Transform Your Packaging Process: How Automation Can Help Your Business Thrive

Packaging automation is paramount in the production and distribution of goods, yet many businesses still rely on manual labor throughout the process. Enter packaging automation – a smart way to streamline operations, maximize throughput, improve safety, cut costs, and enhance quality control. In this article, we will define secondary packaging and focus on ways it can benefit your business. Get ready to take the next step and enhance your processes to take your business to the next level!

What is ‘Secondary Packaging Automation’?

Secondary packaging automation refers to the use of machines and technology for packaging products that have already been packaged in their primary container. Putting soda into a bottle or chips into a bag are examples of ‘primary’ packaging. However, when those bottles or bags are combined with other bottles or bags to create a multipack, it is considered ‘secondary’ packaging.

A good rule of thumb to understand whether a process is ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’:
If it handles or touches the actual product being consumed, it is ‘primary’ packaging. If not, it is probably ‘secondary’ packaging.

Primary Packaging

Handles or touches the actual product being consumed

Secondary Packaging

Packages products into groups

The purpose of secondary packaging is to group and protect primary packaged products during storage and transportation. by containing the primary packages in boxes, cartons, trays, or shrink wrap, food and beverage manufacturers can protect their products while also making it easier for retailers and end users to handle and transport them. Usually, secondary packaging is customized to fit the specific needs of the products, including shape, size, and design.

Since secondary packaging provides additional space for labeling, branding and other information, it provides marketing benefits, as well.

Secondary packaged products

What are Some Examples of Secondary Packaging Automation?

Automation for secondary packaging typically includes processes such as conveying, labeling, and collating the primary container before prepping, loading, and sealing the secondary container. For food products, that secondary container is usually a paperboard carton or corrugate case. For beverage products, the secondary container is often paperboard or shrink wrap.

Below you will find brief explanations for the most common secondary packaging automation technologies. In a subsequent post, we will explore each of these technologies in greater detail.

Product Conveyors


Conveyors are a common element of packaging automation used to move products from one point to another in the packaging process. Conveyors are used up and down the entire packaging line and are essential for both primary and secondary processes.

Product Labelers


A machine designed to apply labels to products during the packaging process. Product labelers come in a wide variety of designs and can be customized to fit the specific needs of different products and packaging formats. Product labelers typically use a conveyor belt or other type of feeding mechanism to move products into position, where a label is then applied. The label may contain important information such as the product name, ingredients, expiration date, and bar code.

Product Collators


A machine or mechanism used in packaging automation that is designed to sort and group products into specific configurations. Collators typically use conveyor belts or other forms of feeding mechanisms to transport products from the input to the output locations. The machine is programmed to arrange products in specific configurations, which can be customized to fit the size, shape, and other characteristics of the products being sorted. Some of the most common applications of product collators include grouping products into predetermined quantities, creating multiple packs, and organizing products for display or shelving.

Box Erectors


A machine designed to automatically form and erect cardboard or corrugated boxes for packaging of products. Usually, erectors will also seal the bottom flaps of the case to prepare it for loading. The case erector works by feeding flat box blanks, usually regular slotted cases (aka RSCs) from a magazine or hopper and then folds and seals them into a ready-to-use box. Erectors can be customized to accommodate a variety of box sizes and styles depending on the product being packaged.

Box Loader


A machine designed to load products into pre-formed or wraparound boxes or cases. They typically use a conveyor belt or other feeding mechanism to move products from their source to a staging area where another mechanism places the products into the case envelope. The machine can be customized to handle a variety of product sizes, shapes, and packaging formats, including bottles, cans, bags, boxes and more.

Box Sealers


A machine designed to automatically seal pre-formed boxes or cases once they are loaded with products. Case sealers typically work by applying tape, glue, or other sealant materials to the top or bottom of the box. The machine can be customized to handle a variety of box sizes and styles, and can also be programmed to automatically adjust to different box dimensions.

What are the Benefits of Implementing Packaging Automation?

Whether a company is packaging food, beverages, or any other consumer packaged goods, there are several benefits they can gain by implementing packaging automation. They include:

  • Increased efficiency: Packaging automation can help businesses produce and package products more quickly and efficiently, reducing production time and increasing output.
  • Improved quality control: Automation reduces the risk of human error, which can lead to inconsistencies in product quality. With automated packaging processes, businesses can ensure that each product is packaged the same way, every time.
  • Cost savings: Automation can help reduce labor costs and eliminate the need for manual labor, freeing up employees for more specialized tasks.
  • Flexibility and scalability: Packaging automation systems can be customized to fit a business’s specific needs and can be scaled up or down as demand changes.
  • Safety and reduced liability: Automated packaging systems can improve workplace safety by reducing the risk of accidents and injuries, which can result in reduced liability and workers’ compensation costs.
  • Enhanced product protection: Automated packaging systems can provide additional protection to products during transportation and storage, reducing product damage and waste.


Automating your packaging process can work wonders for your business. It streamlines tasks, ensures top-quality products, cuts down on labor expenses, offers versatility to manage demand fluctuations, and safeguards your goods against damage during shipping or warehousing. It is no wonder an increasing number of companies are adopting automated packing systems. Whether you aim to boost productivity or ensure safety in the workplace, going for an automated packaging solution can indeed be a good bet for your business.

