The food and beverage industries have been using various packaging systems for placing their products into cartons and boxes for what seems like eons.From end and top load skillet cartons to a variety of multi-packs, the range of packaging and machinery is indeed extensive.
Many of Australia’s large carton and box manufacturers have their own in-house packaging systems division which sells or leases machines to their customers. To complement this they also maintain and service these systems.
Security to ‘lock in’ supply of cartons through the packaging system is generally regarded with real value, if possibly, a little risky.
Should a system brake down or fail to keep up with demand, then it will be rejected, and usually so too will the carton supply.
In the fast food industry there has been an explosion of cardboard clamshells for products like hamburgers, chicken pieces etc.
Those carton suppliers fully equipped with machines like Cates or Gietz, capable of glue-forming trays and clamshells, are complementing the huge capital already invested in their high volume print and die-cutting machinery.
The loss of a major fast food packaging account may well be more damaging than perhaps first thought.
In such a situation, the pressure to provide work for printers and die cutters may be relieved through the manufacturing of regular cartons supplying other industries.
The challenge of finding suitable high volume work for a clamshell glue-former, however, may be very difficult outside of fast food.
One downside is the inflexibility of some of these machines to adjust to different carton shapes and sizes. Also, the cost of new tooling has to be retrieved. This is not an easy task
in an industry renowned for tight margins.
The high volume beverage industry has long taken pride of place leading the path for packaging systems as well as complimenting it with state of the art packaging.
With bottles or cans hurtling through wrap-around machines like Mead or Graphic Packaging (Riverwood) systems at speeds of 200-300 blanks per minute, these carton wraparounds have to be consistently of the very highest standard.
In Australia the licenses for these systems and cartons, have long been monopolised and guarded by the
big carton producers mainly Amcor, Visy, Carter Holt Harvey and, more recently, Wadepack.
With increasing numbers of packaging systems coming into play from Europe, and more recently South East Asia, the competition for systems sales is very lively.
It’s not uncommon, both here and overseas, for cigarette packs to be manufactured by packaging companies owned and controlled by tobacco companies.
This control of supply ensures a reliable and high quality product keeping up with demand. Anzpac, a subsidiary of BAT, is a good example of this, and is a successful and profitable business.
However, on occasions we have seen similar ownership in other industries, cereal food, pet food and beverages to name a few, not all of which have been quite so successful.
But the wheel of time continues to turn and, like the government ownership of a telecommunications giant, the time will undoubtedly come when it’s unpopular to have a large financial investment in an underperforming business, even if it does ‘guarantee’ supply.
End and top load skillet cartons, as well as three flap closure machines like Advan and Kliklok, have been steadily increasing in numbers as markets for products like frozen food continue to grow.
If you’re in the very competitive, packaged food industry, you can’t be half in or half out with your packaging. You have to be committed all the way and this will mean being fully equipped with all the necessary packaging systems machinery to meet the many varied demands and expectations from your customers.
Why are we seeing more and more demand for small and somewhat slower, packaging systems machinery?
Machine features and capabilities have increased and improved substantially over the last decade or so with advances in engineering and electronics.
This has also helped bring the cost of these machines down to a more affordable level for small and medium sized businesses.
Smaller machines are often sold or leased directly and independently of a carton supplier, thereby with few ‘strings’ attached, freeing the user to shop around for cartons.
Another reason is the marketing edge that many are seeking through innovative structural pack designs.
The value of a strikingly different pack on the supermarket shelf can be extensive, and with the tool to achieve this at an affordable level, this can make for sound investment.
Hand packing of product into cartons can also bring problems of unsafe work practices, but semi-automatic machines capable of doing the work of several people, at a quicker speed, makes good economic sense.
Often these machines are designed and built to spec, tailored to suit all user requirements which may well include an unusual pack design.
The interaction between the engineers designing these machines and the carton designer is very important. The carton designer needs to understand the capabilities as well as the limitations at the design stage of the machine.
Dialogue and discussion between the two parties are pre-requisites for a successful outcome.
Once the machine is built and commissioned, it is not unusual for the client to have a swag of product ready for packing. This is not the time for experimentation, or failure.
Semi-automatic machines are not just for innovative pack designs. Standard end load skillets and even bottle wrap-around’s can be run on small machines or jigs.
The beauty of these is the flexibility to make quick size changes to suit different pack volumes, often a ‘must’ in a small business.
So whether the need is for high or small volume, rectangular or fancy cartons, whatever the size or shape, there is a packaging system out there to fit.