Secondary Packaging Automation Overview in Latin America

In Latin America, there is a transformation happening in manufacturing facilities as efficiency and innovation become paramount. Not coincidentally, Latin American producers are increasingly seeking automated solutions to support their secondary packaging operations. 


Through automated equipment, these producers who handle a wide range of CPGs for domestic and international exports can enhance their packaging processes, ensuring product integrity, minimizing waste, and boosting productivity.


We will examine how automation can improve secondary packaging in Latin American facilities and some of the packaging trends that are driving the industry forward. 


Why Are More Latin American Producers Choosing Automation?


Latin America has become at the forefront of automation, eclipsing many plants in the US and other parts of the world. Automation started in primary packaging processes, but producers are also beginning to automate their secondary packaging processes to maximize production and increase revenue. Here are some of the most commonly cited reasons why Latin American producers transition from manual to automated secondary packaging processes:


Increased Efficiency: Automated equipment can significantly reduce packaging time, labor costs, and human error, leading to higher productivity and throughput.


Improved Quality Control: Consistent and precise packaging results minimize product damage, waste, and errors, enhancing overall product quality and customer satisfaction.


Flexibility and Scalability: Modern automated systems are often modular and adaptable, allowing producers to quickly adjust to changing production volumes and packaging requirements.


Occupational Safety: By automating repetitive and physically demanding tasks, producers can create safer working environments and reduce the risk of workplace injuries.


Of course, finding packaging solutions that are efficient and enhance production isn’t new, but recent economic changes and technological advancements have made automation even more attractive to Latin American producers.


Increasing Labor Costs: Producers have benefitted from low labor costs for the last 100 years, but this is slowly changing. Labor costs are increasing, and labor in Latin America isn’t as stable or reliable as it once was, leaving producers with fewer options. Producers with an old-school mindset that there will always be a significant labor pool are falling behind or paying a premium to find enough workers to maintain their operations. 


Load Changes: Lines in Latin American facilities are producing heavier and faster loads to keep up with demand, making it more difficult to manage production with manual crews. Weight restrictions and mandatory maximums for shifts have forced producers to hire more workers, but increasing labor costs have made this prohibitive. Automated systems, such as a Gantry 300, can handle heavier loads to offset load challenges common with manual processes. The Gantry 300 can perform vertical and horizontal case packing operations and scales with a producer’s packaging needs, futureproofing their secondary packaging processes. 


Key Performance Indicators: As facilities become more modernized, leadership needs a way to measure the success of their investments. They are increasingly looking at key performance indicators (KPIs), like overall equipment effectiveness, to quantify performance and understand where improvements can be made. As leadership measures the effectiveness of packaging equipment, they are seeing significant improvements in quality and productivity in the data, reinforcing their push toward automation. For example, vision-guided robotics can mitigate quality control errors inherent in manual picking and packing operations. 


In addition to these factors, political unrest and influence, opening trade relationships, security requirements, and a weakening US dollar have all contributed to automation trends in Latin American production facilities. We will now discuss how Latin American producers can add automation to their secondary packaging facilities to realize these improvements while mitigating their everyday challenges. 


What Should Latin American Producers Consider When Choosing Secondary Packaging Equipment?


As Latin American producers invest more in secondary packaging equipment, their most pressing challenge is finding the right equipment to fit their budget and business needs. Here are some of the factors that will influence their decision and ways BPA works with Latin American companies to deliver the best solution that aligns with their overall production strategy:


Materials and Presentation


As many Latin American countries have a higher poverty rate than other parts of the world, cost consciousness is paramount for producers. Additionally, many Latin American shoppers purchase their groceries at corner stores that have limited shelf space, so producers must consider flexible secondary packaging presentations, like strip bags, to fit in these smaller stores. They require equipment that will incorporate cost-saving configurations and materials to ensure affordability and align with their customers’ shopping preferences.


For example, many Latin American producers use a bag-in-bag presentation for packing to reduce the overall cost to the consumer. This differs from the US and parts of Europe, where cartons and cases are still widely used, making packaging costs more expensive. Still, reusable cases, regular slotted containers, and other packaging methods are used in Latin America, especially for exporting, so cartons and cases can’t be dismissed entirely. 


Producers in Latin America require flexible packaging equipment geared toward packaging trends and materials used there to help minimize costs whenever possible. One of the ways we support our customers is by tailoring a solution based on their unique needs. We will examine your desired materials and presentation to ensure our equipment can handle whatever configuration or materials you need. 


Facility Space


Some Latin American producers are building new facilities to support their growing operations, making integrating automated case packers and other secondary packaging equipment on the line easier. However, most will attempt to implement secondary packaging equipment in existing facilities where automation may not have been considered. 


This creates a tight fit for adding automation in some facilities, as these systems can be quite large. One of the ways we can adjust is by working vertically and integrating other packaging functionality to create a compact system for producers to work with. For example, our Spider 200i vertically case packs while closing and sealing packages into reusable cases and other presentations. 


Cross-Contamination and Errors


Manual processes and reliance on human packers increase the risk of cross-contamination and errors that affect quality control. As many different product types and sizes can be running in a facility simultaneously, the need to minimize cross-contamination is paramount, which machinery can accomplish. 


Furthermore, vision-guided robotics and other quality control tools can ensure accurate counts and product selection while reducing other challenges inherent in manual handling. 


For example, our Gravity fully automated case packer has been successfully implemented in plants that handle bags of frozen products. By creating vibrations that reduce air pockets, the Gravity 100r case packer can reduce wasted space, enabling more products to be packed. At the same time, it can boost production speeds and minimize downtime by automating adjustments. 


Equipment Price and Budget


Price is obviously a concern for Latin American manufacturing companies that are considering automation. While these advanced equipment options for secondary packaging can significantly improve throughput and increase revenue, the initial investment to purchase and implement a new system can be significant, too.


Choosing equipment on price alone could backfire if the equipment isn’t backed by local expertise or aftermarket services or doesn’t align with production goals. As a true partner to our Latin American customers, our engineers can find the right solution to meet your business objectives. We price our equipment and components competitively, but we may not always be the least expensive option. However, we always aim to be the best option by always doing right by our customers. 


As you consider secondary packaging equipment options, pricing should be an important factor, but finding the right fit with a true partner who can offer expertise and dedicated support will make the most lasting impact on your packaging operations. 


Wrapping Up


As you can see, there is so much that goes into choosing the best automation solution for your line. In Latin America, automation is starting to creep more into secondary packaging processes as producers realize the benefits and respond to economic and logistical challenges that affect them. 


If you want to learn more about the possibilities of automation and which case packing systems might work best for your facility, contact us today to get started. 

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