Modular Automation: The low-risk, high-reward key to your secondary packaging evolution

Is your company’s secondary packaging operation mostly manual? If it is, then there is a strong chance that labor availability, product throughput, or employee safety are forcing you to consider some level of automation.

Manual secondary packaging challenges:

Labor Availability

Product Throughput

Employee Safety

The problem is that if you are not ready for it, automation presents its own risks. It can add unwanted complexity, limit your flexibility and responsiveness to customer needs, and be challenging to see a sufficient return on your investment.

Fully integrated, fully automated secondary packaging challenges:

More Complexity

Less Flexibility

Ability to Achieve ROI

So, what should you do if you need to move past manual operations, but are not ready for fully integrated automation? There is a middle ground that may be worth considering: Modular Automation.

Modular Automation enables the benefits of auotmation, without some of the risk

Modular automation offers a lower-risk, high-reward path to packaging automation. This article will explore the challenges and drawbacks of fully manual, or fully automated secondary packaging, and will outline the details and benefits of modular automation.

Manual secondary packaging processes present challenges


Manual packaging is a labor-intensive process that can limit throughput and slow down production lines. It requires people to physically erect cases, pick up product, fill boxes or bags with those products, seal the packages, label them and then move them onto conveyor belts or into storage areas.

This manual work takes time and energy as each item must be handled multiple times before it is ready for shipping. In addition to taking more time than automated processes, manual packaging also increases the chances of human error which hampers throughput.

Labor Availability

Perhaps the most pressing challenge associated with manual packaging processes is labor. Manual processes require a large number of workers to complete. In today’s labor market, where competition for labor is high and employee loyalty is low, this presents a problem. The challenge of obtaining adequate labor can lead to inconsistent productivity, increased costs, or both.

While workforce availability may be a problem regardless of whether or not you have automated packaging lines, the problem is amplified if you rely exclusively on manual labor to package and ship your goods.


Manual packaging operations present a unique challenge to safety. Since they require workers to move products, tools and materials with their hands and bodies, it puts your employees at risk of physical injuries, such as cuts, strains, fractures and repetitive stress injuries.

Since employers are obligated by law to provide safe working conditions for their employees, they are incentivized to remove safety risks from their businesses wherever possible. While this may be costly and resource intensive, it is even worse if they experience a recordable workplace injury. Manual operations increase the probability that such injuries occur.

Opportunity Cost

All of the challenges listed above combine to limit the amount of product a food or beverage producer can ship to its customers. To the extent that customer demand is higher than what you can supply, manual operations ultimately mean that you are missing out on an opportunity to earn more revenue – revenue that you could earn if you implemented more automation in your packaging lines.

Fully automated secondary packaging also comes with risk

Return on initial investment

Fully integrated packaging automation usually incorporates multiple functions in a single machine. For example, a fully automated case packer may erect the case, pack the case and seal the case before sending it down the line. Multiple functions in a single machine can come at a cost. It is not uncommon for these types of case packers to cost $500,000, or more.

If you choose to spend this type of money on automation equipment, you need to be certain that the benefits of automating – i.e., revenue or profit – far outweigh the cost of acquiring, installing, operating and maintaining that equipment. In fact, many producers require that their automation equipment pays for itself in two to three years’ time. If you are a smaller company still growing your customer base, these types of justifications might be a challenge.

Lack of flexibility

As noted above, fully automated packaging solutions are designed to complete specific tasks, often multiple tasks in the same machine. This forces machine manufacturers to make design decisions based on the product that the CPG manufacturer intends to run.

If consumer sentiment changes, or if retailers demand a different size or shape of package, you may be unable to accommodate those changes on equipment that was designed for something else. Or, if you do try to accommodate it, expensive machine modifications are often required to make it possible.

Increased complexity

High-end packaging automation requires operator training and regular maintenance. Often, electrical and mechanical skill sets are required. In today’s workforce environment, these skills are not always easy to find. And if you find them, they are often hard to keep.

The necessary technical needs are magnified with each additional function a machine executes. In other words, a case packer that also erects and seals the case is more complex to operate and maintain than a case packer that simply packs a case, leaving erecting and sealing to be done manually or via separate machines.

Space constraints

Finally, this higher level of automation complexity has another impact that is sometimes overlooked – space. The ‘footprint’ of a manual station will usually be smaller than whatever can be designed to automate that particular process. And if equipment is designed to perform multiple processes, they will be even larger. Often, the footprint required of the machine is what it is and cannot be re-shaped to fit into a specific loation if it is too large.

‘Modular’ automation strikes a balance

What if you could achieve the best of both worlds? To get the benefits of automation while ensuring project ROI, maintaining flexibility and reducing complexity, consider modular automation.

Modular automation breaks the key functions of secondary packaging operations in individual parts or modules. At a high level, these modules are:

  • Case erecting
  • Case loading
  • Case sealing
  • Palletizing

The key to modular automation is recognizing that you have a choice with each of these modules. You can either maintain manual packaging processes, or you can automate them. And when you do decide to automate, you do not have to do it all at once. You can choose your biggest pain point or bottle neck and invest in automation there, first.

