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Types of Packaging and Automatic Packaging Machines

Whether to implement packaging automation for your business is not a simple two-fold issue of “YES” or “NO”. Before taking the decision to buy a packaging machine, it is essential to bear in mind what are those factors you should consider. In this article, we get your worries all covered in terms of whether to buy a packaging machine and what you should do and think about when taking this action.

Cartoning Machine Manufacturer - éliter packaging machinery

Topics: packaging machines, packaging automation

Questions to answer:

  • Why does a company need packaging machines?
  • What is the different packaging?
  • How to find the right packaging machine supplier?
  • Tips to evaluate your packaging machine supplier.



Why Business Needs Automation in Packaging?

Businesses that are involved in production and manufacturing, whichever industries they belong to such as food, beverage, drinks, dairy, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, personal care, and more… will inevitably bump into a decision whether to adopt the automation process for there activities from processing to packaging.

But… Why?

Automated Packaging Adds Value to Economies of Scale

The economies of Scale is a concept in microeconomics that explains the reducing unit costs with the number of goods produced increased into a large amount. To explain this concept further:

  • Economies of scale are a cost advantage when production efficiency is improved and then the costs can be divided among a large number of goods

The typical results and impact of economies of scale when it comes to automated packaging and process is that small companies that use manual work for packaging often see their products more expensive than those of large companies which adopt complete packaging automation processes.

economies of scale

Such a counterintuitive impression is due to the fact that large companies with comprehensive automation solutions for packaging and processing can produce goods more efficiently, or say,

  • More units of products in a defined unit of time
  • No escalation of payroll when it comes to large production (large payroll means more labor cost)

To view this issue from another point of view, a small company that employs people for packaging and processing will be faced with problems such as:

  • They need more and more people in order to escalate the productivity
  • People are picky and need rests, days off, and holidays, which further lags the production
  • Unit cost will increase as production escalates

Packaging Machines are more Flexible than People

Packaging machines are designed to automate a repetitive process. Now that things are mechanically built and joined by the programmed control system, packaging machines do not make mistakes as long as they are configured correctly.

Packaging machines can work around the clock, 7/24 and 365 days all around. Unlike people who only work 7 or 8 hours a day, packaging machines are set to go full steam ahead.

Packaging machines avoid packaging waste. While people will always make mistakes, packaging machines, once set in the right way and fed with the desired packages of material, will always make sure the packaging is without any diversion.

Packaging machines are more flexible for hygienic operation. In the food, dairy and beverages industries, hygiene is the utmost factor to be considered when it comes to processing, manufacturing and packaging. While people are probably considered as a source of contamination, packaging machines, given fine maintenance and clearing, avoids the human interference during production so as to keep the process as hygienic as possible.


Know about Packaging: The Very First Step

Do not be a headless chicken when buying a packaging machine!

As the very first step, you must know clearly what are the types of packaging as well as their characteristics so you can define what kinds of packaging machines you exactly need.

Define Packaging Based on its Levels, Materials, and Functions

The most common classification of the packaging is based on their levels. With this standard, the packaging is defined into three categories:

  • Primary packaging
  • Secondary packaging
  • Tertiary packaging

To understand what “levels” means here, let’s see an example.

Imagine a number of trays of ready meals, with food filled in trays, sealed by film, wrapped by cardboard sleeves, and then packed in a cardboard case.

case packing

In this case, the packaging can be divided into all the three kinds mentioned above:

  • the filling of food materials into the trays is the primary packaging
  • the tray sealing is the primary packaging
  • the wrap-around packaging of the cardboard sleeve is the secondary packaging
  • the case packing is the tertiary packaging

Or to view it in another way:

  • Primary packaging: filling of food materials, tray sealing
  • Secondary packaging: sleeve wrap-around packaging
  • Tertiary packaging: case packing


However, there are more different methods to categorize packaging, rather than according to their levels. Alternatively, packaging can also be distinguished in terms of the materials used or functions performed by the packaging when the products go along the supply chain. For example,

  • Define the packaging according to the materials
  • Kinds packaging according to its function


In the following content, we start by explaining packaging by levels, after which we will cover how to define packaging by materials and functions.

What is Primary Packaging? 

Primary packaging is the very first process of packaging that has direct contact with the content of the package.

Primary packaging is also referred to sometimes as the main packaging.

