing levels of packaging waste
  • You experience an uplift in customer complaints about damaged goods
  • Your packing team’s morale may be lower due to increased workload
packaging automation

Support with packaging automation

If you are struggling with your warehouse space, Macfarlane Packaging can help you determine which automated packaging systems are best for you, and which points in your supply chain will benefit most from using automation.

We can also recommend a range of semi-automated packaging solutions if you are looking at trying it out on a smaller scale.

We have solutions to fit different needs and budgets.

Why not contact us today to discuss your specific requirements?