Having a choice about which modules to automation helps ensure that you are not risking too heavy of an investment. It also allows you to maintain floorplan flexibility since these modules can be configured however and wherever you like, with conveyors easily linking them.

And finally, if you do automate a particular module, it will be as simple and straightforward as it can be since it is only performing one task.

Are you ready for automation but unsure how to proceed? Consider a phased modular approach. With this approach, you choose the pace at which you automate while gaining the benefits and limiting your risk.

Let’s chat about how Modular Automation can help you reach your production goals.

A guide to buying a case erector: Direct sale, agency and distributor

When it’s time to invest in a case erector or case sealer, the sales process can take one of three channels.

Going direct is simply approaching your chosen company directly. Or, if your team could use the expertise of someone who knows their way around the industry, working with a packaging equipment agency or an equipment distributor can streamline and simplify the process. In the following, we’ll outline how each of these sales channels works so your team can evaluate the best purchasing process for your company.

Buying a case erector direct from OEM

One way to buy a case erector or case sealer is through the direct channel, and it’s as straightforward as it sounds. You contact the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and consult with their knowledgeable team to identify the right equipment for your line.

  • Once the sale is finalized, you continue to work directly with the OEM to have the machine serviced and repaired. The advantage here is the equipment is under warranty, and is serviced and repaired by technicians who are certified in the machine’s make and model, using original, warranty-backed equipment parts. This route can bring peace of mind to a purchaser.
  • Going direct to the OEM might be an ideal option for purchasers who are well-versed in equipment purchasing and understand what would make their end-of-line packaging more efficient.
  • If you’re looking to upgrade your case forming line from manual to automated, a knowledgeable OEM can be a valuable resource. Finding an OEM that partners with you is priority.

Working with an agency

When it’s time to invest in new equipment, many manufacturers turn to agencies. Agencies specialize in packaging equipment, both primary and secondary. Their contacts and knowledge about all things automation can be a tremendous resource for busy manufacturers.

  • While an agency can help a newer manufacturer streamline the procurement process, it’s also common for established companies to have longstanding relationships with an agency. They rely on their up-to-date industry knowledge, as well as their contacts with many packaging equipment brands.
  • Be aware that some agencies have exclusive contracts with specific OEMs. One key reason manufacturing firms work with an agency is it gives them a chance to evaluate products from several equipment brands. But an exclusive contract eliminates that advantage, and can hide options that might be more helpful to your operation.
  • At the end of the sales process, you purchase the machine from the OEM and the machine is warrantied and supported by the OEM with certified technicians.

Buying a case erector through a distributor

Working with a distributor has some similarities to working with an agency. Like an agency, working with a knowledgeable, well-connected distributor can link you to a packaging solution that works well for your company. But once you buy that case erector, there are some key differences.

  • The distributor is the purchaser of the equipment, and they sell it to you. It’s important to understand that in the eyes of the OEM, the distributor “owns” the final sale of the equipment.
  • Repairs and servicing of the equipment usually falls to a technician from the distribution company. The OEM continues to support the distributor.
  • Purchasers may prefer working with a distributor, usually because they have a well-established relationship — and the distributor may be based right in their community. Because they trust the expertise of the sales team and technicians, this is their preferred channel. Knowledgeable distributors partnering with an OEM can help provide a wide support base for the purchaser.

Buying a case erector your way

When you’re ready to invest in case forming and sealing equipment, INSITE Packaging can accommodate any of these preferred purchasing processes. We would be honored to partner with you directly. Contact us today to get started.

Third-party agencies and distributors

INSITE Packaging has no exclusive contracts with agencies. If you already work with an agency or distributor, and you’re interested in our brand, let your representative know.


INSITE Packaging Automation is built upon the knowledge and experience of Douglas Machine Inc., a secondary packaging solutions provider with over 55+ years of experience. If you have previously purchased secondary packaging equipment through Douglas, or need information on additional secondary packaging solutions beyond case erecting and sealing, your contact at Douglas can get you started.

Get Started

If you’re ready to get started, contact INSITE Packaging or Douglas today and talk to one of our experts about your secondary packaging needs.

Robotic case erectors: How they compare to traditional case erectors

Like any secondary packaging machinery, a case erector is a major investment. It’s not just the initial expenditure. Selecting a machine with the best performance and efficiency influences your end-of-line production for years to come. When choosing between a traditional case erector and one that uses robotic movement, it can be difficult to sort fact from fiction. To start the decision process, consider comparing the following important features of these two types of case erectors.

Mechanical parts

A case erector with robotic arm pick-and-pass movement is certainly eye-catching and futuristic. At the same time, this design provides important advantages to the production floor. Top of the list is the fact that SCARA robotic movement requires fewer parts and components to operate than a traditional case erector — as much as 40-50% less. Here’s how it can get by with fewer parts:

  • The robotic arm can perform the same task across multiple case types and sizes. That means there are dramatically fewer components to switch during a changeover. It’s mostly controlled by programming.
  • Fewer parts means more accessibility, increased sanitation, less noise and more safety. Combined, this means getting your operators and maintenance personnel trained quickly.

