Braden Beam is the Bag Filling and Palletizing Business Unit Leader for BW Flexible Systems. The following content contains excerpts from his interview with Petfood Industry, which originally appeared on petfoodindustry.com on September 1, 2021.
Recently, I was asked, “what do you believe are the top three pet food packaging trends happening now that we’ll see lasting into 2022?” As I reflected on the past year, several trends came to mind. Availability and access to spare parts was a major challenge for some due to COVID-driven supply chain delays. Finding new ways to accurately calculate equipment costs has always been a point of focus. But as we look ahead and try to anticipate which trends are most likely to mature in 2022, these are the three that I believe have the most potential.
Sustainable Packaging Solutions
Some of the biggest CPGs, including pet food manufacturers, are setting ambitious sustainability goals to make their product packaging 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. We’re seeing dry pet food brands that want to convert their product lines from the standard poly-woven bags to recyclable paper bags. This is challenging because, while we know that the current bags are robust enough to survive the packaging and distribution process, that same empirical evidence doesn’t yet exist for these new recyclable bags. This is one of the reasons we work so closely with material suppliers; to test and verify that they can be implemented with consistent quality at the desired production rates.
Data-Driven Production Efficiencies
We’re also seeing pet food manufacturers become more interested in the data provided by the packaging equipment’s programmable logic controllers (PLC). With guidance from their machine manufacturer, they can use this data to get a clearer picture of their downtime (i.e., when the machine is idle or waiting for more bags or product to be presented) and create process efficiencies through packaging automation or other measures.
Improving Operator Training
Operator turnover is another issue that manufacturers, pet food or otherwise, are struggling with recently. It takes time and money to train your production and packaging line operators and when they quit you don’t get that investment back. In recent years, equipment manufacturers have been able to mitigate some of these training costs by offering improved training and troubleshooting tools, whether printed, via the machine’s HMI, in the video, on the iPad or in the Cloud. In 2022, I expect that we’ll see additional improvements in operator training resources.