Imagine that the packaging is just like a pyramid, the primary packaging is the most important part that lays the essential foundation and basement so the other packaging can be added on. In another word, nothing and no more packaging would exist if there were no primary packaging.

pyramid of packaging
Some examples of primary packaging are as follows:

  • Filling of food materials into a tray
  • Beverages in glass jars or tins
  • Juice in glass bottles
  • Yogurt filled into plastic cups
  • Instant coffee powder packed in pouches or sticks
  • Tuna filled into a tin can

Here among these examples, we can find the primary packaging is basically: tin cans, trays, cups, pouches, bottles, etc., that have direct contact with the containment which will be consumed by people.

To put it in an easier way, and from the perspective of food and consumer goods, packaging that has contact with what people eat is the primary packaging.

What is Secondary Packaging?

Secondary packaging offers an extra layer of protection from the view of every single unit of the package.

While simple primary packaging is too spartan to withstand the probable damage during transport, logistics, and storage, secondary packaging adds another layer to protect the package from being tampered with.

Another role that secondary packaging plays is to offer an extra surface for branding, marketing and information display.

A very typical example is the cardboard sleeve that wraps a tray of microwavable meals. See below a picture of ambrosia’s microwavable vegan meals.

While primary packaging is the foundation of everything, secondary packaging is where companies play to be different from each other. That is to say, secondary packaging is more flexible to be customized into various shapes, sizes, and styles.

Amvrosia microwabale prepared meal

Another typical secondary packaging is the carton box. We can say that almost 90% percent of the products, no matter what industries they are from, are basically packed in carton boxes as secondary packaging. The reason that carton boxes are so popular with secondary packaging is that cartons can be designed in a wide variety of shapes and styles. The flap and closure panel structure of carton boxes also allows companies to design their very own styles of carton box packaging.

gable bag carton samples

Another special kind of secondary packaging is film wrapping, distinguished into two varieties: shrink wrapping, and overwrapping. Click the text to learn about overwrapping and shrink-wrapping and their differences.

tea and coffee overwrapping machinery


What is Tertiary Packaging?

In difference to secondary packaging that offers protection at the unit-of-package level, tertiary packaging protects the products in a massive way and grouped manner.

Case packing - tertiary packaging

Let’s see, in transport and logistics, the process will be facilitated when mountains of packages are grouped together so that handling and transportation involve fewer units of packages. This is the value that tertiary packaging brings to the distribution process along the supply chain.

Some examples of tertiary packaging are:

  • Case packing
  • Palletizing, pallet loading, and pallet wrapping


Find the Packaging Machine according to Packaging Levels

Once you have learned about the classifications of packaging, it is now to take action to find the packaging machines for your business.

In this part, we will only cover the part of secondary packaging now that ELITER Packaging Machinery is a manufacturer of a limited category and with specializations in secondary packaging only.

We will cover in this chapter, among secondary packaging, cartoning, overwrapping, and cardboard sleeve wrap-around packaging.

What Kinds of Packaging Machine do You Need: Cartoning Machines

cartoning machines

Cartoning machines take a considerable portion of the secondary packaging market now that carton boxes are the most commonly used form of secondary packaging. Based on the pattern of loading and motion, cartoning machines can be divided into various types:

Buy your first set of cartoning machine

By loading pattern:

  • Horizontal End-Load Cartoner
  • Vertical Cartoner
  • Top-Load Cartoner

By motion:

  • Intermittent Motion Cartoner
  • Continuous Motion Cartoner

We suggest you read our blog to learn more about cartoning machines.

What Kinds of Packaging Machine do You Need: Overwrapping Machines

Overwrapping machines are often complementary packaging machines added to the downstream of cartoning machines.

Though overwrapping is also considered as one of the secondary packagings, the fact that overwrapping is not essential packaging makes it a dispensable process and can be skipped among the packaging process. However, the features of overwrapping that adds to the sense of luxury and tidiness still make it a necessary packaging in some industries including tobacco, tea and cofee, cosmetics, etc.

We have covered in the past blog what are the details that all you need to know about overwrapping machines.

Shisha Tobacco Overwrapping Machine

What Kinds of Packaging Machine do You Need: Wrap-Around Sleever

If you are a patriot of sustainable packaging and especially if you are in the industry of food and beverage, then Wrap-around sleever is the packaging machine you may need.

Wrap-around sleever is alternatively referred to as wraparound sleever or wrap-around cartoner. Such a packaging machine is typically applied to the packaging automation of wrapping cardboard sleeves around various kinds of containers such as trays, tubs, pots, cups, etc., either in individual packages or in multipacks.

To learn more about wrap-around sleever, click on the anchor text above.