[Read more about the advantages of a case erector with robotic arm movement]

Fewer parts also translates into fewer maintenance tasks, fewer opportunities for breakdowns, more uptime and lower overall operational costs.


Traditional case erectors generally require more machine tuning and adjustments during changeover.

Robotic case erectors utilize high repeatability from servo-controlled movements. This dramatically reduces the need for tuning and adjusting to get the line running again, improving overall uptime.


Square footage isn’t a luxury in a production space. Facilities are a significant expense for manufacturers of consumer-packaged goods, meaning cost per square foot is a critical metric. In a plant with limited floor space, a traditional case erector with more mechanical parts will occupy a larger footprint compared to a SCARA robotic case erector. For example, the maximum size of INSITE Packaging’s E20T case erector is under 13’ x 5’.

Lower decibels

A SCARA robot in operation is quieter than the mechanical parts of traditional case erectors. Having fewer mechanical parts with a smoother machine movement lowers the decibel level on the production floor.

Case handling

Case erectors usually use one of three methods to open a case: pin and dome, traditional vacuum or opposing cup vacuum. With pin and dome, the machine inserts the pin into the flute of the corrugated blank, giving it leverage to open the case and ready it for squaring. Some tout pin and dome as the ideal method because it uses a tool rather than vacuum to open the case. Traditional vacuum, opposing cup vacuum and pin and dome methods are comparable in maintenance.

Pin and dome and traditional vacuum may work well if the corrugated is in pristine condition. In reality, conditions of the case blanks can change. They can:

  • become warped in high humidity
  • become bent or crushed at the edges
  • have variations in material tolerance

Because of these imperfections, the pin can often miss the flute using pin and dome. As a result, the case can’t open, causing the machine — and the line — to come to a halt. For that reason, pin and dome is not always the most efficient solution in a case former.

Pin and dome opening systems tend to be less effective with other imperfections in the corrugated as well. A batch of corrugated blanks with thinner than normal stock can result in higher than normal ripped cases, lower throughput and lower efficiency.

Traditional vacuum may afford more forgiveness in the corrugated blank as pins are rigid and vacuum cups are pliable. Cleaning cups and filters do take maintenance; however, pins can bend and break, making the maintenance comparable to that of vacuum. Traditional vacuum opens the case from only one side, which lowers efficiency.

A Rockwell-controlled robotic arm of an INSITE case erector uses opposing cup vacuum to positively open blanks from both sides of the case. This method provides an efficient solution to glue overspray that may occur on the manufacturer’s joint that prevents the case from opening. It also allows the erector to handle corrugated blanks with tolerance variations at a higher success rate and with greater reliability. Combined, this improves your overall efficiency and throughput — and lets you keep your attention on other areas of production.

Contact INSITE Packaging today and learn more about how automation can improve your line.

Inconsistent cases: Case forming annoyances, and how to overcome them

A jammed case erector and skewed corners are two of the biggest annoyances when it comes to case forming. When it happens with any frequency, it creates an unwanted disruption to your production line.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if the problem comes down to materials or mechanics. Use this troubleshooting guide to help you get to the root cause of your jammed case erector and skewed boxes.

How cardboard quality can lead to jammed machines

A well-constructed case always starts with clean, dry corrugated cardboard. When cardboard is dirty or damp, the case erector will have trouble opening as well as sealing the cases. If your machine gets jammed, consider examining your cases’ cardboard quality as your first point of trouble-shooting.

  • If the case erector uses the opposing cup function, the presence of dust on the cardboard’s surface can cause interference. In this situation, the equipment may have trouble opening the case, which can lead to stoppage.
  • Damp cases are more likely to tear, especially when the machine uses the pin and dome opening method.
  • Dirty and damp surfaces can also prevent tape and glue from bonding with the cardboard. Although this issue doesn’t necessarily lead to jammed equipment, it’s worth noting that it can increase the risk of cases opening unexpectedly during handling, which can result in product damage or — worse — possible injury to personnel.

Checking for good cardboard conditions is important. Sometimes quality issues can be resolved by your supplier. If your cardboard stock arrives dusty, for example, the dust could be a byproduct of manufacturing the cardboard blanks. Whether you contact your supplier or resolve the issue on site, correcting quality issues could prevent equipment jams and save you time, cost and other potential damages.

Skewed corners: Is it mechanical or material?

When it’s time to palletize the load for shipment, straight, squared corners are critical to building that sturdy stack.

When building a pallet, boxes are stacked and interlocked to form one sturdy, singular block. Your boxes are designed to take on a certain amount of load and pressure, but something as simple as a crooked corner can affect the compression strength. Why is this problematic? Too many skewed corners will weaken support, making your stacks unstable and more likely to shift or even topple in transit. This problem can exist even if the pallet is secured in shrink-wrapping. Skewed corners can result in damaged inventory, not to mention higher risk of injury to personnel.

If your boxes have skewed corners, check to see if the problem comes from the cardboard material itself. If the cardboard passes inspection, then some issue with your packaging and palletizing equipment could be the cause.

When material tolerance causes skewed corners

Like many manufactured materials, corrugated cardboard blanks have minor, imperceptible variations. The variations that occur during manufacturing of the case blanks are known as material tolerance.

