Choosing the right package and packaging machine has a huge impact on the success of startups. A well-planned packaging strategy will help you deliver a quality product while driving efficiency, controlling costs, and maintaining production flexibility for future growth.

Here are 5 key considerations:

1. Package Quality and Visual Appeal

Your packaging should be attractive and functional. Certain materials and package types make more sense than others depending on your product shape, size, weight, number of units and sales channels. For example, thousands of products are packaged in different types of bags such as stand-up pouches, gusseted bags, flat pouches, modified atmosphere bags, pillow bags among others. Likewise, shrink film is used to wrap, bundle, and secure thousands of products in different configurations.

It’s important to consider how your products are displayed, and how customers use your products. Additional considerations may include shelf life, reuse, seal integrity, ease of transport, retail display, and product security. Product packaging is often seen as a measure of the overall quality of your product. It can make the difference in sales growth or a product that stalls in the marketplace.

2. Production Requirements

Production requirements impact the machines you consider and the amount of labour you need. Establishing realistic labour and production expectations are crucial to your profitability. Depending on your package and the volume of products you want to produce, labour may cost you more than machinery. Discuss your production requirements with your equipment supplier in as much detail as possible. Make sure to discuss all your SKUs and provide the output you expect. A good supplier will work closely with you to help determine whether a manual, semi-automatic or fully automated machine best suits your needs.

For start-up companies with smaller production demands, tabletop equipment may provide the best solution. On the other hand, tabletop machinery may become obsolete too quickly if fast growth is expected. Many stand-alone semi-automatic solutions are easily integrated with different conveying systems or add-ons to improve production as needs evolve. Some semi-automatic solutions can also be upgraded to fully automatic systems.

Your packaging workspace and environment is also an important consideration. Food, pharmaceutical, chemical, among other products need to meet certain hygienic standards and may need to operate in clean room or harsh environments. If so, your new equipment must be washdown capable and designed for easy cleaning and reliable service in potentially harsh environments.

Choosing a machine that works for you now and in the future is important. Be sure to ask your supplier whether your new machine is plug-and-play in different production environments? Is it easy to upgrade? Are there add-ons that may be beneficial as needs change?  For example, modular add-ons for printing and labelling can expand your capabilities and help you make the most from your initial investment.

A good packaging machinery supplier will ask questions and work with you to understand your unique needs and help you choose the best solution.

3. Ease of Operation and Maintenance

How easy your new machine is to setup, operate and maintain are also important considerations that impact costs, efficiency, training and downtime. Machines that are easy to maintain and service will save you money in the long run and provide greater production value for your investment.

Look closely at machine design, control systems, and access to change parts. Is setup toolless? Are change parts easy to access and replace? Are there recipes for different types of packages? Can you easily adjust package process parameters? Can you set up different user preferences, languages or units of measurement? Does the machine provide metrics and details about packaging quality, machine condition or maintenance?

Think about the workflow and ergonomics of your machine set-up. The more ergonomic a machine is, the easier it is to use which can improve production efficiency. Make sure you have enough space to operate your equipment efficiently and safely.

Also consider the amount of training, education level, and employee hours needed to operate your new machine. A reliable and trusted equipment provider will stand behind their solutions and ensure you get the training and technical support you need for efficient operation of your new machine

Don’t forget spare parts when you purchase your machine. All machines have some change parts that need occasional replacement. Talk with your supplier about maintenance needs and parts that will help you prevent costly downtime.

4. Machine Supplier

Choosing the right packaging machinery manufacturer is the first step in building a long-term partnership. Your packaging machinery manufacturer should understand your business and your plans for growth. They will help you choose between two machines with the same function and similar performance and make recommendations that best fit your needs.

Do your homework. Check on your equipment provider’s track record in your industry, turnaround time, and aftermarket support. You want a partner that will stand with you after the purchase to help ensure you get the most from your investment.

Check out this blog by PMMI for more tips: Tips For Working With Flexible Packaging Machinery Builders

5. Balance Current Budget and Long-Term Investment

Managing growth is an important issue for every startup. As with any large purchase, you should balance the initial cost of your packaging machine, with the cost of operation and maintenance. Some machines may have a bigger price tag upfront, but offer better efficiency, less maintenance and improved reliability. Focus on your return on investment. Your profitability depends on it.

Plexpack has helped more than 6,000 companies worldwide package their products and get them to market in a timely fashion for more than 65 years. We are one of the largest manufacturers of flexible packaging equipment with customers in more than 60 countries. Many of our longtime customers were once startups like yours.

Interested in reading more? Check out the following articles from PMMI's Prosource for more tips on building and operating your packaging solution. 

Best Practices for Specifying Flexible Packaging Equipment

Seven Tips for Form/Fill/Seal Selection, Setup and Cleaning

Six Tips on Finding the Right Form/Fill/Seal Supplier