Food In Canada

Equipment updates can set beverage manufacturers up for success

April 8, 2022  
by Sean Riley

Packaging



Shifting consumer preferences are creating new production realities for the beverage industry, and manufacturers are responding to this ongoing state of change. Specifically, consumers are seeking functionality and convenience in their beverage packages, along with emphases on sustainability and health consciousness.

With this much change, most of the beverage industry needs updated or additional equipment and line improvements, according to the Beverage Trends Driving Change whitepaper from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. Manufacturers must also meet additional challenges, the research notes, including maintaining sufficient production capacity, reliably sourcing ingredients and materials, and finding adequate labour. How can manufacturers meet these multiple needs?

Flexible equipment to achieve numerous goals

Beverage manufacturers are increasingly offering products in new formulations and sizes to cater to health consciousness, sustainability and convenience trends. In some cases, existing products are being reworked into new formulations to address these demands, often offered side-by-side with the original product. This requires beverage manufacturers to accommodate an ever-growing number of packaging shapes, sizes, and materials, and contend with complex requirements for processing and filling new formulations and entirely new products.

Additionally, consumers are interested in beverages offered in smaller, single-serve sizes that are ready to drink. While these smaller sizes and easily consumable formats meet consumers’ evolving demands, they often create challenges for beverage manufacturers. In practical terms, these trends have created a desire among beverage manufacturers for flexible machines that can shift between sizes, formulations and packaging materials.

The role of smart machinery

Beverage CPGs are looking to meet these trends and overcome associated challenges by improving efficiency (i.e. making machines “smarter” and updating older equipment with modern technology). Manufacturers are looking to use intelligent automation to streamline changeover speeds, automate complex packaging operations such as building variety packs, and improve efficiency through intuitive and comprehensive HMI and PLC interfaces. These alterations are even more critical in the face of ongoing skilled labour shortages in manufacturing.

In addition to physical automation, beverage manufacturers are increasing their level of digitization, adding smarter technology up and down production lines to gather data and monitor processes. These new data sources analyze individual machine functions and production operations to identify and eliminate inefficiencies to maximize uptime and output.

These types of improvements often necessitate new machines and lines and building a team of expert advisors to achieve production goals. OEMs play a significant role in achieving these targets, and beverage companies are increasingly looking for OEMs that can provide turnkey solutions. Whether it’s addressing sustainable materials, different serving sizes, or state-of-the-art technology, OEMs can provide expertise and tailored solutions so that beverage manufacturers can position themselves for future growth.

Consumer trends emphasizing health consciousness, sustainability, functionality and convenience look likely to continue, and beverage manufacturers can capitalize on these shifts and meet the challenges that come with them by implementing the right equipment and technological solutions.

Sean Riley is senior director, Media and Industry Communications, PMMI .

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