As long as the material tolerance falls within a specific range, the constructed case should be sound. However, if the joints of the cardboard case are not glued properly, the end result is skewed corners and a misshapen case.

These out-of-tolerance cases can sneak up during a production run, so it’s good practice to have your team spot-check the formed cases throughout all phases of packaging. If two of four corners are skewed, the cause is likely coming from an out of range material tolerance.

Once you identify problematic batches of cases that are outside of the tolerance, you can pull the bad blanks from the run and contact your supplier to resolve the issue.

Mechanical solutions to skewed corners

If all four corners are skewed, with two being greater than 90 degrees and the remaining two less than 90 degrees, then the issue lies with case assembly.

A well-designed case erector is one effective way to solve the problem. Investing in a machine that uses smart features to check and correct skewed cases is your best bet. INSITE’s Case Erector has an active box-squaring feature that can ensure squared corners, even after a changeover. Here’s how it works:

  • A photo eye scans the leading edge of the case, measuring the corner’s angle
  • If the corner is not 90 degrees, one of the side belts that guides the casebox responds with a burst of speed to get it into alignment, which adjusts the squaring
  • The box rolls off, ready for packing, with corrected, even corners

[For a closer look at how active box squaring works, read Hip to be square: The benefits of active case squaring]

When it comes to your production, forming cases should be the least of your concerns. Ideally, this segment of secondary packaging should reach a production level that is truly automated and practically invisible. If your endgame includes fewer machine jams and higher repeatability, it might be time to invest in a new case erecter.

Consider contacting an INSITE product specialist to start solving those equipment jams and case forming issues.

7 Benefits of Automated Case Erectors

With few exceptions, startup companies and small CPG manufacturers start with at least some capital investment in equipment. However, full automation of their end-of-line packaging tends to come later.

Although both manual and semi-automatic case erectors are fairly common for a growing company, there may be some costs when relying on these methods and some benefits to gain when switching to fully automated equipment.

What are manual & semi-automatic case erectors?

A manual case erector is a simple tool, a 90-degree wedge where the worker inserts the opened case blank to achieve perfectly squared corners while they secure the bottom flaps with tape or glue.

With a semi-automatic case erector, the worker opens the case blank by hand and inserts the case into the machine. The case erector then automatically folds and seals the bottom flaps in preparation for packing.

When is the right time to invest in an automated case erecter?

The decision to invest and build out a secondary packaging line isn’t an easy one. It takes planning and analysis to make sure this addition will bring meaningful improvements to your throughput and efficiencies.

These are common indicators that a manufacturing firm is ready for an automated case erector:

  • Decreased ability to meet demand with the existing configuration
  • End-of-line bottlenecks are slowing throughput
  • Increased inventory damage as a result of poor product packaging
  • Increased maintenance on existing equipment

When searching for a solution to these issues, read the 5-step guide to choosing a case erector

Why choose an automated case erector?

Here are seven ways an automated case erector can improve production.

1. Increase speed

Both semi-automated and manual case erector models rely on human hands to open and manipulate the case blanks, and this time-consuming operation is eliminated with an automated case erector. Even if you have an A-team on manual case forming, one worker can build 2-5 cases a minute. However, an automated case former can produce up to 30 per minute, improving throughput immediately.

2. Reduce backlog

Building cases by hand is time and labor intensive. Before packing, workers must first assemble a sufficient supply of built cases. This not only adds production time, but it also takes up valuable floor space. An automated case former can build cases on an as-needed basis, which frees up space on the floor for other purposes.

3. Ease of operation

Unlike a manual or semi-automatic method, there is little to no handling of the corrugated cardboard blanks during formation with an automated case erector. The machine opens, squares and seals the bottom of the case. All you need is an operator to load the blanks and enter dimensions, and the machine does the rest.

4. Faster changeovers

One hesitation to investing in new equipment is the need for skilled operators to complete a changeover. Today’s automated case erectors are designed to complete changeovers in minutes. When multiple different-sized cases are required for a given line, executing fast, easy changeovers will reduce downtime and give your operators time to focus on more productive tasks. Look for a machine that uses fewer parts and components. This reduces your downtime even further as fewer parts means less maintenance.

5. Smarter uses for labor resources

For much of the past decade (COVID-19 era excluded), a labor shortage and historically low unemployment have created challenges in the manufacturing space. A Deloitte study forecasts 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S. between 2018 and 2028. Forming boxes and cases for 8-hour shifts can be a difficult role to fill and maintain for any length of time. Automation of case forming frees up time that would otherwise be spent on recruiting and screening for a high-turnover role. It also enables more strategic use of personnel resources.

6. Reduce injury and repetitive strain

When workers form and seal cases for 8-hour shifts, the repetition can create strain injuries in tendons of the arms, wrists, shoulders and hands. In the long run, repetitive strain injuries can reduce productivity, increase time off for treatment and recovery, and decrease satisfaction at work. In the manufacturing space, any opportunity to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury benefits worker health and productivity. Automation of case formation reduces exposure to employees as well as the company.

7. Reduce damage to inventory

Automated erectors can form cases and seal the bottom flaps with high precision. This accuracy reduces the risk of skewed case corners and missed applications of adhesion. Machine-built boxes mean straighter stacks and less opportunity for damage during shipment.

