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Five Reasons to Update your Material Handling Needs


There is little doubt that the pace of change is much faster today than it was 20, 10 or even five years ago. This is especially true when it comes to manufacturing technology. If you took a vertical mill automated its axes and added two more you would have a five axis CNC milling machine which could be mass produced and sold for less than $100K per copy. The barriers to entry for people that want to start their own machining business as suddenly lowered. Robots used to be heavy duty custom-built pieces of equipment that needed advance programming skills along with a protective cage and safety interlocks. Now we have Cobots that are basically a “helping hand” robot that is easy to teach - making it user programmable with very little training and no caging required. Just about anybody can add a robot into their workflow economically. The bottom line is that even if everything in your automatic packaging line is working fine, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself, every now and again if things could be better. There are many reasons that drive the decision to replace or update equipment, but here are a few to consider.


Having invested several hundred thousand dollars in upgrading your production line comes with dual benefits. You get the benefit of increased output, less scrap, or energy savings – whatever the reason was that you invested in that piece of capital equipment. Then you also get the benefit of depreciating the value of the equipment over the next (usually) five to seven years. This depreciation helps your cash flow and by reducing your revenue it helps offset your increased taxes due to higher sales. Even if your equipment is functioning well its “economic life” may be rapidly coming to an end, due to improvements in materials, controls, or packaging changes. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to upgrade some existing function. With rapid, new developments the value of upgrading may decline faster than you originally imagined. It may make sense to sell it off before it’s value reaches $0 in the marketplace and apply some of the proceeds toward improved functionality. Check with your accountant to make sure this course of action would make sense for you.


New equipment almost always comes with a learning curve, and learning is good. It is an opportunity for the manufacturing and operations departments to learn how to do things differently, operate different types of equipment, and maybe even pick up some new skills like diagnosing and fixing problems with servo motors, or how to program in a different language. This might be an opportunity to advance personnel by giving some of your quick learners a shot at operating and maintaining this new equipment. Particularly if you have been looking for potential career advancement opportunities for some of your younger associates, this might be an opportunity to give them a chance to assume some higher level of responsibility.



If you’ve been operating the same equipment in the same warehouse location for many years and your operation has been steadily growing, things might be feeling a little crowded. In fact you might have been thinking it was time to add more capacity, but you just don’t have the space to duplicate your existing line, based on where its located. You don’t want to modify a section of the warehouse if you can avoid it. Check in with an automation specialist, like CRG Automation, explain the dilemma, and work with them towards a solution. This situation is probably more common than you might imagine and  odds are good that they can double your output without doubling the use of floor space. Maybe all it takes is some robotics integration and upgraded controls. Reconfiguring an existing layout to make room for more capacity is often one of the most cost effective steps you can take to improve your productivity per square foot of floor space.


Often the owner/operator of the packaging equipment is under contract to a company that eventually sells packaged consumer goods. After all over 60% of the US GDP is driven by consumer purchases. Ultimately the sellers of consumer goods are constantly re-evaluating their market position and how to grow their share of sales. Almost any change that they make will have some effect on the packaging. Cereal boxes are tall and wide for the volume because they look bigger on the shelf and it gives the company a lot more space for their advertising message. Toiletries often are produced in several sizes from economy pack to travel size. Carbonated beverages come in a wide array of sizes. Any of these variations is an opportunity to expand your offering while using some or in some cases most of the same equipment design.  This is especially vital at the original design stages. Sometimes, designing accumulators in the initial design stages so that they can handle a variety of packaging sizes creates the versatility to package a variety of product sizes with just a few tooling changes. CRG Automation can help talk this options through with you to see if “future-proofing” options like these make sense.


There is a higher sensitivity these days to environmental impacts associated with packaging and there are a few things you can do to make your offer more attractive. Use of sustainable materials in packaging is a ready example. This usually refers to materials that are easily recyclable. Where opportunities present themselves, use of paperboard and cardboard both of which are readily recyclable can help with your customers’ goals for more sustainable packaging. Where plastic is used, Resin grade #1 and #2 are preferrable as they are the most easily recyclable of all the plastics currently in use. In some instances being able to offer vacuum packaging can reduce the volume of packaging require for a certain weight of product. Through clever design it is often possible to reduce the amount of packaging material used as a percentage of the overall weight of the product. If you have a means to offer reduced weight packaging, this translates to reduce transportation costs and reduces use of petroleum products to deliver product to market. A win for all.

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