The (re)evolution of the food packaging industry (or how to create a more modern, more efficient process)

Goods and products must be protected and preserved if they are to get from where they are produced to where they are used. And while modern packaging does a remarkable job at safeguarding contents, smart companies are now understanding that packaging safety needs to start much earlier in the process.

THE EVER-CHANGING FOOD PACKAGING INDUSTRY PROCESS

Packaging of food products process has undergone a vast transformation over the years, from the stone age to the industrial revolution and beyond, with successive waves of technology creating better and more effective packaging. And while packaging has certainly evolved a great deal since the days of stone age pottery and ancient glass vessels, moving from treated mulberry bark to advanced containers of metal, plastic, and other materials, the primary challenges remain. Packaging is meant to protect its contents from the elements, increase life span, and reduce contamination. However, before it can do any of those things, it must make it safely from the production facility to the consumer.

Humans have been addressing packaging challenges for almost as long as civilisation has existed. Some of the most beautiful items in our museums, in fact – clay or earthen jars and vessels – represent our ancient efforts to create suitable packaging.

Food packaging - boxes

Did you know?

Two of the most common packaging materials were discovered completely by accident. The world’s first prefabricated carton came about when a printer’s machine malfunctioned and sliced through an entire stack of paper bags.  Likewise, polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), the main ingredient of saran wrap, was discovered accidentally when a lab worker at Dow Chemical came across a vial he couldn’t scrub clean. Once the colour was removed from this stubborn dark green film, it became the world’s most popular food packaging material.

NOTHING STARTS ON THE SHELF – IT HAS TO GET THERE

Modern packaging facilities must be able to safely handle bags of ingredients, drums, tubs or containers of raw materials, and then safely lift and weigh the finished products. They must be able to mount large film rolls in packaging machines, stretch wrap and palletize the packaged ingredients (such as boxes, sacks, and drums), and all while maintaining the integrity of the packaging. Nowhere are these challenges more apparent than in the food industry.

Napoleon’s Food Preservation Prize

In 1795, French Emperor Napoleon needed to find a way to feed his army. He offered a prize of 12,000 Francs to the person who could invent a better method of food preservation. The prize went unclaimed for another 15 years until it was claimed by Nicolas Appert, whose method of boiling then sealing food in airtight glass containers is still used today.

PACKAGING IS A NECESSITY – BUT IT’S ALSO A BUSINESS

The sheer variety of weights and sizes involved in food and beverage packaging poses a great many operational challenges. There is of course the need to safely handle the products and ingredients, but also – and even more important to your facility’s efficiency and profitability – there is the issue of worker safety and ergonomics.

Food packging production process

The TAWI motto: ergonomics = economics

The way you manage your handling and lifting procedures can dramatically impact your bottom line. The math is rather simple:
• Increased handling safety = increased efficiency
• Increased efficiency = improved customer retention.
• Inefficient lifting operations = wasted labour
• Wasted labour = unneeded cost
• Employee injury/Absence = decreased productivity

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MSDs

Musculoskeletal disorders (or MSDs) are primarily comprised of upper limb disorders and back injuries and include chronic injuries such as tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome arising from repetitive tasks as well as chronic back pain from repetitive or awkward lifting. MSDs relating to spine and back problems are common packaging operations, with wear and tear on joints, vertebrae and intervertebral discs are typical consequences.

MSDs associated with food and drink packaging range from nerve trouble to neck, shoulder, back and lower back pain as a result of repetitive work and severe back strain or injury from lifting awkward or heavy loads. In fact, around one-third of reportable injuries in the food and drink sector are caused by handling and lifting. Other issues include digestive problems, leg pain, heart and circulatory problems, sciatica, and more. Workplace injuries are the most common cause of absence or lost productivity and represent a huge drain on your operations and your bottom line. There is good news, however. Most of these injuries are preventable. And that starts with creating a sustainable and ergonomic workplace.

food packaging - manual lifting

MSDs – the gift that keeps on giving

In 2017 alone, overexertion and repetitive motion – leading causes of workplace injuries – cost U.S. companies over $13 billion. It is easy to calculate the direct costs of employee injuries, but the indirect costs can be more difficult to determine. These costs, which are often even more costly, cover such things as retraining or replacing an injured employee, scheduling and production delays, administrative expenses, legal costs, hiring difficulty, and even and lower employee morale – all arising from a single employee workplace injury.

INCREASING PACKAGING EFFICIENCY

Smart companies are taking a closer look at worker safety and working conditions, and how they affect company costs and profits. Many are turning to ergonomic solutions to mitigate risks for their employees. Any responsible packaging manager is familiar with ergonomics – the process of gaining insight into human abilities and limitations and then designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them. At TAWI, we take this as our starting point, developing products that increase the capabilities of each and every worker, and create a safer, more efficient, and more profitable workplace. At TAWI, we use our extensive knowledge and expertise to tailor products and solutions to match your specific situations and your unique needs – call it ergonomics in action.

PACKAGING (R)EVOLUTION IN ACTION

A large percentage of workplace injuries are linked to worker fatigue. Working in the packaging industry can be physically taxing, and the longer a worker performs their tasks, the more tired they become. Tired workers are more likely to make mistakes which can put them and fellow employees at risk and increase the likelihood of injury. A TAWI smart lifting solution never gets tired – or injured – it just keeps working.

TAWI’s vacuum lifters and trolley solutions enable any worker to lift, safely and efficiently, without damage to the products or the people who handle them. Lifting and moving the heavy and ungainly film reels used in packaging machines, for instance, must be done as quickly as possible in order to avoid downtime in production. Carrying out this activity at speed, however, involves a high risk of injury. TAWI Lifting Trolleys allow any worker to easily lift and mount reels, without risk of injury and with minimal downtime.

THE TAWI ADVANTAGE

Another challenging situation is the packing or palletizing of the ingredients or raw materials used in food and beverage products. Any tears or holes in the bags or sacks could allow foreign substances to contaminate the materials, potentially rendering them useless or dangerous to consume. TAWI’s line of vacuum lifting equipment removes this danger, quickly and carefully moving, stacking, or handling even the most fragile of containers or packaging with no risk of damage to either products or employees.

Vacuum lifter in food industry

Evolve towards a more profitable process with:
  • A more flexible workforce
  • A safe and healthy workplace
  • Reduced absence due to injury
  • Minimized damage and loss

Whether for reels, bags, boxes, cans, cartons, pallets, or barrels, or even the direct handling of food products, TAWI stainless steel lifts and trolleys ensure safe and ergonomic lifting at all stages of your packaging process. TAWI lifting equipment is low cost, low maintenance, easy to install, requires minimum effort to use, and is easy to clean and disinfect – a crucial requirement in many food packaging environments.

TIME TO JOIN THE (RE)VOLUTION?

With TAWI solution lifting solutions for the food packaging industry, you can optimize operations, reduce damage and waste, make employees’ jobs easier and safer, and ensure both regulatory compliance and company growth.

Contact us today to discuss how you can make your packaging operations more efficient with a TAWI solution.

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