For more helpful information, check out this article: Looking to automate? Top features that contribute to OEE]

Case Erectors

If you’re looking for a fully automated case erector that provides effortless set-ups, quick and trouble-free changeovers, consistently square cases, fewer wear parts and less maintenance, consider INSITE. Our equipment design includes innovative use of robotics, active case squaring and elementary operator controls to simplify your case-forming application.

Ready to get started? Contact INSITE Packaging today and talk to one of our experts.

What are the advantages to a case erector with robotic arm movement?

The robotic arm has a long history in manufacturing. Now it has made its way into secondary packaging lines. When you look at the robotic arm on even a simple machine like a case erector, it has the power to inspire. Both in its resemblance to human form and futuristic nature, it promises to combine the best of human and machine movement.

A robotic arm functions and operates much like the arm of a human, with joints that can move in different directions. As the robotic arm picks and places, maneuvers and builds, it offers something that most other machines cannot: Simplicity. Instead of inventing a new machine process, the robotic arm is a replication of an already perfected all-purpose tool. Of course, robotic arms have been around since the 1960s, starting in automobile manufacturing.

But today, because of advanced developments, it’s now feasible and cost effective to deploy them in smaller applications, including secondary packaging. INSITE Packaging uses robotic arm movement to make end-of-line packaging more hands off and efficient, but it’s also something of a disruptor in the manufacturing space, says Todd Davis, manager of INSITE Packaging.

But when it comes to making capital investments, it always boils down to ROI, and it’s no different when you’re talking about a case erector with a robotic arm operation. Here are some questions one might ask:

  • What advantages are there to a robotic arm movement in a case erector?
  • Will you need a robotics specialist on staff to configure the case erector?

Robotic machinery is gaining ground in food manufacturing

First, here’s a quick look at the trends. Robotic automation is gaining traction quickly, even more quickly than anticipated.

Back in 2014, PMMI’s Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing report forecasted that 82% of manufacturing plants in the U.S. would be using robotics. In 2019, it reached 90% and in the coming five years, a manufacturing floor with at least some robotics will be almost universal.

As this Packaging World article indicates, the higher output driven by COVID-19 at food companies is feeding a demand for robot automation, from producing to packaging all the way down to end-of-line secondary packaging. The reason: Increased concern for employee safety coupled with the overall growth in the food industry.

Advantages that robotic arms offer in case erector applications

Accommodating increased SKUs

In today’s market, that’s more critical than ever, as 67% of food manufacturers report a marked increase in SKUs, according to the 2019 Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing. It goes on to detail the top challenges that accompany meeting production demands.

  • Increasing yields with existing equipment
  • Finding greater efficiencies in production processes
  • Integrating automation
  • Keeping up with changing market and retail demands
  • Maximizing uptime with reliable machinery

“This comes up frequently with our customers,” Davis says. “Marketing teams invest a lot into the product, finding the perfect shape and graphics for the packaging to give it differentiation. But what’s troublesome is the life cycle of products is getting shorter, and that might make some equipment obsolete. That’s why we deploy robots.”

[Check out Hip to be square: The benefits of active case squaring]

Meeting retailer requirements

When we’re talking about case sizes, there’s no such thing as one size fits all, not when case counts and product sizes wildly vary, depending on the requirements and product needs of the retailer. That points to the struggle with increasing yields with existing equipment, especially if its design isn’t conducive to repeatability and fast changeovers. More than ever, food manufacturers need flexibility from their end-of-line equipment.

Meeting labor needs

When humans are assembling boxes, it’s brain-numbing work. It’s repetitive, it can lead to repetitive strain injuries, and arguably offers little in the way of job satisfaction. Robotic automation offers that same flexible ability to set up cases of any size, so employees can work more productive and rewarding jobs.

Higher repeatability and less maintenance

When it’s time to change case sizes multiple times during a shift, one ongoing issue is achieving a high rate of repeatability — one of the challenges that presents itself as production schedules adjust to accommodate additional SKUs to meet market and retailer requirements. That’s where a traditional case erector can interfere with uptime and overall efficiency. Case erectors are driven by air cylinder operability. These are inexpensive, but the air cylinders are in need of frequent replacement and maintenance, making it more difficult to achieve consistent repeatability.

In addition to the need for frequent replacement, “The air cylinder is not a high degree of accuracy type of device,” Davis says.

INSITE’s case erector replaces these mechanical movements with a SCARA robot, drastically reducing the number of air cylinders and as well as the components, by 50%. Fewer parts means less focus on maintenance, and the SCARA robot comes best-in-class repeatability.

“If you have a recipe to run different case sizes, once you select that recipe, the servo motor knows exactly what to do and repeats that over and over, with a high degree of accuracy,” Davis says.

[Check out Get to know your case erector and sealer: Top features of INSITE Packaging robotic design]

Ease of operation

One hurdle to adopting robotic automation is the lack of expertise about programming, Davis says, which can make some manufacturers hesitant to adopt this technology.

An old-school guy might look at the robotic arm, and be a little concerned: “I’m used to the older machines and all their parts, with them I know what’s going on. This machine, that’s a new learning curve. I’m sure it means I might need to know programming.”

