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Is COVID-19 making retailers adopt packaging automation faster?

 If you’re an online retailer you are likely to have witnessed a peak in sales during the lockdown as more consumers switch to e-commerce. According to the latest Online Retail Index from IMRG and Capgemini, the overall retail sales in June surged an impressive 33.9% year-on-year. Sounds great, but the reality is many e-fulfilment centres are struggling to cope with social distancing measures and staffing levels during an unprecedented spike in demand.

E-commerce supply chains require fast order processing, efficient picking and packing and reliable delivery of thousands of units per day, so when you get a spike in demand and a decline in available employees, there’s a double whammy effect. Add poor reviews for failed or late deliveries, which affect brand loyalty, and you can begin to understand the pressure retailers have to cope with. With this in mind, is COVID-19 making leaders switch to packaging automation faster?

 Ben Rangecroft, operations manager at Internet Fusion Group, a leading sustainable e-commerce sporting retailer has said; “We initially turned to an automated packaging solution to improve efficiency and support our sustainability goal to be plastic-free. 

The implementation has delivered fantastic results including achieving 99.81% plastic-free outbound packaging made up from 94.44% recycled content in 2019. Through times of social distancing and lockdown during the COVID pandemic, our automated packaging machines have really come into their own and allowed us to increase our output whilst ensuring distancing is adhered to without the need to make significant changes to our packing process.

I would encourage considering an automated packaging solution to any fulfilment business looking to maximise efficiency and drive sustainability whilst maintaining a safe environment for employees.”

 Ribble is the UK leading packaging manufacturer of Fanfold corrugated board, supplying Fanfold corrugated through automated packaging systems to retailers including Amazon, Asda, Aldi and Boots.

As the provider of the raw material and experts in the field, Ribble’s Managing Director Stephen Rector has said: “We’re seeing a steady increase in packaging automation as e-commerce retailers take greater control over the supply chain. Right-sized packaging technology enables a single operative to make any box, at the correct size for any goods, packing single or multiple items.

“This means faster packaging, using fewer materials and smaller packages, so you can get more products per pallet – reducing truckloads, cost and carbon. When you combine this with our corrugated Fanfold material, you can typically generate a 25% reduction in corrugated costs and up to a 100% reduction in void fillers. As logistics centres increase social distancing measures, automation can help increase throughput with reduced staffing levels.”

 Ribble’s e-commerce customers have been using packaging automation to help ease congestion and cope with higher order volumes during Covid-19. Some customers were faced with a daunting spike in demand as large as 350%, as well as the prospect of having to half their packaging benches to allow for social distancing measures, on top of the ongoing decline in available employees.

However, the constant supply of Fanfold into their automated packaging systems allowed them to face this problem head-on, efficiently manage their operations, and provide their customers with a satisfactory buying experience. 

Ribble Packaging based in Oldham and employs 115 people.

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