Over the past decade, consumers have become one of the strongest sources of pressure in factories.
There was a time when manufacturers made things, salespeople sold them to retailers, retailers offered them to consumers, and shoppers chose from among those offerings. Gradually, brands and retailers got the upper hand and dictated to manufacturers. Then the empowered consumer came along and brands began to pay more attention to their desires.
For manufacturing, that means shorter runs, more customization, and a focus on products and packaging with an emphasis on fads and fashions in food consumption. For food and beverages in particular, this can affect manufacturing significantly.
To take just one example, consumers care a lot about whether packaging affects the flavor of their food and drink. This seems reasonable. But a recent consumer survey showed what consumers think will affect the flavors:
- Steel cans — 51%
- Aluminum cans — 47%
- Plastic bottles — 43%
- Refrigerated cartons — 19%
- Glass bottles — 12%
What are you left with? In many cases, ascetic pushes seem like a solution — but the heterogenous layers of the pouch can’t be recycled or reused.
Consumers also want sustainable materials, though, and brands may demand them. Costs are often higher, and consumers and retailers alike may resist that.
There is some real innovation in food packaging, at least at the proof-of-concept stage. Food containers can be made of mushrooms or seaweed. But how will your factory handle that?
Labeling needs to be responsive to consumer demands, too. Yesterday’s carrot chips might have said “A good source of Vitamin A,” today’s might boast, “Gluten free,” and tomorrow’s might be emblazoned with “Vegan!”. It’s all true, but responding to food trends takes a nimble company.
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