However, using INSITE’s case erector means no programming or robotic expertise is required. It’s designed for even a novice machinist to use.

“That’s where the software tools are there to fill that gap and allow you to essentially control the robot,” Davis says. “There’s no need to worry about programming the robot. Our servo-driven robotic arm is controlled through our HMI (human machine interface).

“When we change the case size through the HMI, the software tells the robot what new path to follow,” Davis continues. “So the end user doesn’t have to figure out the complicated aspect of creating a robotic path to follow. It’s all software driven. People don’t have to go through the basic setup. The software takes care of it.”

A case erector with a robotic arm operability can raise repeatability and lower your overall maintenance needs and expenses, giving your machinists more bandwidth to focus on more critical areas on the production floor.

Contact INSITE Packaging today and start seeing the benefits on your line.

Looking to automate? Top features that contribute to OEE

As the owner of a small- to medium-sized food and beverage startup, you wear many hats. If you’re working toward increasing the efficiency of your production, automated secondary packaging is one solution you may be looking at, especially if your current model is using manual labor to erect and seal packing cases.

If that’s the case, you wouldn’t be alone. New research from McKinsey shows 67% of companies accelerated automation during the pandemic to speed up processes and reduce contact between workers.

Increasing speed by 40-60% in your end-of-line packaging production is a worthy goal, but unless the machines can pull off robot-like precision from start to finish, increased production won’t fix everything. That’s why manufacturers use overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) as a way to evaluate their production line.

OEE takes measurement of how efficiently the machine is running compared to its full potential. When your OEE score is 100%, it means you’re producing high-quality packaging components, while the machine goes full speed, with no stoppages. In short, OEE measures quality, performance and availability. Focusing on OEE can increase efficiency, and reduce downtime as well as manufacturing costs.

If you’re looking to improve your valuable operating time, automating end-of-line packaging is part of the solution. Here’s a look at how different features can contribute to better OEE outcomes, and better efficiency.

Machines designed for flexibility

Today’s customers seek more variety and excellent value. Retailers are leaning on manufacturers to not only deliver on variety, but they’ve also identified shelf-ready packaging as part of their solution to increasing efficiency. For a food and beverage manufacturer, that means their entire line needs to be designed and built for agility. INSITE Packaging’s case erector has 40% fewer parts and lets you complete changeovers in minutes, so you can resume uptime almost immediately.

Improve secondary packaging outcomes

Speed is the point of automation, but when the production quality is off, speed will only contribute to setbacks. Consider the case erector. Skewed corners aren’t always apparent until containers are stacked tall on the palletizer. You may have sped up box production, but now your skewed containers can create a situation that can lead to damaged boxes and products as they make their way down the supply chain.

A well-built box reduces the opportunity for damage. You’ll want a case erector that comes with safeguards that guarantee perfectly squared cases before they roll off the line. INSITE Packaging’s robotic case erector has an active case squaring feature. Measuring, viewing and adjusting components measures each corner with precision. Not only can it produce boxes with nice, square corners, it can make better stacks on the pallet. When boxes are built with robotic precision, you gain the benefits from faster production.

[Read Hip to be square: The benefits of active case squaring]

Increase repeatability to raise uptime

A traditional case erector has air-cylinder mechanics, which are not optimal when it comes to achieving precision in repeatability. Here’s what happens: After a changeover from a smaller to larger corrugated packing container, it often means a human must go into the machine and adjust the air cylinders until there are no issues with box shape and bottom-sealing. The result is lower repeatability, more downtime and a lower grade of OEE, which makes the machine less effective for your production line.

INISTE Packaging’s robotic case erector is designed with a servo motor, which removes the guesswork from changeovers. Enter the required box dimension, and the software generates the path and the servo motor builds the box with precision. No adjusting; your machinists will gain back time to focus on more critical areas of production.

[Read Get to know your case erector and sealer: Top features of INSITE Packaging robotic design]

When it’s time to automate secondary packaging, the case erectors and sealers will optimize OEE. Contact INSITE Packaging today and start seeing the benefits.

Get to know your case erector and sealer: Top features of INSITE Packaging robotic design

What are some of the top things you need to know about INSITE Packaging’s case erector and case sealer? The following walks through some of the benefits and features to educate you on what these machines have to offer.

Servo motor

A servo is a small programmable motor that operates the robotic components of your secondary packaging machines. This is what makes the precision and repeatability possible in the case erector, so you can count on those 20 or 30 cases a minute (depending on which INSITE machine you purchase). The servo motor receives feedback of the component’s positioning and directs the component’s motion and positioning. The advantage of a servo-driven case erector is that it creates a streamlined robotic design. Thanks in part to this powerful servo motor, INSITE Packaging’s case erector has 50-70% fewer moving parts than a standard case erector. This means fewer breakdowns, less maintenance and lower cost of ownership.

Opposing cup case opening

Step one in building a case is opening the case blank. Many OEMs use mechanical components for this step. For example, many mechanical openers use pins that slide into the flutes of the corrugated cardboard. The downside of using mechanical parts like these is they can cause tears in the case, resulting in a machine jam. Opposing cup case opening removes the mechanical element and uses a simple vacuum function. The advantage of vacuum opening is it leaves no damage to the case, and because there are fewer components, the machine is less apt to jam or create downtime.

