PPMA Show 2023 ‘as good as it’s ever been’

ANOTHER PPMA Show is in the books, with organisers hailing the 2023 edition of the long-running event for processing equipment, packaging machinery, industrial robots and vision systems a ‘major success’.

More than 300 exhibitors made their way to the NEC Birmingham to showcase the latest products and innovations to hit the market.

Visitor registrations were described as exceeding those of the previous years, while show director Richard Little commented that the exhibition was ‘as good as it’s ever been’ following three days of busy aisles and a packed seminar programme featuring an expert speaker line-up which included Cassandra Stavrou from PROPER Snacks, Chris Corkan from Make UK, Dimitrios Spiliopoulos from Amazon Web Services, and Ross Verrall of NVIDIA EMEA.

Cassandra Stavrou

The exhibitor line-up included Scott Automation, a supplier of palletising solutions for the food and drink sector, with representatives from the firm on hand to discuss its portfolio including the latest PAL 4.0 palletiser range.

Director Reg Woods told Packaging Scotland that automation was a key theme at the exhibition. “Everybody’s trying to get something that takes labour out of the system,” he said, adding that a shortage of staff and challenges over employee retention were causing stability issues in production lines.

Reg described the market as ‘very competitive’, with the food industry experiencing a lot of cost pressures, which are working their way down to the suppliers. “We’re in the business of supplying equipment to the suppliers,” Reg added. “We’re offering stability in their costs. The costs of running our system don’t increase significantly – they know what they’ve got on their hands for the next five-ten years. That’s a big factor at the moment.”

Reg said making contact with new customers was the main priority at PPMA, followed closely with doing more business with existing customers. He still sees huge value in trade shows where people learn about new ideas and discuss challenges. “If someone has something they need to do, they’ll come here to find a solution,” he stated.

Flying the flag for Scotland was Peebles-based Evolution BPS, which had a P.E. Labellers CM modular labeller on the stand for the first time. Susan Brown, sales and marketing manager, said, “We’ve got two stations on it, but it can go up to six. The machine can handle 9,000 bottles an hour. Beyond that we’ve got another modular solution that will go to a higher speed if that’s what the customer needs.”

Evolution was joined for spells at PPMA by colleagues from weight filling equipment pioneers Serac and end-of-line equipment manufacturer TMG.

“We’re talking about our other suppliers too – MBF for liquid filling, Logics & Controls for inspection, and Robino & Galandrino for secondary sealing,” Susan added,

“Investment seems to be really strong at the moment. There’s a lot of new lines going in, and a lot of high-speed going on as well, which is great.”

In terms of trends, Susan revealed customers are continuing to look for increased quality, while sustainability remains high on the agenda.

“It’s all about the premium product and making sure that what’s inside the bottle is represented accurately on the outside,” she explained. “We’re working ourselves on making sure that we’re starting to deliver on improved green credentials, working with our whole supply chain because that’s the key thing. We’re working closely with manufacturers to deliver the sustainability the customers are asking for.”

The main focus for Evolution at a show like PPMA is lead generation, with such events often forming the starting point for new customer relationships. “It’s all about relationship building,” Susan said. “If people come along and meet us and like what they see, they’ll keep in touch.”

ATS Packaging had a major presence at the show with two stands showcasing the company’s range of machinery. The line-up included the firm’s end of line Spray Trigger Capping System, which is described as offering a complete spray trigger feeding, capping, robotic cartoning/packing/sealing and palletising solution.

ATS also displayed its FBL range of jar lidding and filling machines for the food and drink sector; GMS versatile bottle unscramblers; and automated pallet wrapping machines from the newly established Matco International UK.

Richard Aitchison, technical sales and product manager, told of the importance of providing a ‘complete turnkey solution’ for customers. “If you want to make the liquid, fill it, cap it, label it, pack it, palletise it, wrap it, (ATS has a solution). A lot of the big companies see a lot of benefit in that.”

Elsewhere, AM Labels reported an ‘incredibly positive reaction’ to its label applicators after the firm demonstrated the newest addition to its portfolio, the LabelPack Panda print and apply system. Sales and marketing manager Brendon Bass said, “We had plenty of interest in the label applicators on our stand, with numerous businesses looking to source solutions that can streamline their operations. The overall outcome for us at AM Labels is that it was undoubtedly the most successful trade show at which we have exhibited since before the pandemic. We look forward to a prosperous 2024 PPMA Show.”

Coding and marking systems manufacturers Videojet + Clearmark (ICE) celebrated the first year anniversary as one business, showcasing a full suite of primary, secondary and tertiary equipment. Since joining forces in September 2022, Videojet + Clearmark have combined their strengths to offer tailored solutions covering the entire manufacturing process, encompassing the integration of various printing, coding, and marking processes.

The stand included a selection of printers and labellers, such as the Videojet 1580 C, a dedicated soft-pigmented contrast CIJ printer designed to print non-fading codes with a ‘consistent and quality’ contrast.

Ishida Europe arrived in Birmingham with three products from its weighing and inspection portfolio. The recently-launched next generation CCW-AS multihead weigher, Fresh Food Weigher (FFW) and advanced entry-level IX-EN X-ray inspection system are said to demonstrate Ishida’s ability to help businesses tackle challenges including food safety, labour shortages, and ever-higher customer expectations.

Fortress Technology Europe launched the hygienic Raptor inline checkweigher, designed for automated raw ingredient processing lines. The solution is said to give bakery, meat, seafood and prepared food manufacturers an efficient weighing system that connects to upstream portion control equipment.

OMRON, meanwhile, marked 90 years of technological advancements with a display designed to exemplify how machine builders and end users can achieve efficiency and uptime improvements through the deployment of AI in two ‘crucial’ areas: intelligent machine control and fault detection and remediation using augmented reality.

Brillopak unveiled its next generation systems – the UniPAKer II, PunnetPAKer II and TrayPAKer II – which the manufacturer said are 25% cheaper and smaller than their predecessors and have a build time of less than eight weeks, but still maintain the same build quality, speed, consistency and repeatable pack presentation in crates and cases.

One of many UK debuts at PPMA was the IMA ILAPAK Vegatronic 2000 ML. Boasting a ‘sanitary design, great accessibility and variety of pack styles’, the machine is aimed at the IQF food, produce and dairy markets. The system deliberately has fewer added value features than other models in the Vegatronic range to ensure it is affordable for food manufacturers who are under pressure to minimise costs during a time of high food price inflation.

Following the conclusion of the opening day of PPMA Show 2023, Packaging Scotland was fortunate to be in attendance at the prestigious PPMA Group Industry Awards, which saw prizes handed out to Cobalt Systems (Innovative Processing System category); Ishida Europe (Innovative Packaging Machinery); Epson UK (Innovative Robotics Solution); Scorpion Vision (Innovative Vision Solution); and i-Mark UK (Outstanding Customer Service).

Festo’s Olivia Harrison-Hine was named Apprentice of the Year after demonstrating a ‘constantly improving skill set and leadership potential beyond her years’.

The awards were handed out at a gala dinner, which included entertainment from comedian Rob Beckett and Britain’s Got Talent finalists Jack Pack.

Organisers have confirmed that PPMA Show 2024 will take place from September 24-26 at the NEC Birmingham.