Automated distribution centers used to be hi-tech spaces under big brand names, such as Amazon or Alibaba. But the health crisis of 2020 came with stay at home mandates, emptying warehouses and smaller distribution centers of most personnel. At the same time, online shopping saw a sharp rise – nearly 28% compared to previous years. These two factors together determined smaller companies to invest in automation. And soon, they discovered that they also need reusable plastic packaging to run their operations smoothly.
How Does Automation Change Supply Chain and Distribution Activities?
For many years, the team at Logistic Packaging has encouraged its clients to invest in automation, not only in reusable plastic packaging. Labor-free operations have many benefits for companies:
- Reduced loading and unloading times
- Reduced loss due to damaged products and packages
- Greater accuracy in maintaining a necessary inventory
- Reduced labor costs
- Greater flexibility in using the storage space.
Automated conveyor belts, logistic vehicles and machines can outperform the most efficient employee. This leaves managers the freedom to redirect labor costs and to retrain employees to perform tasks that need their specific talent and skills, not simply brute force.
However, all these benefits require specific investments and a change in the way companies plan their logistic operations. One of the key aspects of running an effective automated distribution center is using returnable plastic packaging.
Why Do Plastic Packages Matter in Automation?
A robotic arm or a conveyor belt can be programmed to perform specific operations in a specific order and at a specific speed. This means that your packaging needs to have a high level of standardization in terms of:
- Materials they are made of
- Design features.
Robotic arms are designed to grip the sides of a stackable container in certain points. If the grip is not strong enough, the box will fall, spilling its contest. Likewise, a machine arranging products in plastic crates is programmed to place a specific number of products in each crate. If crates of different sizes are used, some will be too heavily loaded, while others will not be completely filled.
Automation Distribution Centers Need Clear Labeling for Everything
Barcodes or RFID labels are essential in automated distribution centers. While employees may know from past experience where certain items are stored, or they can identify them visually, automated machines cannot do that.
They are equipped with scanners that read these barcodes or RFID labels. This means that every pallet, foldable container and rigid pallet box must be clearly labeled. Reusable plastic packaging can be easily fitted with label holders, designed to protect the label from various types of damages:
- Liquid spillage
- Print fading.
Non-Standardized Packaging Causes Disruption to Automated Operations
Using non-standard packaging materials is not just inconvenient. It can effectively create bottlenecks and chaos in an automated distribution center. Some of the most serious issues our logistics specialists identified are:
- Small crates skipping scan readings and causing confusion in inventory
- Large boxes getting stuck on conveyor belts and halting the entire operations
- Unevenly packed boxes falling off the conveyor belt
- Damages to expensive automated machinery caused by substandard packaging.
Reusable plastic packaging used today is the result of continuous R&D work. With every technology advance, packaging producers incorporate new design features and add more tests for strength and reliability before putting products on the market.
At Logistic Packaging, you will find a very wide range of standard reusable plastic packaging, designed for various industries and use cases. We invite you to browse our catalog and send us an email to discuss your specific packaging project!