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Can automation be the salvation of packaging?

As 2008 draws to a close, it's interesting to look back at a year literally filled with highs and lows. Early in the year, everything was looking up for packaging. Packagers and their suppliers were riding high and making plans for growth. Then the global economy was roiled, and the future suddenly seemed somewhat murky.



However, one thing is clear: Packagers are increasingly reliant on automating their processes to stay competitive. Packaging Digest and its sister publication, Control Engineering, recently completed the final phase of a three-part, year-long study benchmarking automation in packaging. This comprehensive study confirms that packagers are accelerating their moves toward automation, and original equipment manufacturers and system integrators are stepping up with innovative approaches to simplify complex processes.

For anyone who attended the recent PACK EXPO Internationl 2008 in Chicago, the evidence of automation's inroads was readily apparent. While sustainability was the show's major theme, automation was the star on the show floor, where you could see a sparkling array of robotics as well as integrated systems that span forming and filling to cartoning and palletizing.

Volume 3 of our Automation in Packaging Benchmark Study looks at the central and growing role that system integrators play. Many packagers have cut back their own engineering staff, so when they install a new packaging line or upgrade existing equipment, they must must rely on system integrators. These professionals are up-to-date on automation developments and can help packagers design and implement systems from multiple OEMs that optimize production.

This phase completes a 360-degree view of packaging automation that began in April with a market overview from the end users' point of view. It continued with the perspectives of OEMs and sytem integrators. While all three groups showed similarities, there also are thought-provoking differences on the expected course of the industry and the performance of each group. For full research results, visit packagingdigest.com/automationresearch. Also, plan to register for a webcast in mid-December that will analyze the results of all phases of this benchmarking research.

In this issue, Packaging Digest also names its first “Packaging Integrator of the Year,” recognizing JMP Eng. of London, ON. For a profile of JMP's packaging contributions, see the story on p. 36.

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