Material Handling in the Packaging Industry

Sep 26, 2017

As a manufacturer in the packaging industry, you are forced to deal with an unprecedented level of product varieties and package complexities, along with overall manufacturing challenges such as labour shortages and increased competition. To respond to these demands you need flexible, modern solutions and processes to help you achieve lower operating costs, increased production and a safer working environment for your operators.

Previous material handling solutions, such as AGVs, offered help with these challenges but came with their own set of confines including a fixed infrastructure of beacons, magnetic tape and/ or pre-defined laser paths. Today’s forklift solutions are generally unsafe and inefficient because of the significant amount of human labour necessary. Human intervention is one of the most expensive, inefficient and variable parts of the production process. Self-driving vehicles for your manufacturing facility counter all of these with the flexibility, intelligence and reliability you need for material transport in a modern manufacturing facility.

Where can self-driving vehicles (SDVs) make an impact for your packaging facility?

Use cases for SDVs as material handling in the packaging industry

Finished goods retrievable 

It has never been more important for your facility to get the finished product off the line and out the door to the customer. Not only must this process be done faster, but it also must be done reliably, consistently, and safely. With self-driving vehicles, goods can be picked up at the end of a palletizer and taken to the warehouse. With the correct application or attachments, SDVs can be outfitted with a conveyor or lift to suit the output.

Previously this task would have been given to an AGV but with the inflexible infrastructure of an AGV, any variables in production required extra time and human intervention to make the system work. Self-driving vehicles have no infrastructure and can easily accommodate any change to production within minutes. This benefit is of particular mention to those manufacturers who are concerned with the footprint of their shop floor.

An added benefit is the ability of SDVs to easily integrate with existing systems.

Delivery of raw materials 

Most of the focus of material handling is often on moving production output to the warehouse. Automating the material transport process of raw materials to the line is an area that deserves consideration. Modern material handling during the “first mile” involves getting inventory to the line faster, cheaper and more effectively, and can have significant impact on the bottom line.


If manufacturers eradicated conventional thinking of how to get inventory to the line faster, cheaper and more effectively, significant impacts - the bottom line in particular - would be recognized and reflected throughout the supply chain process.


Manufacturers, such as those packaging facilities that deal with the food and beverage industry, often have health and safety restrictions that do not allow transport equipment that emits fuel or grease (such as those that come from forklift) into primary or secondary packaging. Even now, many of these facilities had to use humans in place of machines to meet these rules but can now rely on self-driving technology that is electric and does not leave a carbon footprint.

Work-in-process transport 

Understanding how self-driving vehicles can help at the beginning or ending of production is easy because this is where most material handling solutions are utilized. On lines where work-in-process occurs, self-driving vehicles can help to move materials from storage to reservoirs and back into production again. With the intelligence to understand the role of a particular part in production, SDVs can be a valuable and essential piece in production jobs that are non-linear.


With flexibility, reliability and intelligence, self-driving vehicles can easily get to work in the world you do. You have enough challenges in your industry, let SDVs help drive your business to meet production demands, keep your workforce safe, and drive your business to remain competitive and profitable. 

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By Clearpath Team