How Does an Automated Packaging Line Work?


Getting goods into consumers’ hands is essential in this busy world, but workers can only do so much at high rates of speed. This is one area where automation makes a tremendous difference. While a worker may only be able to pack X amount in an hour, automation can do so much more. It’s precise and is able to avoid some of the accidents that people make that can lead to damaged products.

Back in 2019, Reuters reported that Amazon’s automated packaging lines were able to pack about 500% more orders in one hour than a worker could. The change to robotic packaging lines ensures customers get their orders quickly, which makes for happy customers and positive feedback. Plus, it helps cut unnecessary costs in damaged goods and avoidable expenses like overtime.

Automation is everything to a company, and you can invest in your workers by using their talents in other areas and in operating the automated packaging line as it can only do so much on its own. All automated systems require skilled workers to make sure things are running smoothly. Here’s how an automated packaging line works.

It’s Not Just One Piece of Equipment

An automated packaging system is going to be a mix of systems that best fit your company’s needs. This comes down to what you’re packaging. If you’re a food manufacturer, automation can help you fill cans, bottles, bags, boxes, etc., and get them labeled and into crates or boxes for shipping.

If you make glass tiles, you need to box them by the case and move those cases into pallets or boxes for shipping to home improvement stores. In either case, you need specific equipment that helps you get the finished product packaged and shipped without costly damage.

Customized automation works with your company, no matter what your goals are. It usually includes some or all of this equipment.

  1. Bagging

Some items go from production lines into bags. To do this, a machine needs to carefully weigh the materials going into each bag before sending them down the line to be sealed or otherwise prepared for transportation to their final destination.

Think of potato chips. They have to be bagged per weight with air added to prevent the chips from getting crushed when moved to boxes for shipping. Bagging equipment is one way to make this process efficient and effective.

The bags move via conveyor belts to machines that dispense the right amount by opening flap doors for the required amount of time. The item falls into the bag and continues down the line to sealers that get the bag, seal it, and release it to move to the next step in your manufacturing or packaging plant.

  1. Bottle Filling

Have you ever visited a brewery in your downtime? The finished product flows from the tanks to bottle-filling lines that fill the bottles or cans and cap or seal them before they go to labelers. To ensure things go well, the equipment must distribute just the right amount. Too much headroom or too little space can lead to product loss.

To ensure bottles are filled accurately, the machine moves the bottles or cans into position and drops the nozzles to the right height to prevent splatter or keep the liquid from releasing into the container because there’s no room between the nozzle and container bottom. Once the liquid is filled to the correct level, the nozzles come out and move to the next row of containers.

That’s just beer. A bottle filling line handles any liquid, whether it’s cooking oil, milk, or cleaning products. The process is the same no matter what you’re bottling.

At the heart of the machine is a CPU with precision software that coordinates and times this perfectly at high speeds. Mitsubishi’s system uses iQ-R to synchronize the nozzles, pumps, and conveyor belts so that they move in tandem and adjust if the bottle size changes. As it is self-adjusting, you never have to stop and change settings as you move from a smaller bottle to a larger one.

  1. Case Packing

Many goods arrive in stores or at consumers’ homes in larger boxes. Those boxes have to be carefully packed to prevent damage. Case packing technology handles this.

A stack of flattened boxes is fed into the machine that will open the box, tape or glue the bottom shut, fill it with the item and packaging materials (think bubble wrap or air pillows), and seal the box. It may then have heavy-duty strapping around it to ensure the box remains closed.

In cases of perishable goods, frozen or fresh foods cannot sit around for hours. It has to be packaged in minutes and moved to walk-in refrigerators or freezers to ensure the quality is maintained. Automation is able to package these goods quickly and correctly and get them ready to go to pallets for transportation in a refrigerated trailer or van.

  1. Form-Fill-Seal Packaging

When you order something online, you’ve likely gotten packaging materials that contain strips of clear plastic pillows that cushion the item in transport. Form-fill-seal packaging is what this is called. The plastic sheets are filled with air and sealed to create the small air pillows that line a box before the breakable item is added.

  1. Labeling

Labeling equipment can take your packages and add the labels to them. It isn’t not done with perfect timing the labels can rip or warp. Some may end up crooked or crumpled. This can lead to a product that loses value with consumers. You could have to pull the product or sell it at a discount if it contains flaws.

Automated labeling equipment feeds bottles at a constant rate and adds the label, whether it is glued or shrink-wrapped. As the software controls the rate and ensures the label is straight before affixing it.

Mitsubishi uses rotary drums, feed roller brakes, and AI bottle sensors to ensure that labels are added at lightning-fast speeds with complete accuracy. You can pair the labeling machines with other components for fluid bottling, labeling, and packaging components.

6. Palletizing

One of the final steps in an automated system is a palletizing system. Wood pellets provide a good example of what palletizing equipment can do. When homeowners purchase pellets, they may buy a single bag from a store or an entire pallet. Those wood pellets arrive in a store or at a home on a pallet that contains carefully stacked bags. Some sit horizontally and others are vertically to create a balanced pallet.

This piece of equipment takes goods that have been packaged and need to go onto pallets for transportation. A palletizing system feeds a pallet on a conveyor and positions it for the items that will be stacked on it. Systems can turn and flip packages to fit perfectly before the pallet is wrapped in protective plastic film.

Get Expert Advice From Mitsubishi Solutions and Boost Efficiency

Choosing the right automated packing system requires expertise, and Mitsubishi Solutions is a leader in this technology. We listen to your goals, and your current manufacturing and packing techniques, and work with you on customized solutions. Schedule a consultation with our sales team to learn more about the benefits of automated production and packaging automation.