Level up Operations with Technology: Smart ERP Solutions Tackle 10 Packaging Manufacturing Challenges


Overcoming challenges is a daily endeavor for packaging manufacturers, and staying ahead of the competition requires constant innovation and adaptation. We’ll delve into ten common obstacles that packaging manufacturers often face, each presenting its own unique set of hurdles to overcome. From the time-consuming process of generating quotes to the lack of visibility across packaging workflows, these challenges can impede productivity and hinder growth.
This article explores each challenge and uncovers strategies to overcome them, empowering packaging manufacturers to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.

Reach sales goals faster
with a more efficient estimating workflow

Responding too slowly to quote requests can result in lost job opportunities. According to a recent Part Buyer Survey, 67% of buyers expect a quote response in less than 24 hours. An optimized estimating system not only ensures accuracy but also expedites the entire job-to-customer process.
An ERP/MIS is a repository of vast data that can revolutionize the estimating process. With relevant information readily accessible, estimators can swiftly populate estimates with just a few clicks. Add Pricelist Management, Tools Availability, to the minute inventory status and Supplier Integration and estimators are connected to the data they need to quickly prepare quotes. HiFlow’s Packaging Design and Packaging Imposition modules are additional tools that speed up layout and materials estimates.
Estimating isn’t just another department—it’s the financial nerve center of your business. It’s key to your sales process. By automating job data with an MIS, estimators can redirect their focus to other critical aspects of the quote-to-job process, ensuring efficiency and profitability every step of the way.

Minimize manual processes with automation

Shockingly, up to 60% of print and packaging industry manufacturers still rely on Excel spreadsheets for data collection—a method plagued by its sluggishness, labor intensiveness, and susceptibility to errors. From tracking work-in-progress (WIP) to monitoring shop floor activities and recording downtime, the reliance on spreadsheets extends even to crucial aspects of day-to-day operations.
The consequences of manual processes are far-reaching. End-of-month reporting, for instance, can stretch out over days, delaying decision-making and hampering agility in response to market shifts.
Manual processes persist wherever software gaps exist. When systems for estimating and production aren’t seamlessly integrated with purchasing and accounting, data flow is disrupted, creating bottlenecks and delays. Without automated shop floor data collection, achieving accurate costing becomes a daunting task, leaving managers to scurry between departments in a frantic bid to gather critical information.

AI based dynamic scheduling enables
peak plant performance

Efficient scheduling lies at the heart of streamlined plant operations. Yet, manual scheduling processes are still ubiquitous in manufacturing. Excel spreadsheet scheduling falls short, and can quickly become a drain on resources, consuming excessive time and leading to suboptimal results.
For example, in industries like flexible packaging, the complexity of printing on diverse substrates adds another layer of challenges to scheduling. Schedulers must contend with a wide range of materials, from polybags to extruded polyethylene films, each requiring specific considerations such as ink changeouts, equipment setups, and cure times. Excel-based scheduling systems struggle to accommodate this level of intricacy, leading to inefficiencies and delays.
In contrast, an advanced Manufacturing Execution System (MES) with AI-powered scheduling capabilities offers a transformative solution, delivering accurate, automatic planning that optimizes production schedules with precision. By connecting scheduling processes to a centralized database, MES systems enable optimal scheduling for the entire workload of a plant. Dynamic rescheduling becomes a breeze, with the ability to drag and drop manufacturing orders and operations directly within the scheduling.

Know complete job costing with shop floor data collection

If you don’t know your costs, you’re lost.
Estimators strive for accuracy, meticulously calculating costs based on various factors. But what happens when unforeseen circumstances arise on the shop floor? A broken die, prolonged makeready times, or unexpected downtime can all impact production costs. To accurately assess manufacturing costs, it’s imperative to compare estimated costs with real-time data.
An MES, enriched with sensor technology embedded on machines, empowers manufacturers with real-time shop floor data updates. These updates are seamlessly integrated into the system’s functionalities, ensuring that the front office receives timely job updates and cost insights. Features such as Shop Floor Data Collection and Post-Production Calculation enable manufacturers to capture and analyze data as it unfolds, providing invaluable visibility into actual production costs.

Automated tool room management
prevents production downtime

Managing tools and dies is the backbone of any efficient production line, ensuring seamless operations and minimizing downtime. Die maintenance involves thorough inspection, cleaning, lubrication, sharpening, and timely replacement of worn or damaged components. By implementing regular maintenance routines, manufacturers can extend the lifespan of their dies and ensure consistent production of high-quality goods.
Efficient die management, as in HiFlow’s Tools Management module, not only streamlines operations but also enables proactive maintenance scheduling. The module sends alerts for potential tool-related bottlenecks and provides guidance about the optimal number of tools needed in production.

