When assessing beverage production facilities, today’s packaging lines are viewed, assessed, photographed and accepted or critiqued as a modern day marvel of technology. Generally, observers see a production line filling containers with product and discharging cases or units to unseen storage areas. 

However, mention logistics in reference to a beverage packaging line and experience, and one might find that a remote or vague relationship exists between such a line and logistics. Why the focus on logistics? 

The logistics of beverage packaging lines are important and vital because they represent the core of an integrated supply chain. So what is meant by logistics? Definitively speaking, package line logistics consist of an input-output movement cycle of procurement, maintenance and transportation. In real time, simple terms, the line logistics mean providing materials (processed raw and packaging), facilities (machinery and equipment) and staff (trained people) to result in a finished product. Without this logistical flow, there would be no salable product.

From an operations perspective, it is important and necessary to dissect the logistical elements that make up this core phase of the supply chain. 

To accomplish the mission of an efficient packaging line, the logistical elements must be comprehensively defined and evaluated to determine what actually is needed and whether it will be effective in production. In this perspective, several sensitive operating issues are involved: the facility and the type of lines, speed, capacity and space; the materials, including product characteristics, batched/inline, container type, closures, coding, labeling, container wrapping, self manufacture and supply space; and lastly, the people such as the operators/attendants, multi-tasking, qualifications required, experience, manual/auto/semi-auto. These logistical packaging line elements must be updated and integrated when physical operating conditions change.

From an engineering viewpoint, each element offers design challenges to determine and ensure what package line logistics are best suited for each production environment as conditions change in the form of materials, machinery or people. Again, I must stress the importance of focusing on package line logistics — the supply chain core — as they produce salable packages.

The challenges from all inputs of materials, facilities and staff to the finished package discharge and movement to storage, engineering must adapt to the constantly changing conditions. Changing conditions will continue to drive the logistical makeup of packaging lines as they have transitioned from manual to automated, glass to plastic, steel to aluminum, low to high speed.

The futuristic challenge for packaging line logistics hinges on today’s recent developments. The basic logistics of packaging lines will go on infinitum, but the nature and configuration of the elements will probably change dramatically. Why so? Materials are changing and products will come and go in the market place as consumer tastes change. That could bring new/different process technology.

Packaging will change driven by environmental rules. Machinery will definitely change as the trend moves toward a totally automated beverage line. Materials, both raw and packaging, will drive equipment design and function. And, people – with advanced technology on the threshold, the line staff of the future will require more and different training — that’s only logical.