There are seven areas currently trending in the U.S. packaging machinery market.
The 2021 State of the Industry U.S. Packaging Machinery reports U.S. packaging machinery production total shipments increased 14.7% between 2015 and 2020, with a packaging order backlog increase of 22.3%, and a converting order backlog increase of 12.2% in the same period.
There are seven areas that are currently impacting the packaging machinery market, from technology to sustainability to e-commerce:
AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS
To achieve higher efficiency and productivity, more packaging machinery companies are embracing automation in their packaging lines and leveraging smart manufacturing to do so. Machine vision is a rapidly maturing technology in the packaging machinery market, though the application varies between small enterprises and bigger organizations. Robotics has also been penetrating the packaging machinery market, with the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, and expanding IoT environment. Cobots, or collaborative robots, emerged as Human-Machine Interface (HMI) became prevalent on factory floors, and are designed to be safer for humans to work with in close proximity.
IIOT AND WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY
The Industrial internet of things (IIoT) continues to impact the product lifecycle in the packaging industry including design, operation, maintenance, and supply chain.
The progress of conventional wireless network in smart manufacturing had lagged due to its inability to maintain stable connections and latencies. An innovative product (IO-Link Wireless) by Israel based company CoreTigo has solved this issue, and reportedly performs better than other wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee.
A ransomware attack on the world’s largest meat processor, JBS, in June of 2021, temporarily shut down nine beef plants, also impacting the company’s pork and poultry processing plants across the U.S.
Other companies such as Cadbury, Target, and Equifax have also reported recent incidents of cyberattacks, further highlighting the vulnerability of the critical infrastructure of manufacturers across the industrial supply chain to increasing levels of cyber-attacks.
Read this story on expected future investments in digitalization.
SUSTAINABILITY AND FLEXIBLE PACKAGING
Many food brands have invested in packaging innovations and have implemented sustainability initiatives in their production and packaging lines due to consumer demand. Machine modifications or adjustments are often needed to achieve sustainable packaging goals. The challenges CPGs face when moving to more sustainable packaging provide opportunities for OEMs to explore application details with customers:
· Secondary packaging machines such as conveyors must be able to handle material reduction strategies, including lightweight corrugated.
· Machines need to run different style boxes to accommodate sustainability strategies, such as using the right size box. Case packers with a smaller footprint can help achieve sustainability goals through reduction in energy usage.
· A more efficient process of unpacking the contents of a pallet and repacking them into different sizes or variety packs is needed, with a focus on reducing material usage.
The flexible packaging industry is also innovating to meet sustainable and recyclable packaging demands, by creating compostable or sustainable components such as films and pouch closures.
Many food and beverage brands have increasingly used recyclable board-based packaging, compostable packaging, and 100% recycled paper packaging. Materials innovation is an area worth exploring in the coming years, and some companies have even pledged long-term research commitment in packaging material innovation. For example, Valio has partnered with Stora Enso to test the use of bio-composite in food packaging as part of the larger aim to reset milk’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035.
WASTE REDUCTION LEGISLATION
In June of 2020, U.S. representatives introduced the Plastic Waste Reduction and Recycling Act. If passed, the act will guide the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a plastic waste reduction and recycling program to improve the global competitiveness of the U.S. recycling industry. The act further aims to reduce plastic waste, encourage research into and technologies for recycling infrastructure, and ensure U.S. leadership in national and international standards development.
E-commerce has become an increasingly important factor in the industry, particularly in the U.S. Package design must maximize packing space, and there is a trend for e-commerce packaging to use more pouches and easily packable trays, and less glass.
The shift in purchasing habits will continue to drive demand for packaging machinery as e-commerce requires increased touchpoints to reach the customer, increased packaging, and supply chain challenges.