Legacy systems are straining to keep up with your growth

Many manufacturers believe they are data-driven by relying on spreadsheets, legacy systems and ‘gut-feel.’ Yet legacy systems are characterized by obsolete technology, siloed data, and manual processes, that hinder agility, innovation, and scalability, hinder your company’s ability to adapt to changing market dynamics and customer demands.
Among many other issues, a legacy system may not be able to meet regulatory requirements. Compliance requirements in the packaging industry are stringent and constantly evolving, encompassing regulations related to product safety, labeling, and environmental sustainability. Legacy systems often lack the flexibility and adaptability to accommodate these changing compliance requirements, putting the company at risk of non-compliance penalties and reputational damage.

Inventory challenges impact Just In Time manufacturing

Inventory systems based on sales spreadsheets. Or a manual inventory system, like Cardex, where your team will manually updates stock levels and inventory on a card or a paper inventory sheet. These manual systems are time-consuming and subject to human error, and not in real time. Your estimator, for example, can’t count on inventory levels when preparing an estimate.
An automated warehouse management system (WMS) enables comprehensive tracking of materials throughout the manufacturing process, from procurement to inventory management to production and shipping. With features like Material Demand, manufacturers can forecast material needs based on production schedules and historical consumption patterns. Barcode and RFID technologies can be integrated with ERP systems to automate material identification and tracking, ensuring accurate inventory levels and minimizing stockouts or overstock situations.
The modules in HiFlow’s warehouse management system provide real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and movements within the warehouse. With its comprehensive modules that include Inventory of Materials, 6-level Location Management, Product Inventory, Batch Traceability and Supply Management, HiFlow’s Warehouse management system tracks all pertinent information and gives insights into key performance indicators (KPIs) such as order fulfillment rates, inventory accuracy, and labor productivity.

Act quickly to situations with real time communication

In manufacturing, it’s crucial to react to events in real time to ensure smooth operations. While planned downtime and maintenance are manageable, unplanned stoppages and bottlenecks pose significant challenges.
One of your machines unexpectedly halts production, causing a drop in output for the day. Without real-time data, identifying the cause of the shutdown and quantifying the downtime becomes a daunting task. Relying on manual logging of downtime on spreadsheets may lead to inaccuracies, leaving you in the dark about the true extent of the problem.
Micro-stops, though seemingly minor, can collectively result in a significant loss of production time. Tracking and analyzing these micro-stops within an MIS allows you to address inefficiencies promptly.
With real-time notifications via SMS, push notifications, or email, you can stay informed about bottlenecks and stoppages as they happen.

From production workflow to analytics—visibility reigns

When there’s no real time visibility of shop floor workers, production materials and job processes, a whole host of challenges is created, from labor cost overages to inventory shortages and quality control issues. Introducing automation to your plant provides visibility into operations from production workflows to the shop floor to inventory and analytics.
First, once your estimate becomes a job, the Job Production Workflow is automatically created in the system. A single user-friendly representation, on a single screen, it provides a visual image of the workflow and includes all job data. This helps users understand the overall flow of the process, visualize process dependencies, and identify potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies. It displays a job’s materials, machines, operators and production processes.
Second, whiteboards with lists of the day’s jobs are a thing of the past. Real-time visibility on shop floor performance is available on large screens located throughout the plant with the Shop Floor Monitor module. It allows any shop floor worker to clearly see all the data of current jobs and job order progress at each stage of production and offers a visual “heads up” that spots downtime and errors that result in delays in the production plan.
Third, authorized users can access dashboards and reports that provide visual insights into inventory levels, production schedules, sales forecasts, financial performance, and more. Within the Business Intelligence (BI) module, create impactful, visual reports with a unified, scalable platform that connects to all data sources. Visualize any data, and seamlessly infuse the visuals into the apps you use every day.

Your entire production and business ecosystem gets connected

Are all of your ERPs and software connected into your existing technology stack? Do they work smoothly and share information to authorized users in all departments of your business? When data needs to be re-entered repeatedly there is a greater possibility of errors.
An ERP system acts as the central nervous system for a manufacturing organization, connecting disparate systems, processes, and departments into one cohesive and centrally controlled system.

By integrating an ERP/MIS you can

• Consolidate data from various departments, such as finance, human resources, inventory, production, and sales, into a single database.
• Facilitate communication and collaboration between departments by providing a shared platform for exchanging information and sharing documents.
• Seamlessly exchange data between different systems to eliminate the need for manual data entry or reconciliation.

Overcome manufacturing challenges with an ERP/MES

In conclusion, identifying and addressing these ten common issues in packaging manufacturing can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Whether it’s streamlining the quoting process, implementing automated systems for scheduling and inventory management, or fostering better communication between departments, each improvement has the potential to make a tangible impact on the bottom line.

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