eCommerce is huge. Consumers and businesses alike are ordering products online at an unprecedented rate, which has further increased since the coronavirus pandemic. Now more than ever, eCommerce packaging companies are under pressure to keep up with demand in more innovative and efficient ways.

The Growth of eCommerce and Changing Packaging Demands

2020 marked an extraordinary shift to online shopping amongst consumers, meaning eCommerce retailers have had to adapt at a rapid pace to meet skyrocketing demand. While online shopping has been on a massive upward trend for a few years now, the various coronavirus lockdowns resulted in a tipping point for many online retailers. They can no longer delay the need to eliminate manual packaging and fulfillment as the demand for more high speed, automated packaging operations intensifies

Where manual packaging is still being used, high quantities of staff are required to meet growing consumer demand. This can lead to slowdown in order fulfillment, not to mention high labour costs and even higher spend on packaging materials. Slow fulfillment times are no longer acceptable in a market where big players, like Amazon, are offering next or even same day delivery, which is forcing the hand of eCommerce retailers.

Automated equipment that enables cost-effective upscaling from manual to fully-automated is now readily available, allowing smaller manufacturers to compete with the big players in eCommerce. Packaging automation streamlines fulfillment processes; either as a full takeover of the factory floor or as a supplement to traditional methods, allowing for faster fulfillment and shipping. Improved customer experience is the upshot, which all retailers aspire to meet.

Customer Experience, Digital Transformation and eCommerce Packaging Innovation

Smart devices, digital wallets, demand for sustainable packaging, unboxing experience… the list goes on. These are all factors that come into play for eCommerce retailers. While the purchase process is a key part of customer experience, it does not end once the item has been shipped.

How eCommerce packaging appears on arrival has a big impact on customer satisfaction. The package must be easy to open, secondary packaging should be attractive and well-presented, and the product inside should not be compromised. With social media and online reviews, customers have a louder voice with which to shout about their experience with a particular brand, and, as retailers know only all too well, they are more inclined to comment about a negative experience than a good one.

Factors such as pricing pressures, intensifying competition and demand for new product innovations only add to the pressing need to accelerate time to market. Key to this is speeding up production processes directly. Efficiency of flow and resources is needed across the entire production line, and eCommerce packaging plays a critical role in this. Automated packaging machinery is the ultimate answer to solve this need.

Robotic Packaging Automation for eCommerce Packaging

Packaging is an essential part of enhancing product shelf life providing product and marketing info and enabling traceability. Automating as much of the packaging process as possible is vital. Robotic packaging automation brings with it an array of benefits:

  • Reduced production and labour costs
  • Elimination of errors
  • Optimal productivity, accuracy, and efficiency
  • Reduced risk of contamination
  • Reduced risk of personal injury to staff
  • Increased versatility, flexibility, and reliability

Additionally, production lines that use pressure filling and vacuum packaging boast higher quality and consistency levels when robotic automation is used.

Robotic process automation across processing and packaging will be further enhanced by the growing proliferation of the ‘smart factory’ and Industry 4.0-enabled smart packaging machinery. Incorporating labelling, marking and coding machinery to meet increasingly stringent environmental and labelling regulations and modular packaging machinery is also growing more widespread.

Indeed, innovative new developments at every turn are serving to solve the complex and novel challenges eCommerce retailers face in our fast-changing consumer marketplace. We are proud to say that PPMA member companies are among those developing new machinery, software, and processes to solve these challenges, in fascinating and insightful ways.

You can learn more about the work these companies do, explore the concepts and ideas being put forward by major players in the industry and get in touch with individual member companies to find out more about automating your eCommerce production line.