Six Steps to More-Efficient Packaging Operations

Tips to help you make the most of packaging resources available to you.

by Neal Magaziner, Executive Vice President, Hughes Enterprises

These days, new technologies, advanced materials, innovative products, and improved processes come at us seemingly without end. There's almost no limit to the ways in which a packaging operation can improve efficiency and enhance quality. But in a world of fierce competition, at-risk margins, and limited resources, you can't have everything. Here are just a few tips every packaging professional should consider, no matter their size or industry.
Leasing. Companies are increasingly turning to leasing equipment to stay ahead of the technology curve and conserve capital. Periodic payments simplify budgeting, avoiding complicated depreciation schedules. Lease payments can finance not only the purchase price, but other costs, such as freight, installation, training, and maintenance support. Many leases also allow equipment upgrades during the lease, as technology advances or as your needs grow. Leasing can even save money at tax time, since 100% of lease payments are tax-deductible, unlike many loan payments.

Bar Coding. Bar coding has become a given in most industries, even where it was once thought impossible or impractical due to product size or materials. To bar code product successfully, use high-quality print media, like thermal-transfer labels and vinyl labels; avoid color, since many bar code scanners can't read it; and slow down your printing process, since print speed is inversely proportional to print quality. 
Upgrade Sealing. If your case sealers still run with glue, staples, or water-activated tape, it may be time for a change. If the hot-liquid reservoirs, clogged applicators and belts, leaky catch pans, and staple damage don't frustrate you, the downtime will. Consider systems that employ pressure-sensitive tape. In some cases, you can keep your existing equipment and still save on cleanup, maintenance, and material cost, not to mention hazardous material disposal.

Shipping Materials. Do you ship heavy, odd-shaped, and breakable or sensitive items such as electronics or other fragile products? Consider packaging that expands to conform to the shape of the item being packed and the box it's packed in. Avoid foam turtles or peanuts or giant dunnage hoppers. Some new solutions are CFC- and HCFC-free and can be processed in municipal waste-to-energy facilities. And some suppliers even provide locations that will take back used material.

Towels. In manufacturing, routine wipedowns, accidental spills, and chronic leaks are inevitable. The age-old solutions don't work: shop rags of inconsistent size, shape, or material may be completely nonabsorbent and therefore useless, and rental shop towels offer variable quality and cleanliness. Find durable, reusable, and highly absorbent alternatives.

Flooring. One of your more important and overlooked assets is your floor. A protective floor finish enhances appearance, improves safety, eases maintenance, and extends life. Whether you use a mop, reservoir/ applicator system, or pressure sprayer, be sure to clean the floor thoroughly and remove trash before starting; apply finish to small areas at a time and work quickly to avoid "lap marks" caused by uneven drying; and always use "Wet Floor" signs to avoid accidental falls and to keep fellow employees off your fresh work while it dries and seals.

This list only scratches the surface of the many exciting and beneficial resources available in the packaging industry today. Other tips may come from your local independent packaging industry manufacturers' representative agency. These agencies research the latest tools, innovations, and processes in this industry. Check out AFFLINK, an organization of manufacturers and distributors serving the packaging and other industries. Their Web site is

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