Packaging Technology – and Peyton Manning. We know that things may be a little chaotic and unsure in your operations right now so consider this something to bookmark for later if the timing isn’t right. Open Sky Group’s Rick Brunson, part of the expert crew at MODEX this year saw some really cool things he wanted to share in his note below.
I was only able to be at MODEX for one day – and part of that day was being a tour guide for the Student Days event held every year (more on that later). One of the things I love most about MODEX is that you get to see the technology in action. So much better than video – and I got to ask questions while the action was happening. Very worthwhile for us operationally focused people.
Some of the most interesting and practical technology I saw were the packaging machines that measure product on a conveyor to-size and then cut/assemble the corrugated — without anyone touching it (that seems particularly relevant these days, right?). I realize it isn’t brand new technology but how cool is that? I still see so many operations with tons of people packing – and I still receive so many packages personally where the box was much larger than what was in it. A machine like this could eliminate a lot of waste – not just of cardboard but also when it comes to void fill/packing product, truck fuel used more efficiently, etc. The machine used a giant roll of corrugated so there’s no need to store all the different size boxes.
This is perfect for anyone with a lot of direct to consumer/high volume parcel shipping like retail or 3PL. The machine I saw could handle 1,100 cartons per hour which is pretty impressive.
The downside? To me, the machine itself takes up a lot of space so that could be an issue for some if you’re considering this kind of packaging technology. Storing the rolls of corrugated would likely be a wash if you compare it to storing unused boxes of different sizes you’d need if you’re not using the machine.
Custom-sized Shipping Bags
If you have soft good products like clothing that don’t need to be repackaged into corrugated, there are now machines that make shipping bags to-size for clothing AND apply the shipping label for it. Seems like they were doing about 1,000/hour with the best machine, offering slower speed machines for less. Again, it creates a touchless environment which takes on a whole new meaning these days. The positives here are similar to Quadient above with the downside being that it wouldn’t work for packaging anything that is of a decent weight in a box inside this custom bag because the corners might tear the plastic. An additional pro here is that the machine wasn’t too large – maybe 4 x 6 x 8 (?) and could connect in line with a conveyor. The company I saw was ProMach.
Are you sensing a theme here? I was definitely drawn to the packing solutions.
Shrink Wrap for Shipping
The third of my top picks was a machine that really tightly wrapped goods with shrink wrap for shipping instead of repackaging into corrugated. On the pro side is the savings on corrugated and loose fill as well as shipping costs, especially if you’re being charged on dimensional weight. The downside is that the manufacturers packaging would need to be sturdy enough to withstand the shipping on its own – and you wouldn’t be able to package multiple items together that way. The company I saw with this was Sealed Air. The machine itself was about the same size as the ProMach and also could connect in line with a conveyor.
Last but not least – and not a packaging machine – was MODEX Student Days. I was fortunate to be a Tour Guide for this fantastic educational event for high school and college students interested in our industry to get really broad exposure to just about everything supply chain. It gives them a chance to talk to people who do this every day – and helps them to be able to picture themselves doing that someday. In addition to guided tours of the show floor, these students had a morning session with recruiters to explain how the recruiting process works, help them understand what questions they might get asked and let them know what they’re looking for in candidates. It’s a really great prep for those kids and there was even more after lunch with a session on resume writing. Who can’t use help with that? Lunch was a great networking opportunity for the students to get to know others who weren’t in their tour group. And you know what else? They got to hear Peyton Manning speak about the importance of teamwork and how, in order to be a good leader, you need to be able to listen. Peyton told a story about himself when he was a rookie. Apparently, he went into his first huddle telling everyone what to do. The team just looked at him – and he ended up getting sacked in that play.
My personal takeaways?
- MODEX is THE place for cool stuff in our industry (videos will never be as good as the real thing)
- Don’t forget to listen when you lead