Tips for Automating Your End-of-Line Packaging Operations

As the packaging industry evolves, more processors and co-packers are investing in end-of-line (EOL) systems to enhance their secondary packaging operations. While EOL automation is still maturing, approximately 60-70% of lines have their EOL processes automated. These automated solutions have helped companies align their upstream primary packaging processes with downstream operations, increase line speeds, reduce reliance on manual labor, and more. 


Still, there’s time to take advantage of EOL automation and invest in a packaging system to enhance your operations. We will explain EOL packaging and the factors that could influence your EOL system needs. By the end of this post, we hope you will have a better understanding of how EOL automation can boost your productivity and ways to identify your specific packaging needs. 


What is EOL Packaging?


When we refer to EOL packaging, it typically starts after your form/fill/seal machines. Your upstream primary packaging processes could be anything from baking and freezing the product to bagging or wrapping the product in its primary packaging. Ultimately, though, once the product is “made” and packaged, EOL or secondary packaging begins. 


Secondary packaging is the final protective layer for products before they reach consumers. Whether it's corrugated boxes, cartons, trays, or shrink-wrapping, secondary packaging protects the product, is a means to deliver mass quantities of goods to the end-user or point of sale, and supports the company’s branding and marketing. 


In the past, EOL packaging operations, like packing and palletizing, were typically performed manually, but manual execution is often time-consuming, costly, and prone to errors. Today, we offer fully integrated and flexible solutions that automate these processes and help companies take complete control of their packaging line and EOL packaging operations. 

Why Does EOL Packaging Usually Get Automated Last?


Traditionally, the upstream process (or primary packaging) tends to be the first focus of any company. When automating a line, you want to refine your primary process, which will later dictate your needs for secondary (i.e., product/package type, secondary container type, speeds, etc.). 


When we consult with a customer, we usually inquire quickly about their primary packaging materials and processes to guide us as we tailor solution recommendations for their line. 


As companies see the benefits of automation in the primary packaging phase, they will turn their attention to EOL operations, which is where BPA comes in. Over the last five to seven years, we have seen more attention paid to EOL because it’s the final stage where companies can experience improvement and a return on investment. 


Additionally, the pandemic hastened plans for some manufacturers as companies were trying to social distance with less labor while meeting product demand, which spiked when households were confined and eating in more. EOL automation enabled many companies to maintain operations while transforming their lines to enhance safety, increase throughput, and meet demand. 


Still, investing in EOL packaging is a major strategic decision for any manufacturer, and a company should review many considerations before deciding on an EOL packaging solution. 


What Factors Will Determine Your EOL Packaging Needs?




Adding a fully integrated EOL system to your line requires an initial investment that may cause some CFOs to pause and question if there is a definitive need. However, our team can help you reach the best financial decision and make the business case for an EOL solution by aligning features with needs. 


Our solutions are designed to be as flexible as possible to help you achieve ROI faster for your business. Technology advancements are improving efficiency and reducing downtime to increase productivity and revenue. 


We are seeing more solutions with tool-less, hands-free auto changeover, creating less downtime between product recipes. Remember, when a line is down, processors and co-packers lose money! Additionally, automated packaging systems can now be integrated with smart manufacturing for predictive maintenance, giving operational teams real-time machine data that can reduce downtime and keep their systems running efficiently. 



The pandemic exacerbated staffing shortages, but an aging workforce and a limited influx of skilled technical workers have made it more difficult for companies to keep up with filling key positions. There will be a projected 2.1 million unfulfilled jobs in the United States by 2030, according to a study by the Manufacturing Institute. Lack of workforce negatively affects throughput and lends itself to automation. 


Still, machine operators need more skills than hand-packing employees generally have. It is pivotal for equipment manufacturers to make the HMI (Human Machine Interface) as simple as possible for current and available workforce allocation, which we do for all our EOL solutions. We can even train your team on how to operate our equipment properly and use the HMI effectively. 


We also offer aftermarket support for processors and co-packers who can no longer rely on their maintenance departments to service the equipment because it’s too much and there aren’t enough resources. Our Service and Support programs (like our AHRP program in the Americas) ensure your BPA equipment runs at peak performance and takes the burden off your staff. 




The required space for EOL packaging solutions is generally larger than manual packing areas. The challenge is to use the available space with smart layouts and monoblock machines in which multiple functions, such as case-forming, case-filling, and case-closing, are combined in one machine frame, making the EOL system as compact as possible. 


We are very innovative and conscious when handling a customer's space restraints. Among other things, we work with and consider egress (a continuous, clear path from any occupied portion of a building, structure, or space), distance between all electrical cabinets, etc.


While BluePrint Automation specializes in case packing (loading product into a secondary container), we will partner with other OEMs to design and complete a turnkey secondary packaging line for you that minimizes space use, maximizes functionality, and provides the customer with a single contact for the EOL operation


Packaging Materials 


A consumer packaged goods (CPG) company’s primary and secondary package type will influence the best automated solution for them. A company producing bags of frozen vegetables at 60 bags per minute will need a solution that is much different from a company producing wrapped nutritional bars at 600 bars per minute. 


Package marketing doesn’t typically impact EOL packaging. However, there are instances where a secondary packaging company like BluePrint Automation can assist marketing with minimizing or changing their secondary case style to save on corrugate costs or increase throughput by automatically loading more products into the same case.


Retail Trends


How you load and display your products for retail will impact secondary packaging and EOL operations. For example, more companies are requesting variety packs with multiple flavors. Automatic packing of variety packs adds another layer of complexity that single flavor loading doesn’t have. Also, shelf-ready cases are significant, making it easier for retailers to keep their shelves stocked and still aesthetically pleasing to consumers. 


We offer a variety of retail-oriented EOL solutions to address these challenges and meet consumer preferences. Our Variety Pack Solution enables automatic variety pack creation, and the Easy-D case is our own retail-ready case and a great market alternative that allows for easy loading and ensures a good-looking product appearance on the shelf. 


Quality Control


CPG companies expect their products to be packaged at maximum efficiency without compromising their final product (a full case/carton of product). This means rejecting bad product before loading, gentle product handling to eliminate breakage, ensuring correct product counts and weights inside the case, and more. 


BluePrint Automation considers each step, understanding that good and controlled product coming in means a complete and neatly packed case. Our vision-guided robotics can be combined with other QC technology to ensure food safety and quality control across your EOL packaging operations. 




More consumers are demanding sustainable packaging choices for their goods, and we can be a source of guidance to reduce your carbon footprint. For example, the taller the case gets, the more advantageous the regular slotted container (RSC) is. Shorter cases with longer major and minor overlapping flaps lend themselves to a wrap-around style case for corrugated savings. 


We set out to look at what is best for the customer and to analyze what case style is better to save on material. Our EOL packaging equipment is also designed to be as sustainable as possible through fewer pneumatic components, less vacuum, low-energy motors, etc. 


Get Started Automating Your EOL Operations Today!


We love to roll up our sleeves and collaborate with customers! Our team, from sales to engineering, is full of technical expertise and will help you find the best EOL solution to meet your needs. As you read above, many factors can influence automation, so a clearly defined scope is essential when designing and manufacturing an EOL packaging system. Not understanding your needs before this process can be costly in time and money. 

We encourage you to identify your needs and budget before you start the planning process, but our team is available to help however we can. Let’s explore ways to automate your EOL packaging operations to increase throughput and revenue.

Back to the overview