This week we had the pleasure of speaking to Mick Carless, our Machinery and Systems Operations Manager about all things machinery. From the latest trends, to how machinery is helping customers solve their biggest issues, and why now is the time to invest. Plus much, much, more. Here’s what Mick had to say…

What’s your role at Antalis?

My role at Antalis is Machinery and Systems Operations Manager. I’ve been with the company now for 10 years, but have developed my expertise in machinery over the last 31 years. Essentially, I manage the machinery division made up of skilled systems designers, engineers and machinery experts based in the UK. The team are highly skilled and professional at what they do, covering everything from advising on packaging machinery, designing packing lines and demonstrating machinery solutions, to servicing, dealing with technical queries and advising on the correct consumables to run on the equipment. I’m proud to work with such a great team, who really are at the top of their game.

What are the biggest issues your customers are experiencing right now?

The biggest issues our customers are experiencing right now are all COVID related. The Pandemic saw a sudden spike in demand for a wide range of products such as food and drink, hygiene and leisure, which put pressure on the supply chain. Not to mention the fact that consumers turned to new ways of buying products, such as online ordering, to avoid the stores. Businesses needed to adapt their operations very quickly to manage these increased and changing demands.

In these times of demand, it’s very likely that cost control, packing quality and consistency start to take a backseat as the focus shifts to making sure products get out the door on time. This can cause a whole host of problems, a badly wrapped pallet for example can be unstable and lead to damage during delivery. Pallets are then returned which not only has a costs to the business, but the environment too.

As supply and distribution demands increase, so does the amount of packaging waste produced, including single use plastics. Again some businesses may have taken their eye off the ball when it comes to the impact their packaging has on the environment. Now they’ve had time to adapt, a closer look at their packaging is needed to pinpoint ways to re-invigorate their environmental agenda.

Finally, but by no means least, businesses have been massively impacted by the availability of labour resource, or the lack of it. Some staff may be self-isolating or on furlough, which has reduced the labour pool available to keep up with demand. Add to this the need to social distance and setup safer operations, which has restricted the available space for employees to work safely.

Can machinery help overcome these issues? If so, how?

Yes, definitely. Machinery can help overcome these issues and much, much, more. Introducing machinery to your packing line will improve efficiency and increase volumes leaving the facility, even when you’re experiencing labour issues. Take a pallet wrapper for example, some fully automatic machines can wrap up to 180 pallets per hour, which is the same number as four/five people can do in the same time. Your machinery and systems workflow can also be designed to give workers plenty of space to operate safely, especially now with the social distancing measures to protect your employees being enforced.

Another great benefit of machinery is that it can optimise material usage, allowing you to cut costs and reduce the amount of waste produced. Which is helpful at the best of times, but even more so when demand is at an all-time high. Take a pallet wrapper again as an example, choosing a quality machine or switching from hand wrapping to machine wrapping will give you better load containment, reduce waste and eliminate the health and safety issues surrounding hand wrapping.

Machines are also consistent, so whether you’re using case handling equipment to build, pack and seal boxes, or stretch wrappers to wrap your pallets, the quality of packing is the same every time. Pallet wrappers will apply the right amount of film to secure a load and prevent damage during delivery. And, because the pallet wrappers consistently apply the exact amount of film, packaging waste is kept to a minimum. Another great benefit of using the correct machine and stretch film is the ability to read barcodes, labels and branding through the film. So many companies spend a lot of money on logo’s and branding for it then to be covered over by a poorly wrapped pallet. Presentation of goods is a priority to all of our customers.

Lastly, machinery is key when looking to expand your operation to deal with peaks in demand or even when diversifying in to new product areas. Which I’ve seen a lot of over the last few months. Not to mention, introducing machinery will make your process more flexible to deal with additional challenges unprecedented times could throw at you in the future.

What’s your most popular machine right now and why?

Machinery offers many benefits to businesses now more than ever, so there’s lots of popular ones to mention. Over the last few months we’ve seen increased interested in our tape sealing machines for customers looking for a more consistent tape application. Because the machine applies the right amount of tape needed to secure a box, no excess tape is added which saves in material and costs. The tape sealer can also be combined with a case erecting machine for quick and consistent building of boxes – they can build 22 boxes a minute on average.

Pallet wrappers are also extremely popular because of the benefits I mentioned earlier. To anyone looking to install a pallet wrapper, I’d highly recommend the Lantech Q300XT machine. It’s a semi-automatic pallet wrapper with additional features to bridge the gap between it and a fully automatic machine, it is especially popular with operators loading turntables with fork lift trucks or man riders. It allows the operative to load the pallet directly on to the turntable and simply reverse back to push a remote ‘start’ button without getting off the truck. The stretch film is connected and cut off at the end of the wrapping cycle automatically

What would you say to people who are put off by the cost of a machine?

At first glance the cost of some machines can seem like a big investment, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll see that the benefits outweigh the initial cash investment. In fact, because of the savings you’ll make from reduced material usage, improved efficiency and the reduction in damages, your machine will pay for itself in no time. Making it completely self-funding. Many of our customers have seen a return on their investment in less than 12-18 months, which is normally way before its warranty ends. A full report showing breakdown of cost saving and payback period is also what a member of our team can produce for you which is especially helpful when having to raise capex requests.

When deciding what machine to go for, don’t automatically go for the cheaper option. Consider the total cost of ownership. For example, an entry level pallet wrapper could costs you less but you many need to buy 3 over the course of 10 years. Whereas choosing one of our Lantech pallet wrappers may in some cases cost you more, but they have proven to last well over 20 years and come with a 3 year warranty on all parts and little or no scheduled maintenance.

For those considering machinery, we have a range of options to facilitate the purchase/supply of a machine. Anyone who’s interested, please speak to us about your needs and we’ll come up with a payment package to suit.

Are there any exciting projects you’ve worked on recently?

Yes, there’s been lots. I’ve recently worked with a chemical company who expanded their offering to produce hand sanitiser. This was a completely new operation for them and timing was critical to get it set up. To support them with this new venture, we supplied case sealers, pallet wrappers and conveyors, all within a week of order. Their sanitiser business continues to grow, and I’m now in talks with them about additional equipment.

Another is a project for a wholesale customer of ours. Due to rapid spikes in demand their current packaging line wasn’t fit for purpose, so they invited us in to see how we could help. Following an onsite visit, we redesigned the layout of their packing line which included adding in extra conveyors and reconfiguring existing equipment. As a result, the customer experienced faster throughput and workers are now able social distance.

Is there anything unique Antalis brings to the table when it comes to machinery?

I’d say the expertise of the team and the support we offer is second to none. Collectively we have over 100 years’ experience in the industry. Our machinery team is also a dedicated division within Antalis, with its own UK-based systems designers and machinery engineers offering a quick and reliable service to customers. We offer a whole range of services to complement our market-leading machinery, covering everything from consultations and systems design to installations, maintenance and spare parts, to name a few. And, because we’re based in the UK, we can respond quickly to your needs and technical issues. This is unrivalled by any other UK packaging company.

What do you think will be the biggest machinery trend in the next few years?

I’d have to say the next big thing will be collaborative robots. They’re a great bit of kit that can operate without the need for expensive guarding. Instead the machine automatically detects when someone is in the area and stops working until they’re out of harm’s way. They are especially effective at the end of a small to medium packing line where space is an issue stacking boxes onto pallets ready to be wrapped.

To find out more about the Machinery and Systems solutions available from Antalis, download our brochure here.