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Ready to Punch In: Automated Packaging Provides a Reliable Answer to Labor Shortage

Automation could raise global productivity growth by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually and about half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. Learn more about how packaging automation is becoming a very impactful solution for growing companies.

For retailers and manufacturers gearing up for a peak ordering season, losing a few good workers to other jobs is like a football team losing a key player to injury during pregame warmups. What was already going to be a challenge now becomes a nightmare, and as the orders start flooding in, there’s no guarantee that your roster won’t be trimmed a bit further.

 With the unemployment rate at historic lows and online sales rising sharply, many retailers and manufacturers are struggling to staff their distribution and fulfillment centers. And those that can find enough labor are often paying a premium for it, due to strong competition for quality workers. Throw in the hefty time and financial requirements of training new hires, and it’s easy to see why a stack of unfulfilled orders can start to pile up.

 

An Alternate Approach

For growing companies, packaging automation can be a very impactful solution. In fact, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, A Future that Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity, highlights that automation could raise global productivity growth by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually and that “about half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.”

In addition, the report cites the activities most susceptible to automation are those that are physical and in predictable environments (as well as data collection and processing). In the U.S., these highly structured tasks account for nearly $2.7 trillion in wages. With this freed up capital, companies can invest in other areas of their business and retrain employees to perform more value-added tasks.

 

Automation in Application

For those looking to increase productivity – and make better use of employee wages – there are a number of ways to step up your game. In the protective packaging environment, automated poly bagging and cohesive-packaging machines can increase throughput dramatically, allowing fulfillment centers to respond to increasing demand without enlarging facilities.

Interested in learning what onboarding automation looks like in action? Here are three steps that Pregis takes to determine anticipated performance improvement and fit for automation:

  1. The first step is an automated prospect questionnaire. This details a shipper’s throughput, packaging rates, cost per package, typical staffing levels, types of products shipped and typical package dimensions.
  2. Next comes the packaging value analysis. By crunching the data, Pregis can determine how much a fulfillment center could save in terms of labor, packaging materials and shipping costs by bringing in automated technology – and can calculate return on investment, which often comes within the first year.
  3. Finally, it’s time to test the automated system before implementation. The goal is to boost throughput, lower the incidence of damaged products, create a consistent customer experience and reduce the size of the average parcel. The automated equipment right-sizes packages, avoiding high shipping charges based on dimensional weight, or DIM weight, and eliminating the inefficient use of packing materials.

 

“About half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies." – McKinsey Global Institute

Maximizing Impact and ROI

One of Sharp’s poly bagging machines can bag items four to five times faster than the average employee and can print the shipping label directly onto the bag and seal it, freeing up manpower to handle other tasks such as shipping, receiving or order picking. And for cohesive packaging automation, the uniformity of the machine’s parcels can easily exceed that of manual packers, creating a more consistent unboxing experience for customers.

Automated packaging machines are just one component of a fully automated distribution center. Pregis’ integration engineers ensure that its packaging machines work in concert with a fulfillment center’s other automated equipment, such as high-speed sortation machines and conveyors, to maximize efficiency.

Competition may be stiff for talented workers, but with automated protective packaging solutions, your fulfillment can thrive with fewer of them.

 

 

To learn about increasing packaging productivity and the benefits of automation, read Make Every Second Count: 5 Ways to Increase Packaging Productivity.