Competitive Packaging – US Manufacturing Comeback

by | EPIC Systems, Inc

The US is on track to be equal in cost with Chinese manufactured imports by 2015 according to a recent article from The Material Handling Institute (MHI). The study also finds the US is currently equal to Mexico for manufacturing attractiveness.

So what is making the US more attractive? The study suggests there are several factors, including product type, location, transportation and other variables — that can greatly impact attractiveness and cost-effectiveness.

Automation is playing a big role as well, according to Graham Holland. Pragmatic factory automation can help increase efficiency, lower cost and improve product quality. Packaging line automation plays a big role in helping round-out these advantages for manufacturers.

According to Holland, the advantages of factory automation are:

  • Increased Efficiency – Automation enables manufacturers to optimize current capital and labor resources. North America is the world leader in manufacturing productivity.
  • Cost – It is not just the cost of labor. Inventory requirements, training, and quality control and beyond must be considered. Automating an existing manufacturing facility actually results in a lower piece price cost than moving operations overseas.
  • Control – Automation allows manufacturers to maintain control of its operations versus moving operations overseas.
  • Quality – An automated facility consistently manufactures the absolute highest quality products.
  • Viability – By strengthening North American manufacturing leadership through automation, jobs will be retained and the economy will strengthen.

Specific forces that are helping improve US competitiveness in the area of packaging automation include:

  • Improved programming – Packaging automation has advanced, but beyond the obvious improvements, packaging line data can now be tied into larger MES/SAP and resource planning systems. OEE and line efficiency systems with real-time data feedback have helped US manufacturers maximize up-time and operations.
  • Robots – robots increase the flexibility and speed of packaging lines, and they are becoming more affordable everyday.
  • Sensors – Like robots, sensors are becoming more affordable. Sensor capabilities have increased as well, allowing manufacturers to use sensors for more than just object detection.
  • Machine Vision systems – Label inspection, cap and seal inspection, can inspection, color inspection – these are all examples of packaging machine vision applications.

What other advances are helping improve packaging line competitiveness in the US? Comment below and let us know.

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