Challenges Facing Packaging Equipment Manufacturers in 2024

First Published: June 17, 2024

Every challenge creates opportunity, so what are the biggest challenges facing packaging equipment manufacturers right now, with the industry in a state of fast evolution?

Consumer demands, technological advancements, and global events continually reshape the landscape. To stay competitive, manufacturers must navigate a complex set of challenges. Here are five issues they’re grappling with right now:

The Sustainability Issue

The push for sustainable packaging is no longer a niche concern. Consumers are demanding eco-friendly options, and governments are implementing stricter regulations on packaging waste.

In many cases, packaging equipment needs to be modified or even replaced to operate with the new, more sustainable packaging materials.

  • Challenges: Packaging equipment manufacturers need to develop machines that can handle recyclable and compostable materials, reduce energy consumption during production, and minimize manufacturing waste.
    Manufacturers also need to develop the ability to retrofit existing packaging systems in the field to help their customers manage introducing new materials.
  • Opportunities: There’s a growing market for innovative solutions. Companies that can design machinery that aligns with circular economy principles will have a competitive edge.

E-commerce Explosion

The rise of e-commerce has accelerated the pace of packaging. Companies need equipment that can quickly and efficiently handle a wide variety of package sizes and shapes, often in smaller batches.

  • Challenges: Traditional packaging lines may not be agile enough to keep up. There’s a demand for flexible, modular systems that can be easily reconfigured for different products and order volumes.
  • Opportunities: Investing in automation and robotics can help manufacturers increase throughput and adapt to the changing demands of e-commerce fulfillment.

Labor Shortages and the Skills Gap

The packaging industry, like many others, is facing a shortage of skilled workers. This is compounded by the increasing complexity of modern packaging equipment, which requires specialized knowledge to operate and maintain.

  • Challenges: Manufacturers need to find ways to attract and retain talent, as well as invest in training programs to upskill their existing workforce.
  • Opportunities: Companies can explore automation and user-friendly interfaces to reduce the reliance on specialized skills. Partnering with educational institutions can also help create a pipeline of future talent.
    In addition, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could potentially assist with the design of packaging equipment, helping address the skills shortage.

Supply Chain Disruptions

The global supply chain has been under immense stress in recent years. Shortages of raw materials, electronic components, and other essential parts can cause production delays and increase costs for packaging equipment manufacturers.

  • Challenges: Since the pandemic, climate change, wars, pirates, material shortages, and other factors have stressed supply chains.
    To handle the impact of disruptions, companies need to diversify their supply chains, build stronger relationships with suppliers, and invest in inventory management solutions.
  • Opportunities: Some manufacturers are exploring local sourcing and vertical integration to gain more control over their supply chains.

The Rise of IoT and Connected Machinery

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the packaging industry as part of the fourth industrial revolution. Connected machinery allows for remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and data-driven optimization.

In many cases, using IoT technology can automatically set equipment for the next product to be run – reducing downtime and improving OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency).

  • Challenges: Implementing these technologies requires significant investment and expertise. There are also concerns about data security and privacy.
  • Opportunities: Companies that embrace smart packaging and connected machinery can gain valuable insights into their operations, improve efficiency, reduce downtime, and offer new services to their customers.

The Road Forward

Packaging equipment manufacturers’ challenges are significant, but they also present exciting opportunities for innovation and growth.

The packaging machinery industry is amazingly innovative, and companies can position themselves for success by embracing sustainability, investing in automation, addressing labor shortages, strengthening supply chains, and adopting smart technologies.

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