Writing this column was not as easy as I hoped it would be.
Several of my BNP Media colleagues and I attended PACK EXPO, staged by PMMI at the Las Vegas Convention Center last week. More than 2,000 exhibitors displayed their processing and packaging capabilities and equipment for thousands of attendees from across the globe — attendees who undoubtedly hit the Strip to blow off steam after long days at the show.
Not surprisingly, I came back with a mountain of information to share, which I still plan to do. But as I write this, Las Vegas is reeling. Nearly 60 people are dead and more than 500 others were injured after a gunman on Sunday open fired at a musical festival from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay.
It’s hard to believe when a tragedy like this strikes, but this one was particularly jarring, knowing the BNP folks and thousands of other PACK EXPO attendees were in Vegas four or five days before the shooting. We were lucky, but sadly, many others weren’t.
My thoughts are with the victims, survivors and their families as they and Las Vegas pick up the pieces in the coming weeks. But, as we mourn and determine our next steps as a nation, we’ll soldier on. In that spirit, here’s more on PACK EXPO.
The U.S. packaging machinery market continues to grow, according to PMMI’s 2017 State of the Industry report.
Presenting the data at a media breakfast the first day of PACK EXPO, Jorge Izquierdo, PMMI v.p. of market development, said the market was expected to hit $9.8 billion in 2016, up 4.8 percent from 2015.
Domestic shipments of packaging machinery rose by 2.9 percent to $7.7 billion in 2016, while equipment exports dropped by 8.5 percent. Packaging equipment imports, however, grew by 12.7 percent, which Izquierdo attributed to a strong exchange rate. He said imports are expected to grow over the next few years, but the growth rate will likely slow.
The pharmaceuticals sector is forecast to grow the fastest of all sectors over the next five years, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6 percent. The food industry, which includes nutraceuticals, won’t be far behind, with a projected CAGR of 2.3 percent.
Izquierdo attributed the investment in food packaging to an “explosion of SKUs,” noting manufacturers often experience multiple changeovers a day.
“It completely changes how manufacturers produce those products,” he said.
More products and tighter schedules mean manufacturers need greater efficiency and flexibility. Bosch Packaging Technology hopes to deliver that with the Continline bar production system, currently in use by Toronto-based Riverside Natural Foods.
“Handling bars is a challenge,” said Bosch’s Josua Schwab, noting the material is often sticky and may contain allergens. The Contiline system — which features the WRF 600 Flex roller former, allowing for different bar widths — also offers toolless format changes and a hygienic design.
“The Bosch bar production and packaging system offers easy operation and cleaning as well as the right level of automation and format flexibility,” says Klaus Haebig, Bosch North American sales manager.
Sollich showed the Thermo-Flow 1050 KK cooling tunnel with PU-Covers in Gullwing design. The tunnel frame and base are made of stainless steel, while the Gullwing covers are manufactured from lightweight composite material. The tunnel, designed to reduce potential bacterial growth, can be easily wiped down.
Also on display was the Enromat M6 1050 CIP enrober, which features an automatic washing system for easy changeover cleaning, said Sollich North America’s Sean Burns.
“It’s very easy to clean and easy to verify that it’s clean,” he said.
Schubert North America, meanwhile, showed the Flowmodul, the new flow-wrapping component of its TLM line for the first time in the U.S. Five F4 robots placed biscuits into the Flowmodul’s product feeding system, which were then sealed into flowpacks.
Schubert also demonstrated its GRIPS.world web-based platform, which allows for monitoring and documentation of machine data in a single-user interface. Collecting data in real time can help manufacturers predict equipment malfunctions and plan for downtime, Schubert’s Armin Klotz said.
Most of my experience over the last year has been with finished confections, so it was wonderful to get more exposure to the processing and packaging sides of the industry. I’m looking forward to learning more about the machines that bring our favorite sweets from dreams to reality.