Packaging equipment manufacturers are a relatively small group doing highly specialized work. Almost every product has different requirements for packaging and the equipment used to manufacture, fill , seal and convey it, and this process is becoming increasingly automated.
According to the Confederation of Packaging Machinery Associations, there are about 5,400 OEMs in the world's major manufacturing countries, but only 662 are in the United States. In this second phase of the Automation in Packaging Benchmark Study, we had 198 OEM responses, and over 1,000 packagers added their comments on OEM performance.
This demonstrates a high level of interest among the packaging manufacturers regarding the market drivers and how customers view their performance. Automation is becoming an increasingly important factor as packagers decide to retool, upgrade or replace their equipment.
“Packaging machinery customers are looking for solutions to packaging challenges,” according to Chuck Yuska, president and CEO of PMMI, the industry association that represents many U.S. packaging equipment suppliers across the supply chain. “Packagers are considering the machinery as part of a total solution — whether the challenge they face is increasing efficiency and/or productivity, bringing a new product to market or reducing the impact their plant has on the environment.”
Even in a time of economic tumult, Yuska says, packagers are staying on track with their machinery purchase plans for the year. In response, the survey shows, OEMs are planning for growth in the packaging market. While 58% of the equipment suppliers in the survey indicated that packaging accounts for less than half of their company’s business, 36% said they expect packaging’s share of their business to grow in the next five years.
“North America is still the largest packaging machinery market in the world,” says Yuska. “It is a market of consequence — especially as we look at trends in sustainability and marketing. But there’s plenty of growth opportunity around the world, too, and it’s exciting. Look at markets where an emerging middle class is creating a greater demand for consumer goods — places like Brazil, China, India and Russia. As consumer goods companies grow in these markets, so will their suppliers.”
Generally, the survey shows, packagers believe that OEMS are doing a fairly good job. In the verbatim quotes, though, they freely point out the multiple opportunities that equipment manufacturers have to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
In addition, it's interesting to see that real differences exist in the perceptions of the two groups. These areas of disagreement involve issues like the need for improved machine flexibility and system integration. OEMs see opportunities for packagers to use automation to build a competitive advantage. After reviewing the study data, I guess, the big question is, "Are the two groups listening to each other?"