The landscape of solutions for optimizing efficiencies across a food brand’s supply-chain is constantly changing at the pace of the technology sector. And that pace of change can feel rapid.

As brand owners and manufacturers face challenges like labor shortages, procuring updated robotics, choosing the right packaging format and meeting stricter regulatory matters, all while remaining sustainable under the pressures of complex consumer demands; packaging professionals find themselves looking toward their suppliers for backup.

The ROI on robotics

In the Food Packaging Trends and Advances Report, produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, respondents indicate that the return on investment (ROI) for robotics are beginning to pass the threshold of uncertainty and will continue to replace traditionally manual processes in the supply-chain.

While at this time, most robotics and automated technologies support supply-chain efficiencies in smart packaging, digital printing, labeling, loading etc., the possibility for these solutions to infiltrate other aspects of the supply-chain like shipping or delivery for e-commerce businesses is strong.

Both of these types of technologies inherently reduce costs and downtime in the manufacturing, packaging and shipping components of an efficient supply-chain. For instance, replacing a traditionally manual process with a robot alleviates shortages of skilled laborers and typically facilitates faster throughput.

Automate FSMA compliance

At this point the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is not new to food brands, however it still remains a looming pain point.

For instance, 40 percent of respondents to the same PMMI report expressed a willingness to invest in automated equipment that would tackle the arduous documenting and reporting processes for traceability requirements that fall under provisions of FSMA.

Suppliers and OEMs continue to step up to the challenge by providing food safety-specific data management systems that can track, report and capture information at a sophisticated level.

Updating seems expensive and risky?

If food packaging professionals are still unsure about the advantages that robotics and automation equipment would offer their companies, PMMI’s OpX Leadership Network provides ample utilities to measure investment costs and risks.

For instance, brand owners can apply the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) measurement tool developed by the OpX Leadership Network, as well as an Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Benefits Calculator.

Each of these resources can help brands determine the best path of innovation to meet their goals for production and business growth. The guides systematically walk food brand owners through the total estimated cost of procurement, set up, training and maintenance to ensure operations are running more efficiently than before.

Flexible packaging for your sustainable supply-chain stretch goals

When food manufacturers consider shipping logistics, the major packaging challenges that emerge surround keeping product compact, durable and temperature stable.

On top of that, these companies often aim to achieve all of the above with the lowest possible carbon footprint.

Flexible packaging formats provide abundant opportunities for food brand managers to tackle these challenges.

For instance, The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) estimated that one truckload of flexible packaging on the way to recycling is equivalent to 26 truckloads of glass jars. This allows brand owners to ship more product while emitting less CO2 emissions because it’s lighter than traditional cardboard.

Optimize your supply-chain at PACK EXPO Las Vegas

Food brand managers, manufacturing and packaging professionals can find the latest solutions for creating a more efficient, sustainable supply-chain at PACK EXPO Las Vegas (Las Vegas Convention Center; Sept. 25—27) co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO.

The shows will serve as North America’s largest packaging event in 2017, set to convene 30,000 executives, plant managers, engineers, brand managers and packaging designers walking show of 2,000 suppliers.

Attendees looking to generate a sustainable and efficient supply-chain can visit the Reusable Packaging Center, which includes the Reusable Packaging Pavilion for reusable transport packaging products and the Reusable Packaging Learning Center which comprises presentations on impactful topics for your sustainable supply-chain.

For those curious about the capabilities of autonomous vehicle delivery systems, PMMI in collaboration with electric truck and drone maker Workhorse, will also be presenting the "PACK EXPO Drone Demo - Packaging for the Last Mile," an interactive drone delivery exhibit to showcase automated packaging distribution.

To learn more about the event and register, visit