There is little more relevant in a manufacturing space than ensuring the fast and safe handling of products. As demand continues to grow, the importance of solutions designed to increase throughput cannot be overstated. One particularly crucial step in this process is packaging.
Named Flap'it!, Ranpak's new machine automates the packing of various small products. To find out more, NED spoke with Luc Smeets, Ranpak Vice President, Automation R&D and Commercialization to see just how Flap'it! works to deliver optimized logistics and e-commerce operations.
NED [New Equipment Digest]: What is Flap’it! and what does it do?
LS [Luc Smeets]: Our Flap’it! system is a highly effective solution that automates the packing of small products, at a rate five times faster than manual packaging, with up to 50% cost reduction in materials. The compact, semi-automated packaging machine automatically adapts to the height of the item and secures the product in place with inner flaps and integrated cushioning bumpers at the corners, ensuring that products are protected during shipment and significantly reducing costs, damage, and product returns.
NED: What kinds of products does Flap’it! pack?
LS: Flap’it! is the packaging solution of choice for small flat products and an outstanding option for packing single or multiple small products (max. 325 x 250 millimeters or ~13 x 10 inches). This could include books, video games, and small electronics. It's able to protect products with low-to-medium fragility, without the need for additional cushioning, wrapping or void filling.
NED: How does Flap’it! automatically create the smallest possible parcels?
LS: The Flap’it! packaging concept uses a magazine-fed cardboard blank, which is twisted into a cross. After products have been inserted, the final package height is adjusted for a good fit. The box flaps are folded and glued together with hot-melt adhesive, making the parcel ready to ship. Small parcels can then be delivered via a letterbox.
NED: How is Flap’it! different from other packaging automation systems?
LS: The Flap’it! technology is able to compete with both manual operations and other automation solutions. Flap’it! can pack up to 540 packages per hour, nine packages per minute—this is 5 times faster than manual packing. The much higher productivity offered by our solution is also due to customers not needing taping, cushioning or address labels, offering a seamless process.
NED: What kinds of benefits can users expect?
LS: Flap’it! produced boxes significantly reduce damages during transport and ensure fewer product returns, thanks to integrated cushioning bumpers at box corners. Further, the automated packaging technology increases customers' productivity. The integrated packaging enables a five-fold increase in operator throughput. Operators simply insert products—the machine automates all other steps in the packaging process. Lastly, the machine is integrated with labeling solutions for the in-line application of shipping labels, and because it uses blanks to form the packages, Flap’it! eliminates the need to store multiple box sizes in inventory.
NED: What industries or applications are ideal for Flap’it!?
LS: The Flap’it! solution is ideal for e-commerce and logistics operations such as B2C sellers of books, photo books, personalized gifts, music, games, art, and small electronics and for B2B operations shipping smaller spare parts. B2C sellers of some beauty and personal care products will also find this packing solution highly valuable. Flap’it! easily fits into a typical pick-then-pack process and can package products with a maximum height of 80 millimeters (3.15 inches).
NED: Can companies of any size benefit from this type of system?
LS: Large and small companies alike can easily integrate Flap’it! into their operations. The system is run by a single operator and can easily be moved around the facility; additionally, it includes a number of safety features and has a small physical footprint, ensuring ease of use.
NED: Can you tell me about the onboarding e-learning module?
LS: Flap’it! onboarding is easy and fast thanks to its intuitive operation and e-learning module. And integrated safety light curtains make operations both simple and safe. Because the only required training is via an e-learning module, new employees can be onboarded quickly and seamlessly.
NED: What was the biggest challenge when developing Flap’it!?
LS: Our most significant challenge when developing Flap’it! was getting our customers to think “outside of the box.” We needed to convince our users that our cross-packaging is a much better option than the traditional solution. This is due to our ability to offer a perfect packaging solution with high productivity compared to more traditional, manual packaging. Early feedback indicates that we have been able to overcome this hurdle as our customers seamlessly integrate Flap’it! into their operations and realize immediate efficiency benefits.