Packaging can be defined as "the science, art and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use". Packaging also refers to "the process of design, evaluation, and production of packages".
Packaging can be regarded as different types. The single item such as a bottle containing soft drink can be regarded as the item that a consumer would purchase known as "primary" packaging. Where as a pack of bottles, shrink wrapped, would be regarded as the transport package used within the distribution chain is known as "secondary" packaging.
Primary packaging is the material that first contains the product. This is usually the package which is in direct contact with the contents. For example, this could be a bottle or carton for liquids; or a packet for various snack foods.
The secondary packaging is outside the primary packaging, perhaps used to group primary packages together. For example, this could be a tray and shrink film. Secondary packaging is mainly used as a means of transporting the primary packs or product from producer to retailer. This is usually removed and recycled once the pack has reached its destination. Secondary packaging can also be retained to enable the product to be purchased in bulk.
The choice of packaging machinery for primary & secondary packaging can depend on various situations. These can include available budget, payback period, integration, associated running costs, machine technology and available floor space.
Packaging machines can be of the following general types:
- Coding and Marking
- Food Processing
- Form Fill Seal
- Palletising & Depalletising
- Pharmaceutical Processing
These machine types are very general indeed. Each area or sector of packaging equipment can be expanded upon to reveal the various applications that are available today.
As technology advances, packaging machines are becoming more and more advanced to not only meet the current demands but to try and "future proof" the packaging equipment and product development within an organisation. This can have a bearing on machine costs plus the interchangeability of operators and training.
Packaging machines can be integrated into an existing line. For example, a new labelling machine within an existing line. Interfaces between new and old machines have to be considered as well as ingress and egress routes for the equipment. Downtimes of the line and surrounding lines should also be taken into account.
From single machines, as just discussed, to small systems or complete lines containing more than one new or existing / reconditioned packaging machines can be installed. Depending on the size of the installation, project management methods should be employed. Project management systems such as PRINCE2 can be used for any size of project.