Integrators play central role in packaging automation

Packaging is a specialty that manufacturers in virtually every industry must address. To some, it means skids, shrinkwrap and labels. To others, it includes complex "recipes" of materials, sizes, cartons and containers. Control Engineering and Packaging Digest set out to investigate this dynamic market through the Automation in Packaging Benchmark Study, a three-part, year-long research projec...

12/01/2008


Sidebars:
Research Methodology
Key Findings
Packagers Speak Out on System Integrators

Packaging is a specialty that manufacturers in virtually every industry must address. To some, it means skids, shrinkwrap and labels. To others, it includes complex "recipes" of materials, sizes, cartons and containers. Control Engineering and Packaging Digest set out to investigate this dynamic market through the Automation in Packaging Benchmark Study, a three-part, year-long research project conducted by Reed Research Group. This 360° overview of the state of packaging automation reveals the technology, market drivers and business issues affecting packagers, equipment builders and system integrators.

In Vol. 1, published in April 2008, research results came from the packagers and brand owners themselves. Vol. 2, published in August, focused on packaging equipment builders.

This is Vol. 3, and it focuses on system integrators. This small, but influential group provides hands-on help for system design, manufacture and installation. They also offer multi-industry insights to help packagers obtain the optimal solution for automating their production.

Complete results from all three volumes of the Automation in Packaging Benchmark Study, as well as other resources based on the research, can be found online at www.controleng.com/automationresearch or www.packagingdigest.com/automationresearch . Watch for release of the Webcast summarizing and contrasting all three studies in mid-December.

Types of automation

Package handling

69%

Palletizing/unitizing

69%

Conveying

65%

Cartoning

63%

Labeling

59%

Marking/coding

55%

Product inspection

53%

Fill form/fill/seal

51%

Casing

47%

Robotics

45%

Overwrapping

33%

Other

2%

Multiple choices allowed




Areas where integrators claim automation experience

Multiple choices allowed

HMIs and industrial PCs

80%

Motors drives and motion control

78%

Application and programming software

71%

Instrumentation and control components

65%

Networks and communications hardware and software

55%

Process and advanced control

53%

Machine and embedded controllers

43%




Steps in a packaging automation project

1. Opportunity identification

2. Conceptual design

3. Detailed design

4. Installation/implementation

5. Troubleshooting





Most important automation and control product attributes

Multiple choices allowed

Reliability (e.g. performance)

55%

Price-to-performance value

45%

Quality/durability (e.g. long lasting)

39%

Easy to use, install and maintain

31%

Compatibility with existing systems

27%

Product specifications

24%

Long term cost of ownership

18%

Price

18%

Scalability

10%

Enhances speed of changeover (line)

10%

Products performed well during in-house testing

4%

Offers development tools

2%

Lot tracking/tracing capabilities

2%

Other

2%


Which brand-related characteristics are most important when evaluating automation vendors?

Multiple choices allowed

Technical support

53%

Previous experience with vendor

51%

Vendor reputation/known brand name/longevity

49%

On-time delivery

37%

Product availability

37%

Breadth of product line

20%

24x7 service and support

18%

Vendor's partnerships

16%

Offers remote, diagnostic support

16%

Global support

10%

Specialized product line

8%

R&D/innovation

8%

Other

2%




Ethernet protocols supported

Multiple choices allowed

EtherNet/IP

90%

Modbus TCP

43%

ProfiNet

43%

Foundation Fieldbus

20%

SERCOS III

15%

PowerLink

10%

EtherCAT

8%

Other

8%



Research Methodology

Data for Vol. 3 of the Packaging Digest and Control Engineering 2008 Automation in Packaging Benchmark Study were gathered over a two-week period in early November 2008. Respondents came from the subscriber base of the following magazines and E-newsletters: Packaging Digest, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering and Converting.

Subscribers were invited by Email to complete a Web-based questionnaire. Respondents were qualified based on their company’s role in packaging.

Of the estimated 400 North American system integrators working in packaging, nearly 13 percent responded to the survey. Another 896 respondents qualified as brand owner/packager, converter, equipment supplier or contract packager. They answered questions about the performance of system integrators. All results are posted in aggregate, and individual results are kept strictly confidential.

Pages 14 and 15 of this report compare answers to questions that were asked of respondents in all three surveys.

Key Findings

Business demographics

57% of system integrators have fewer than 50 employees; 42% have over 100 employees.

Depending on the firm's size, system integrators on average work on three packaging projects simultaneously.

71% say packaging accounts for less than a quarter of their total sales, but 44% expect packaging to grow over the next five years.

Integrators' business is concentrated in the Middle Atlantic and East North Central states, while 23% also report international sales.

On average, respondents performed 7.24 packaging projects in the last five years.

Automation technology selection

Packaging handling, palletizing, conveying and cartoning are the most typical projects.

Over 70% of responding integrators expect robotics and marking/coding to be the fastest-growing packaging automation segments.

47% of integrators say they select components for an automation project, while 69% of packagers/end users choose the type of equipment.

Vol. 1 indicated end users utilize less than 50% of their automation functionality. Over 70% of integrators say this is due either to an under-educated workforce or automation that exceeds client needs.

80% of integrators say controlling labor costs is the primary reason their packaging clients are automating their processes.

Packagers discuss system integrators

Top criteria to choose an integrator include cost, previous success, packaging expertise.

79% of packagers say they will likely hire the same integrator on their next project.

64% of users say technical support is extremely important; 74% are satisfied with integrators' technical support.

Next highest factors are knowing clients' needs and implementing recommendations.

Packagers Speak Out on System Integrators

Top criteria for selecting system integrators

Multiple choices allowed

Cost

64%

Success of previous project with us

51%

Expertise in packaging

51%

Technical resources

26%

Technical skills

26%

Referrals/word of mouth

15%

Geographic proximity

14%

Availability

14%

Affiliations with preferred vendors

8%

Financial stability

7%

Business skills

3%

Professional certifications/awards

1%

Other

4%


Are you satisfied with system integrators in the following
areas? Percent answering 'somewhat' or 'extremely'

Multiple choices allowed

Understands your automation needs

75%

Able to implement recommendations

75%

Quality of technical support provided

74%

Has offerings compatible with existing systems

72%

Can collaborate in system design

71%

Types of automation options available

69%

Availability of system integration services

69%

Familiarity with various vendors

67%

Training/education support

66%

Identification of opportunities

62%

Uses consultative sales techniques

54%



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