Sustainability, supply chain, labor shortages contribute to end-of-line machinery market growth
End-of-line (EoL) machinery accounts for nearly 47% of the U.S. packaging machinery market with steady growth forecast through 2026, according to the newly released 2021 End-of-Line Equipment Purchasing Trends and Design Insights white paper produced by PMMI Business Intelligence, a division of PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.
As highlighted in the white paper, trends, such as sustainability, supply chain visibility, SKU expansion and labor shortages, all contribute to the increased demand for EoL equipment.
Driven by consumer demands for more eco-friendly products and manufacturers’ goals to cut costs by reducing material and energy usage, sustainability has become one of the most consequential trends — up and down the production line — in the packaging industry. This is true for EoL equipment as well, where specific sustainability trends such as lightweighting, the use of recycled materials and the general reduction in machine energy usage are driving innovations in EoL machinery.
“End-of-line machinery makes up just under half of all packaging machinery purchases, making it inevitable that sustainability would find its way into EoL design and purchasing trends,” said Jorge Izquierdo, VP of market development, PMMI. “The increased use of recycled or plant-based materials alone requires modifications to EoL machines to increase tolerance in handling and inspection.”
Another key trend affecting the EoL packaging space highlighted in the PMMI white paper is the need for product visibility in the supply chain. While consumers drive this for primary packaging, in the EoL space it is spurred by a combination of regulations, retailer requests and manufacturer logistics. These three primary forces push manufacturers to expand their labeling on EoL packaging configurations to track their products more efficiently and accurately through the supply chain.
One of the most dominant developments across CPG industries is the ever-expanding number of SKUs now being produced by manufacturers. While this trend was partially disrupted in select industries in 2020 by COVID-19, with some major manufacturers strategically trimming SKU counts to focus on the growing demand for certain product segments, this interruption is expected to be short-term. As supply chain challenges continue to abate in the coming year, SKU expansion will pick back up. There are numerous factors driving this increase in SKU count — customized products, expansion of shape/size choices, diversification of distributed channels, growing packaging material options for single products – but the result is the same for manufacturers: they are producing more products in a wider array of packaging formats. To accommodate these production strains, manufacturers seek a new breed of EoL machinery that is highly flexible and can handle the rapid changing of SKUs within a single shift. Manufacturers are also turning to EoL equipment that integrates several different functions into a single machine. These improvements are ultimately rooted in an ongoing need to expand the level of automation and ease of integration in the EoL space.
One sweeping factor directly impacting EoL packaging operations is the ongoing labor shortage pervading CPG manufacturing industries. From large operations to SMEs, manufacturers in the CPG space have reported struggling with a general lack of available labor. OEMs can help by identifying areas of EoL operations to deploy automation to reduce a need for unskilled labor.
EoL technology and machinery solutions have evolved in the last two years and the next opportunity to see the latest end-of-line solutions on the East Coast is at PACK EXPO East in Pennsylvania, March 21-23. This show will bring together 400 exhibitors showcasing solutions over 100,000 net square feet of exhibit space, with 7,000 attendees from 40-plus vertical markets.
Produced by PMMI, PACK EXPO East provides a convenient and rewarding opportunity for professionals from East Coast CPGs and life sciences companies to explore the latest packaging and processing technology and materials in-person, connect with suppliers and find the solutions needed to adapt and compete in a changing marketplace.
Free educational opportunities provide important, timely and useful content as well as valuable opportunities to collaborate with peers on tough topics such as improving operations, responding/adapting to trends and incorporating new technology.
Just a drive or train-trip away for most of the east coast, no other event will offer such a wide range of state-of-the-art packaging and processing solutions as PACK EXPO East (March 21-23, 2022; Pennsylvania Convention Center). For more information and to register, visit packexpoeast.com. To learn about the PACK Ready Health and Safety plan, visit packexpoeast.com/packready.