Wide open design

It’s not unusual to see an operator climb a case erector to fix a jam, when you’re talking about a machine with a standard closed design. INSITE’s open design case erector lets users walk right inside the erector so they can easily reach the access points, pull out cases, and quickly fix jams so stoppages are kept to a minimum.

Photo squaring

Squared corners are everything in a case. Otherwise, the result is unclosed boxes or uneven stacking surfaces (which can lead to skewed pallets and damaged products). During case squaring, two photo eyes check the case edges, and if they’re not squared, the adjustment tool will adjust the edges until they are square. At the same time, the belt will automatically change speed on one side so as not to disrupt production. Reliably squared corners simply make everything downstream run a lot better. In addition to gaining 97% efficiency with using the INSITE Packaging case erector, the proactive photo eye feature eliminates down-the-line problems, so you can gain even more efficiencies.

Secure sealing

INSITE case sealers use a two-belt drive system, both of which are spring loaded to provide positive compression on the side of the cases. This, in addition to overhead compression, assures all items inside the container are in place and securely sealed.

Smart SCARA robot technology

This four-axis robot is used in industrial assembly, and it’s designed to mimic the human arm. This assembly is powered by PLC (process logic computing) that allows you to switch case sizes without having to add and adjust components. It’s simply a matter of entering the case formula (length and height), and the arm is programmed and ready to set up the cases.

[Learn more from Packaging Machinery 101: 5 Terms You Should Know]

Fail safe, rapid changeovers

Few adjustment points means changeovers are completed in a matter of minutes. Machines store up to 12 recipes, so once the recipe has been dialed and successfully executed, it will replicate with precision the next time you need a specific size.


INSITE Packaging machines are easy to operate, even for a novice, thanks to the simple, intuitive human-machine interface and wide open accessibility to clear jams and restock case blanks. When your technician installs the machine on-site, three levels of training are available. The operator level of training teaches employees how to stop and start the machine and handle basic issues, such as clearing a jammed machine. Level two is operator plus maintenance, where the employee learns to manage routine upkeep and troubleshoot problems like air leaks in the hose. Level three senior maintenance training covers everything a skilled machinist needs to know to keep the machine in good repair for years to come.

Once your secondary packaging machines are up and running, INSITE provides access to many helpful reference tools. Our website hosts a full library of videos and animations, so you can plan, troubleshoot and ensure everything is running as it should. When you need a refresher, our owner manuals and job aids are just a click away. INSITE Packaging has U.S.-based support available 24/7.

Ready to upgrade your modular secondary packaging system with automated case erectors and case sealers? Contact INSITE Packaging today to get started.

Hip to be square: The benefits of active case squaring

Is container collapse the root cause of your damaged products? After confirming that the corrugated cardboard is the appropriate strength for your product, one area of improvement may be box construction.

Whether case building is done manually or by machine, one thing that often gets missed in the secondary packaging is skewed corners, with angles that aren’t quite right. It’s difficult for humans to square up the packing cases with the naked eye (without losing speed), and few mechanical case erectors are designed with a fail-safe to ensure each corner is perfectly square before it’s sealed and rolls off the line. The result often shows up on the pallet, as the never-quite-even stack emerges.

Are you sending out skewed containers?

According to Packaging World as much as 11% of shipments arrive at distribution centers with at least some case damage; even though the average is 2%, finding ways to reduce that figure can save you a bundle in the long run. That’s why when it comes to choosing the right automated case erector for your secondary packaging module, speed isn’t the lone consideration. Precision squaring of the cases is critical.

Low-quality cardboard, improper handling, failure to stabilize the load in transit, and exposure to excessive humidity all can result in fallen, punctured containers and damaged goods that the retailer can’t sell. Some of these things are beyond your control. But skewed corners on shipping containers doesn’t have to be one of them. You can eliminate some of the risk of container failure with smart automation features such as active box squaring.

Why do boxes need a good square? Corrugated cardboard is designed to handle a certain amount of weight and pressure. But the formula works best when the box is properly built and assembled as designed. When a variable such as an off-kilter box angle enters the picture, that can lead to uneven distribution of pressure, thereby reducing the container’s compression strength.

How does active box squaring work?

Unlike standard machines, INSITE Packaging’s case erector takes a couple of extra steps to make sure each and every case rolls off with perfectly squared corners.

First, a pair of photo eyes scan the edges of the case, checking the angles of the corner before sealing. If that corner is off-kilter, one of the side belts guiding the box responds with a burst of speed to align with the other belt and adjusts the squaring before it’s sealed. That ensures when the box rolls off, ready for packing, it has nice, even corners.

When you can build shipping boxes with this level of machine precision, “everything just works better up the supply chain line,” says Paul Grussing, a technician at INSITE Packaging.

Boxes stack more evenly and securely on the pallet, decreasing the likelihood (and danger) of pallet collapse. The walls of the container are less likely to bow and bend. Month over month, you’ll see a positive impact on your per-unit cost.

A well-built box has more impact than you would think! Contact INSITE Packaging today and start seeing the benefits on your line.