6 Trends in Liquid Filling
By Devin Partida, Contributing Writer
Liquid filling is an essential step in many production lines. Food and drink manufacturers, cosmetics companies, and more all rely on automated liquid filling machines to maintain precision and efficiency. As such, changes in the liquid filling market have far-reaching impacts across multiple industries.
Like many other industries, liquid filling is on the verge of a substantial period of change. Disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic will spur innovations and shifts over the next few years. Here are six of the most significant of these.
1. Supply chain restructuring
Pre-pandemic supply chains sprawled across the globe, leading to considerable disruption when COVID-19 hit. As a result, logistics networks in many industries, including liquid filling, will restructure and adapt in the coming years. A February 2021 survey revealed that 70 percent of U.S. companies are likely to reshore after the pandemic.
Liquid filling facilities are more likely to start sourcing from suppliers geographically nearer to them. These reshoring and nearshoring initiatives could cause initial disruptions as supply chains adapt but may ensure more long-term security. Future issues with international shipping may not affect liquid filling centers as heavily.
Similarly, many manufacturers will likely look to source liquid filling machines and parts from domestic suppliers. These may come at higher costs but could prevent bottlenecks from international uncertainty.
The disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic have created a larger desire for flexibility. Facilities now want liquid filling machinery that can adapt to varying production levels to account for unexpected demand shifts. Machines that can quickly adjust their output will see more implementation than those that can’t.
Similarly, tightened budgets will lead manufacturers to look for machines that can serve multiple purposes. Packagers will want machines that can handle various sizes and shapes of containers, caps, and labels. This flexibility will enable manufacturers to produce multiple products on the same line, saving money to help recover from the pandemic faster.
Replacing old machines with these more flexible options may lead to higher short-term spending. After that, though, manufacturers using them will likely reduce expenses.
3. Multi-function machines
Another action many liquid filling facilities will take in response to lower budgets is opting for multi-function machines. While the traditional approach to liquid filling involves separate machines for each part of the process, that may fall out of favor. Single machines that can perform multiple operations will become more common to reduce space and expense.
As this trend continues, liquid filling machines will grow increasingly complex. Some manufacturers predict machines will be able to handle four to six operations in a single system. This level of functionality will help smaller operations still produce a wide array of products.
4. IoT integration
Internet of Things (IoT) technology is already prominent in industries that use liquid filling processes. The number of connected devices in the world is already in the tens of billions, and IoT growth shows no signs of slowing. In fact, IoT integration in liquid filling machines will likely rise in the coming years.
IoT connectivity will let these machines communicate with others in a facility, creating more cohesive and flexible workplaces. Workers can also use these features to check on maintenance data remotely. As more liquid filling machines feature this connectivity, their users will get more value from them.
5. Higher cleanliness standards
Cleanliness is crucial in liquid filling operations, especially in the food and beverage industry. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of high sanitation standards will become even more prominent across industries. As a result, machines with more sanitary features will become increasingly popular.
Antimicrobial coatings have seen a sharp uptick in demand in the past year, and this will echo in liquid filling machines. More manufacturers will look for systems that feature these microbe-resistant coatings. Similarly, machines that come apart easily for quick cleaning will also grow more popular as cleanliness standards rise.
6. Increased demand in some markets
Many industries that rely on liquid filling struggled in the past year, but some are set to see considerable growth. While food and drink production may be the sector people most closely associate with liquid filling, cosmetics may soon become the fastest-growing application.
The cosmetics industry’s growth rate has increased each year since 2016. Products like fragrances are seeing rising demand as working people’s disposable income rises, especially in emerging markets. As a result, the cosmetics industry may become a focal point for manufacturers of liquid filling machines.
Cosmetics won’t likely overtake food and beverage, but it may grow faster. Many of liquid filling operations’ short-term goals, in turn, will likely zero in on this rapidly advancing market.
The liquid filling industry’s outlook is bright
While the past year has been full of uncertainty, the future looks promising for liquid filling operations. Some smaller, shorter-term disruptions may come as facilities adjust to new needs, but these will lead to long-term growth. Facilities that rely on liquid filling operations should take note of these trends to prepare for the future.
About the Author:
Devin Partida is a BizTech and supply chain writer covering the latest in retail and packaging innovations.