The packaging pathway: From safety and protection to recyclability and sustainability

Packaging machinery has evolved over the years, particularly during the pandemic, and the impacts it has had on the packaging industry. While addressing the delegates at the IFCA conference during the PackMach Expo, Akil Contractor looks at how technology and automation include biodegradable and recyclable packaging, digital printing and nanotechnology.

15 Dec 2022 | By Pooja Mahesh

Contractor, print technologist and poet. His work has been recognised by the Limca Book of Records in 2008; and by the SPTF Foundation in the USA.

Globally, the packaging machinery market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5% for the forecast period, 2022-2027. This growth is, in part, driven by the ongoing technological advancement and government-led rules and regulations for safety standards are driving the packaging machinery market. Additionally, it is believed that the increasing demand for packaged food and beverages will drive the market as well.

So, what is packaging machinery? It refers to the machines that are used for performing packaging operations. These machines are used throughout all packaging operations involving primary packages to distribution packs. The process includes fabrication, cleaning, filling, sealing, labeling, wrapping, etc.

The packaging machinery market is customer-oriented and is driven by increased demand for various products in different shapes and sizes. It plays a significant role in facilitating the packaging of small sachets to big cartons while providing resistance and ensuring the safety of the products. The packaging machinery market is segmented by product type, by end-user and by geography. Multiple manufacturers in the end-user industries adopt packaging machines that offer flexibility and quickly adapt to changing packaging formats.

Boosting machinery and sustainability
With numerous changes happening today, one of the top priorities for many businesses is sustainability. Climate change has made many think about how their products are being made and how they are packaged. Due to this and the rising environmental concerns, there has been an increased demand for thin and lightweight packaging to reduce the amount of material used for packaging. So, to adapt to these requirements, manufacturers are focusing on developing machines with improved functionality to maximise production speeds while accommodating more fragile and thinner packaging materials.

Apart from sustainability, the growing aseptic packaging industry is also driving the market. This is due to the potential of packaging to cater to the need for high and uniform product quality, the need for higher nutrient retention, and to avoid the bisphenol A (BPA) controversy.

Aseptic packaging is useful for products that do not need refrigeration during transport, distribution and storage like dairy products. This also helps small retailers in remote places where power outages may be frequent and also ensures that the consumer gets a good product where the integrity is maintained.

The Covid-19 pandemic boosted market growth, particularly for the food and beverage and pharmaceutical packaging machinery suppliers. This is due to a surge in online and offline demand for various food goods and pharmaceuticals. People bought in bulk to avoid visiting the market. They stocked up on supplies in case of an extended quarantine. Therefore, packaging companies worked round-the-clock to meet the increased demand.

Significant growth for food
In the packaging sector, the food segment is seen to have had significant growth. The food packaging process involves packaging facilities where the packaging process is executed using machines. Earlier, factories or manufacturing plants used manual methods to process food items. Today, however, most food packaging facilities use sophisticated machinery that help in the packaging of food.

There are multiple benefits to deploying machinery equipment. For instance, food packaging technology can improve productivity and provide safety and security without human intervention. Various manufacturers have turned to Industry 4.0 solutions to reshape food manufacturing.

The latest trends in food packaging demand packaging companies to ensure that the machines in their lines meet the requirement for energy efficiency, machine safety, and hygiene standards. Manufacturers' recent trends using technology and automation include biodegradable and recyclable packaging, digital printing and nanotechnology. Keeping this in mind, many companies are now looking to adapt with the times by using new technologies to expand their product portfolio and keep up with the latest advancements in the market.

The rising investments in the manufacturing sector from the developing countries are expected to drive the market. The governments in the region are rigorously investing in attracting domestic and international consumers. Furthermore, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the e-commerce market had seen a surge as customers shifted to shopping online for their various requirements.

Various companies are also joining hands to boost their production capacity and have a stronger market presence. As part of this partnership, both the companies will use their respective resources in this in-depth “co-laboratory” cooperation to create a domestic benchmark for continuous manufacturing, improve production efficiency, and help innovation development.

The existence of numerous emerging economies such as China and India are all contributing to market growth in the Asia Pacific region. The changing lifestyles and the development of multinational food shops in the area also contribute to the growth of the packaging market, leading to the increased use of packaging machinery.

New developments
Over the past few years, there has been news of film sealing being done using ultrasonic or radio wave technology. It is being offered by a few companies based in Germany and USA. Ultrasonic sealing is said to be good for packaging food as it helps in ensuring long shelf life and ensuring the pack is 100% tamper-free.

Packaging machines are available in different forms for a variety of purposes like electronic load cell weighing, and volumetric measuring for powders and liquids. Then there are machines which just over-wrap the product like shrink-wrapping for additional protection of packed cartons.

Earlier, the main concerns for the industry was safety and protection of food and pharmaceuticals. Today, the focus is on ensuring recyclability, environment and climate change. As a result, companies will have to ensure that their machinery has adapted to these changes as well. So, materials that are being used for its construction are being looked into and recycled metals are being considered.

Equipment, which were earlier had pneumatic and geared only systems, has now shifted to being computerised, servo driven and PlC-based products. Various types of heat sealing systems are being modified to adapt to newer films operating at higher speeds using lower temperatures. Additionally, packing speeds of all machines have increased to three times or more over the last decade for products like milk and cooking oils.

Automation plays an important part as machines can integrate into the different ERP systems of the company and are connected to customers systems allowing them to plan, forecast and proceed further in the supply chain of the product. So the whole chain has become much tighter and closer with different forms of information available to those who need it.

The key expectations from packaging machinery manufacturers could be summarised as having low costing plans that help them to easily invest in and operate a machine, easy to use machine so that skilled labour can be hired easily, having a supportive after sales service, has energy efficiency to ensure affordability and highest speed and output as per requirements of the buyer so that they are comparable competitive to players in other markets. With the market constantly advancing to meet consumer expectations, the machinery should also be constantly upgraded and innovated to keep up with the competition domestically and internationally.

Sustainability has been a hot topic in the industry for some time now. With the threats of climate change looming over us, businesses will need to take the necessary steps to stall its effects. Taking a step in the right direction can ensure that the efforts taken to reduce the impacts of climate change are slowed down to some extent. So, it is the teamwork between film, paper, ink, coating, adhesive, converting and packaging machinery to make earth a better place for future generations. 

Akil Contractor worked in the family-owned Rainbow Inks for 21 years before he embarked on his own enterprise Print Dynamic in 2002. Contractor's aim has been to formulate and manufacture special application inks for textiles and security applications and technical ink formulation. 

 

Latest Poll

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Results

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Shortcomings in EPR policy

 

22.22%

Inadequate infrastructure

 

11.11%

Shortage of recycling firms

 

16.67%

Lack of consumer awareness

 

50.0%

Total Votes : 18

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