Reap the Benefits of Shelf-ready Packaging

The right case packer will also offer the flexibility to run variety packs and multiple package formats, such as single or double trays or tray and lid combinations.

How to Choose the Right Case Packer

By Billy Goodman, managing director of Cama North America

Retail-ready packaging, also known as shelf-ready packaging, has been around just a mere 18 years or so and its popularity is growing rapidly. In 2021, this market was valued at $62.9 billion and is projected to grow across the globe, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% through 2028.

Shelf-ready packaging can be created in various forms. These include cartons, display cases, and trays. It is important to understand the options so you can choose the format that best showcases your product and that complies with any requirements from the retailers you sell to.

Advantages of shelf-ready packaging include quick and easy handling by retail employees when loading your product onto store shelves, efficient replenishment, improved sustainability and lightweight packaging to reduce shipping costs. Whether you’re packaging food, petfood, personal care or home products, shelf-ready packaging may be a good way for your business to increase sales and enjoy some of the other benefits offered. But what type of secondary packaging solution do you need to reap these benefits?

The right wraparound case packer can pack your product into shelf-ready cases, trays, or tray & lid combinations for easy stocking and display on store shelves.

Understanding shelf-ready packaging designs

Once you have an understanding of the shelf-ready packaging that will best ship and display your products, you can find the right cartoner, tray packer or case packer capable of running that design. With automated packing, users achieve benefits such as higher production and efficiency, reduced labor costs and improved sustainability.

Flexibility is key – look for a supplier that has the benefit of working with a wide variety of markets, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care, snack food, bakery, dairy and pet food products. This diversity helps them to have a better understanding of product handling and often means they have the experience to pack your products into various formats, such as cartons, cases or trays.

Packaging speeds

How many cases do you need to pack per minute? This depends on what is upstream from the case packer and how many products per minute are being conveyed to the case packer. Keep in mind that not all wraparound case packers are designed to run at the same speeds as a traditional RSC case packer. However, for higher speed applications, the need for speed can often be achieved using more advance technologies such as robotic loading or dual infeed lanes.

Versatility and changeover

The packaging industry is constantly evolving, with new product variations or packaging designs being introduced to attract consumers’ attention, increase sales, and improve sustainability. Look for a case packer that offers the flexibility to run multiple package formats and pack patterns. A versatile solution that can grow as your business grows is ideal. For instance, perhaps you’re currently packing and shipping into a wraparound case, but would like the ability to load another product line into a tray a couple years from now. Be sure your chosen case packer offers that versatility — as well as quick changeover capabilities — to meet these needs without significant downtime.

Some of the ways this can be done are with user-friendly changeover mechanisms and easy-to-adjust settings that allow users to quickly and easily switch between different SRP designs or product configurations, ensuring maximum flexibility in your packaging operations.

Do you need to run variety packs of your product? Would the ability to convert from trays to tray and lid packaging be helpful? For one of our petfood customers, Cama supplied a flexible solution designed to pack aluminum cups (sealed trays) of petfood into a shelf-ready display tray. The system can load the cups into both single- or double-trays and can run single flavors or multi-flavor packs. The secondary packaging can be a shelf-ready tray or tray and lid combination.

For this project, Cama’s MP Sleever was used with trays of petfood, which were then packed into a shelf-ready display case using Cama’s FW WrapAround Case Packer.

Automation and Industry 4.0

Obviously, automation is key to improving efficiency and reducing labor costs in packaging operations. For wraparound case packers, the forming, loading and closing of the case is contained into one system, saving not only labor but valuable floor space.

The most innovative secondary packaging systems often employ technology such as robotic loading and Industry 4.0. For instance, our Industry 4.0 technology includes an optional Augmented Reality (AR) Machine Assistant. This technology allows users to enjoy such benefits as:

  • Simplified predictive maintenance and spare parts management
  • Remote training and troubleshooting
  • Clear and simple format changeovers

Sustainability

Another advantage of many shelf-ready packaging designs is sustainability. It’s helpful to find a manufacturer that has experience in shelf-ready packaging and can consult with your team if needed to suggest the best formats for your product. In many cases, our packaging engineering department has been able to suggest changes that save our customers considerable material costs, as well as save space or make for easier palletizing.

For one customer who makes pouches of baby food, for example, we designed a flexible packaging solution that provided shelf-ready packaging of pouches and cartons. In addition, this eco-friendly solution utilized all biodegradable or recyclable materials, including the pouches.

Reliability and maintenance

Dependability is a critical factor in packaging machinery. With many lines running multiple shifts, there is no room for unplanned downtime. Look for a case packer that is built to last, with robust construction, predictive maintenance features and durable components. This reliability minimizes downtime, reduces maintenance costs, and ensures consistent performance over time.

Clean, hygienic machine designs will also be a time-saver, as machines designed for high sanitation standards should reduce or eliminate areas where food particles can accumulate.

Additionally, consider the ease of maintenance. Look for a case packer that includes robust maintenance plans, clear documentation, and readily available spare parts. Regular maintenance ensures that your case packer remains in peak condition and minimizes unexpected downtime.

Training and support

How easy to operate is the case packer you’re considering? With today’s labor challenges, more manufacturers are recognizing the need to make their equipment simple to operate, with features such as HMI’s with built-in instructions, remote assistance, semi-automatic or fully-automatic changeovers.

What kind of training and support does your team require? Be sure the case packer manufacturer you choose offers a program that will meet your needs. How many service technicians do they have in the field? Ask for existing customer references to learn more about their experience. A responsive support team, both remote and in-plant, can be invaluable when you encounter technical difficulties or require assistance with maintenance or troubleshooting.

With user-friendly machine designs, intuitive interfaces, and easy to adjust settings, line workers can learn more quickly how to operate the machine and how to perform changeovers with less downtime.

About the Author

Billy Goodman is managing director for Buffalo Grove, Ill. based Cama North America, a subsidiary of the privately-owned Cama Group, Lecco, Italy. Cama designs and manufactures cartoners, robotic loading systems, carton sleevers, case packers and tray packers, as well as integrated systems. Their innovative technology includes Industry 4.0, augmented and virtual reality, and other options to enhance training, maintenance, and operations. Learn more at www.camagroup.com.

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