Food and drink companies across the UK are experiencing a spike in demand for their products like no other. For some it’s a case of stepping things up a gear while others are having to adjust to a whole new business model just to survive. Whether they are supplying food and drink to businesses and supermarkets or direct to the nation’s homes, all of these businesses require one common, essential ingredient: packaging.

But how do you know if you’re using the right sort of packaging, or using it in the best way? If your business is currently struggling to keep up with demand, chances are you’re not. And what about your packaging supplier – are they delivering on time, or sharing their expertise with you about how you could increase throughput while keeping costs and environmental impact under control? If not, then it might be time to look at that, too. Fortunately, help is at hand from Antalis’s packaging experts. Here, they share their advice that will not only help you to get your packing operation into shape to deliver during the current Coronavirus pandemic but will stand you in good stead for the future, too.

1. Step back to look at your packing operation

Although taking a bit of time out to step back and review your operation might seem impossible when there is so much firefighting to attend to, it is probably one of the most important things you can do for your business just now. It’s easy to lose sight of costs and sustainability issues when you’re just trying to get stuff out of the door, but these are both issues that could come back to haunt you in the future.

Start by asking yourself these questions about your operation: where are the bottlenecks? Are you sacrificing quality of packing for speed? Are your packers able to work safely and maintain social distancing? What about wastage? Are goods getting to the customer on time, intact, fresh? If you don’t like the answers, then the sooner you begin to take action the better.

2. Packaging supply

Without consistent and reliable supply of packaging materials it’s impossible for a packing operation to run at optimum efficiency. It’s when the pressure is on that cracks in a supplier relationship can begin to show; so, if your current packaging supplier isn’t cutting the mustard, it might be time to look elsewhere. Although this might seem like the worst possible time to change your supply line, some fresh eyes to look at your set-up might be the tonic your business needs. The important thing to do is to look for a packaging partner that offers more than just a catalogue of products.

3. Machinery and automation

Trying to cope with the rise in demand for your products at the same time as trying to manage the health and safety of your workforce is a real challenge for businesses right now, particularly for high volume operations. Introducing some degree of automation to your process can help with both issues. While now might not be the time for a full overhaul and kit-out, it’s a relatively straightforward and safe process to install machinery such as semi-automatic carton sealers or erectors that will help to ease the pressure on packing staff. Antalis’s machinery experts are still working and would be happy to discuss time and space-saving machinery options, plus we have our own engineers trained and available to carry out installations safely in the current climate.

4. Packaging materials

Choice of packaging materials can make a huge difference to how well a business is able to cope with demand. Efficiency in both use and storage is critical. Operations that would usually have no issue with storing bulky void fill materials might find themselves overwhelmed when high throughput is required. To overcome this, look for solutions that produce air or paper void fill and cushioning on demand – the good news is that these are also environmentally friendly. There are even on demand options, such as WrapPak Protector, that provide 100% paper-based thermally insulated transit packaging for chilled and frozen foods; it is capable of producing insulated paper packaging for up to 2,600 boxes from just one pallet of material.

Also consider packaging materials that can help speed up the packing process, such as boxes with a crash-lock bottom, which can be assembled quickly without the need for tape.

5. Bespoke packaging

Bespoke packaging can be designed to address all manner of issues, such as speed and efficiency of packing, cushioning, customer experience, sustainability, and much more. Over the last few weeks, Antalis has set up its Smart Packaging Centre (SPC) in virtual form. In spite of not being able to meet in person, the Virtual SPC means it’s still possible to discuss ideas, develop solutions to your challenges and run live demos of your pack design.

6. Delivery efficiency

To avoid backlogs building up in the warehouse, it’s important to optimise your cube so you quickly and efficiently get as many products loaded onto a pallet as possible. Because it means you will also be able to load more products onto a vehicle, it can also help to keep delivery costs and carbon footprint low.

7. Staying safe

While we’re all looking to minimise the risk of infection, having good hygiene and protective equipment in place in your packing operation is vital. Using floor graphics and tape to encourage social distancing can help when it comes to moving around. And if space is limited, introducing protective screens between packing benches means that you can maintain capacity while keeping staff shielded – there are options available to suit a range of budgets.

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