Future-proofing CPG Carton Packaging

Machinery and materials must be flexible, efficient and sustainable

By Maisha Cox, Product Manager at Syntegon

Syntegon’s Kliklok ACE carton erector uses the innovative lock-style technology to create paper trays without any adhesives, thus replacing plastic with paper-based materials. Image courtesy of Syntegon.

Consumer packaged goods (CPGs) are ubiquitous in every household and can be found in every pantry, fridge or cupboard across the U.S. Just as the products themselves, their carton packaging comes in all shapes and sizes. Flexible and efficient equipment is what enables manufacturers to produce this much-needed variety of cartoning packaging in a cost-effective manner. Once sustainability features are added to the mix, manufacturers have packaging solutions for future-proof production processes at their disposal that help them maintain their competitive advantage for years to come.

CPGs are a vital part of everyday life for most consumers. Whether it is food and beverage products, cosmetics, personal care products, or household supplies, these items are used daily in each household and need regular replenishment or replacement. Therefore, the demand is consistently high – especially in the U.S.

In fact, Forbes[1] reports the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer market with almost $16 trillion in personal consumption expenditures. With close to one million retail establishments across the country, consumers have ample opportunity to spend their hard-earned dollars. It comes as no surprise that manufacturers of CPGs are eager to stand out from the crowd to make sure that consumer purchase decisions favor their products instead of their competitors. On the supermarket shelf, that means catching the consumer’s eye first, often with outer packaging in bright, bold colors in an ever-changing variety of shapes and sizes – and ideally made of sustainable material.

Prioritizing format flexibility

These days, there is no way around format and product flexibility for CPG manufacturers in order to satisfy retailer and consumer demands alike.  One key to achieving this lies in flexible packaging equipment. The faster operators can switch from one format to another, the less downtime their production experiences.

That is why state-of-the-art packaging equipment relies on toolless and software-assisted changeovers. Manufacturers benefit especially from endload or topload cartoning equipment that allows them to produce shelf-ready pack-styles, which are particularly attractive at the point of sale. These formats display products either lying flat in the carton or arranged on-edge.

Topload solutions like Syntegon’s Sigpack TTMD cartoner offer the possibility of inserting the products, either flat or on-edge, into the carton – this enhances presentation options at the point of sale. Image courtesy of Syntegon.

Speeding up production with robotic solutions

In addition to flexibility, a constant product flow and high production speeds are key to achieving maximum efficiency. Manufacturers can do so by increasing the level of automation in their production. For example, implementing pick-and-place robots can take care of loading processes. In many modern topload or endload cartoning machines, pick-and-place robots reliably load fragile products and make sure that the machine runs with a constant product flow at high speeds.

In addition, manufacturers may achieve higher levels of efficiency if they rely on packaging equipment that comes with several control and monitoring features, such as camera-based vision inspection technology in 2D or 3D. Vision inspection technology ensures each product’s correct position and quality before robots pick and place them into infeed chains, cartons, or trays. In integrated topload cartoning machines for example, dedicated carriers keep each carton under control during loading and closing operations. Finally, integrated checkweighers and metal detectors make sure that overall product quality metrics are met.

By relying on automated and sustainable solutions for carton forming and closing, as well as for topload and endload processes, manufacturers can achieve efficiency along the entire packaging line. Image courtesy of Syntegon.

Minimizing glue application for maximum efficiency and sustainability

Another lever for maximizing efficiency is to opt for cartoning solutions that use only a minimal amount of glue or even omit glue in this process step altogether. This is the case with dotted glue application or lock-style carton forming. State-of-the-art cartoning machines produce plastic-free and glue-free trays, as well as many attractive other carton styles.

Glue-free carton trays have gained popularity, especially for snack foods like cookies. If manufacturers choose to opt for eco-friendly carton material, which consists of 100 percent recycled fibers, they need to look for secondary packaging equipment with precise and controlled topload carton forming, respectively reliable carton opening for endload cartoning machines.

To remain competitive for years to come, manufacturers must stay at the top of their game and embrace technological advancements. Whether that means modernizing existing equipment, opting for a new, single machine, or investing in a fully integrated packaging line is up to each manufacturer. During the planning and purchasing process, they can, however, benefit from working closely with an experienced packaging equipment provider.

About the Author

Maisha is the product manager at Syntegon for Kliklok secondary packaging machines. She has an extensive background in product management and engineering in the manufacturing industry. Packaging specialist Syntegon not only supplies fully integrated lines but also supports manufacturers with single machines from their large portfolio to automate individual packaging process steps. Once the machines are in operation, Syntegon’s global service network and digital solutions provide quick help and fast trouble shooting over the complete lifecycle of the machine. Learn more at www.syntegon.com.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeseq/2023/08/18/playing-to-win-in-the-us-market/?sh=4c75d119776d

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