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Packaging Machinery Trends for Palletizing Systems

Last week, I came across an article by PMMI President Ben Miyares on www.foodandbeveragepackaging.com listing the packaging machinery trends to watch in 2012. His perspective got me thinking a little bit about Intelligrated’s customers and how these trends apply to their palletizing system projects. A few of the trends he discussed really hit home with what Intelligrated is seeing in the market today.

User-friendly interfaces and controls
In his article, Miyares discussed that packaging machinery is becoming more user-friendly with the inclusion of more dashboards, graphical interfaces, touch-screens and nonproprietary robotic controls. We are certainly seeing greater demand for simplified operator interfaces and the use of common control platforms in the packaging systems arena. While the additional capabilities being built into automated palletizing equipment create greater underlying complexity, the advances in human interfaces and controls empower users to do things with advanced machinery that they couldn’t necessarily do before. As a palletizing systems supplier, our goal is to provide a user friendly, highly intuitive interface to keep the complex as uncomplicated as possible

No more islands of automation
Miyares also discussed the growing trend away from isolated machinery and enhanced “machine-to-machine” communication. It is true that more information is being passed upstream and downstream between the complex machinery that makes up today’s packaging lines. As more data is shared, line monitoring and visibility is enhanced. Better data collection and sharing gives operations and maintenance the ability to zero in on problem spots and take effective, corrective action to improve line efficiency.

More remote support
Another trend Miyares highlighted in his article is a decrease in the need for on-site service calls. A growing number of Intelligrated clients are employing remote diagnostics and dashboards to reduce system downtime. Intelligrated’s “machine doctors” (as Miyares calls them) are capable of monitoring operations, diagnosing problems and often effecting repairs from a remote location at any time of day or night. That capability is further enhanced through the use of portable mobile devices and low-cost webcams that give remote support personnel visual access to the equipment.

Shorter runs and faster changeovers
The trend toward shorter production runs coupled with the need to quickly and frequently address product changeover has delivered a greater impact on palletizing system design than any other trend Miyares highlighted. Packaging line operators must now be prepared for any quick change that their marketing department might call for, mandating greater changeover flexibility to handle smaller production runs along with an ever-changing variety of packaging designs and smaller packages at higher rates. This has driven palletizing and packaging machinery suppliers to think outside of the box in creating features that enhance flexibility.