Sleeve Packaging Machine for Single Serve-Entrees


Find and Evaluate the Packaging Machine Manufacturer

Till this stage, you have known quite sufficiently about

  • What are the packaging classifications
  • What kind of packaging do you need
  • What kind of packaging machine do you need

The next step is to find a qualified supplier of the packaging machine you have figured out.

Make Sure you Find the Reliable Manufacturer

The purchase and implementation of a packaging machine is not a cheap deal. Think about the sunk costs and aftermath in the case that you bumped into an unreliable supplier who sold you crappy packaging machines for a big deal.

In this sense, it is of utmost importance that, before you take the decision to buy a packaging machine, you must make sure the supplier you are contacting is reliable, in the following aspects:

  • They are better the manufacturer: The packaging machines they sell should be what they actually produce
  • It would be better that they have references around your region or your industry.
  • They should be able to offer after-sales service, either by a regional partner or by themselves

We have covered in our past blog the buy packaging machines from China.

Evaluate the Manufacturer: Questions to Ask

Buying a packaging machine is not a once-for-all deal. Apart from the action of purchase, what people usually do not bear in mind is that the principal works and what to worry about lie in the after-sales parts.

In order to make sure that the supplier you are contacting is not a sales-focused only company, make sure to ask them the following questions:

  • Do they offer training?

Staff training is an essential part of the packaging machine’s maintenance all over its life cycle.

Employees at you company who will handle the operate the packaging machine should definitely know how to configure and calibrate in the right way the packaging machine installed. Make sure to ask your supplier whether they will offer lessons and training about maintenance, troubleshooting, operation, and basic knowledge around components either electrical or mechanical ones used on the machine.

  • Who will offer the technical services?

This is a very important question to ask. Some middlemen and trading companies that pretend to be the manufacturer will not be able to answer this question blatantly now that they are outsourcing randomly without any control.

On the contrary, a real manufacturer may probably offer technical services on their own or through a regional partner. Make sure that you have professionals from their side and maintain tight contact with them so as to get timely support and to avoid downtime with the packaging machine.

  • Ask for information on spare parts

Packaging machines are often built with both mechanical and electrical parts. In order to keep your packaging machine always in a ready-to-go status, you must have at your avail spare parts or at least a list of spare parts.

Why You Should Cut Out Trading Companies

In the above context, we mentioned the trading companies that pretend to be the manufacturer.

This is a critical topic especially if you are purchasing packaging machines from China.

We suggest you carefully deal with such kinds of companies because they can sometimes be disasters. And bear in mind, the fact they pretend to be the manufacturer and lie to you, no matter how they gloss over it, is no doubt a FRAUD.

To put it in a short way, the reasons you should try to avoid trading companies are:

  • They lie to you. Very simple and without any necessity to explain
  • They cut on the middle and block you from getting direct contact
  • Communications can deviate now that they are not the manufacturer and may not be professional enough with the topic
  • They outsource and resell without any control
  • They are often sales-oriented


Expect a Long-Term Partnership with your Supplier

The purchase of a packaging machine is more than a simple exchange of money for packaging equipment. Now that we have said in the above chapters that the most critical parts of buying a packaging machine come after the completion of the purchase.

At the very last step before you take the decision to buy the packaging machines, try to discuss and find whether you supplier of packaging machine is ready for a long-term partnership with your business:

  • Will they get you backed with preventive maintenance plans?
  • Are they confident in getting you covered with quick technical support and services?
  • Are they able to offer remote technical support? For example with augmented reality?
  • Will they conduct periodic audits of the packaging machine installed?
  • more…

Remote Assistance with Augmented Reality

Try to find out answers for these questions at the very last stage of negotiation with your supplier of packaging machines.

When they give them all green, it is now time to say “I am with it”


Contact ELITER Packaging Machinery for more Questions

At ELITER Packaging Machinery we believe in the power of being “true”.

With our code of conduct, we ensure you that as a family business and a manufacturer, we offer you what we are specialized in and what we really manufacture. In case that you still get questions about finding and taking a decision to buy packaging machines, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us at:


About the Authors

Zixin Yuan
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Zixin Yuan - LinkedIn

Zhiwei Bao
Company Owner
Zhiwei Bao - LinkedIn

About the Company
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery Co., Ltd
No.1088, Jing Ye Rd, Economic Development Zone, Dong Shan District, Ruian Wenzhou Zhejiang, China 325200
+86 (0577) 6668 2128
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery