Packaging is a highly industrialised field, but human hands are required to fill the gaps. Or were so, until the recent rise in packaging automation.[hr]
Very recently, Packaging Today published a profile of Huhtahyvät, a Finnish packaging company. Since 1988, the company has grown from processing meat to employing up to 80 people; and, in 2014, some investments were made, one of which was the replacement of its whole production line of gourmet salads, (a range added in 2008), with SEALPAC’s A5 tray-sealers.
Originally, Huhtahyvät’s salads were “packed in a tray with metal seal and additional snap-on lid, produced on a rotary machine”. The new process, optimized by Orat Oy, goes as follows:[quote style=”boxed”]“The product is smoothly loaded by means of a Leonhardt TGs2 filling system with two dosing heads, and consequently sealed on the SEALPAC A5 tray-sealer. The sealed trays then pass through Anritsu metal detection, after which they are labelled with an ELS bottom labeller. Last but not least, a Domino coding system prints the production and shelf life date on the top film.”[/quote]
What’s more, their packaging system was replaced with an EasyLid trays solution:[quote style=”boxed”]“A peelable seal is applied to the common sealing edge whereas the additional ring is hermetically sealed in the same process. When opening the tray for the first time, the lid function is automatically created and allows for multiple recloseability.”[/quote]
As innovative as this new process seems, there’s something uncanny about it: it’s entirely, and fundamentally, managed by the machine. Antti Viska, Project Manager at Huhtahyvät, even jokes with their production manager “not even having to be present” at one point on the article. But what does that mean for the industry?
There’s a whole lot of new businesses taking advantage of this new automation trend ─ it’s benefits are, mainly, a much higher production output coupled by a much lower need for human input, which brings great dangers to employment.
As McKinsey&Company put it in a 2014 transcripted insights article:[quote style=”boxed”]“The topic of job displacement has, throughout US history, ignited frustration over technological advances and their tendency to make traditional jobs obsolete (…) A recent Pew Research Center study found that technology experts are almost evenly split on whether robots and artificial intelligence will displace a significant number of jobs over the next decade, so there is plenty of room for debate.”[/quote]
Mechanical hands are slowly replacing the skin and bones of former employees all over the country. Packaging workers, as in any other field involved in industrial processes, are at risk. The debate is still open.
Sponsored by Derprosa, leading brand in biaxially oriented polypropylene films for packaging.