Over the past decade, businesses of all types have embraced automation as a way to improve efficiency, increase productivity, and enhance consistency. One industry has been slow to adopt new automation technologies: Cannabis.
From perfectly pre-rolled joints to inserting cartridges into boxes and putting edibles in sealed bags, packaging automation can help cannabis companies lower costs and improve output.
If your company is one of the fortunate ones seeing a rapid increase in demand for your products, you are in the category of “that’s a good problem to have.” However, to meet this increased demand you must either hire and train new workers, add a second shift, or implore everyone to work faster.
Make no mistake: Increased demand can put a strain on your existing team, which can cause stress and lead to increased injuries and higher turnover. Accordingly, if sales are rising or forecasts are bright, now is a good time to review automation options.
The cost to purchase a packaging automation system can run from tens of thousands of dollars to several million dollars.
Typically, three distinct sections exist in a packaging operation: front of the line (getting products and packaging materials to the line), middle of the line (getting the products into the package), and end of the line (getting the packaged products ready for shipping). While automation can help at any of these touchpoints, the most labor-intensive—and therefore the tightest choke point—is getting products into a package.
Whether you are selling flower or vape cartridges or edibles or anything else, one of the biggest hurdles is getting the product into a certified-child-resistant and compliant package. When products such as jars require labels, this presents yet another complicating step that requires human or machine intervention.
Clearly, packaging automation is needed in the cannabis industry. So, what is holding companies back from implementing automated solutions?
The cost to purchase a packaging automation system can run from tens of thousands of dollars to several million dollars. And each machine typically does only one task. If you are selling pre-rolls, vape carts, and edibles, you need three expensive machines, at the very least. At that price, the return on investment for most companies seems bleak.
But there is an answer. Many cannabis packaging design companies are working with vendors and suppliers that already own such equipment and can provide automated packaging services on call. In essence, customers rent the equipment instead of purchasing it. The idea is that “on-demand automation” can help businesses scale up quickly and affordably without having to make a huge capital expenditure on equipment or manpower.
Multi-state operators face yet another wrinkle: Cannabis cannot legally cross state lines. For them, it is important to work with a packaging consultant that can create automation relationships anywhere in North America.
Working with a packaging professional who has experience in packaging automation not only will help a business scale up, but it also will help reduce costs in the long run. Professionals can identify opportunities for improvement in your current packaging programs and offer suggestions on cost savings and increased efficiency.
Automation is not something to view with trepidation. It can offer businesses a clear pathway to growth. While it takes a ton of capital to purchase automated systems, with the right people on your team, you can take advantage of the benefits of automation without shouldering the financial burden.
Kary Radestock brings more than 20 years of award-winning print and packaging expertise to some of the top brands in the world. She launched Hippo Premium Packaging in order to fill a need for professional, compliant packaging, brand development, and graphic design to the emerging cannabis industry.