As labour shortages across the supply chain hit the front pages, the cry goes up from the more excitable elements of the media to ‘save Christmas’. Unfortunately, as businesses and politicians are beginning to realise, the skills and labour crisis is of long standing and won’t be properly resolved in three months by any number of quick fixes. By Jo Bradley, Business Development Manager, Sparck Technologies (formerly Packaging by Quadient)

Jo Bradley, Business Development Manager, Sparck Technologies.

If the Prime Minister is right in his aspiration for a high skill, high wage, high productivity economy, that must require business to close the gap on our competitors in the application of automation – as the Chancellor has recognised by supersizing Capital Allowances.

Nowhere is this more true than in the fulfilment and distribution operations of e-commerce, which now represents over a quarter of retail activity and is being afflicted by shortages not only of drivers but of pickers and packers as well. Judicious application of automation to packing stations is an essential element in resolving the labour crisis, not just in the warehouse, but on the road.

No one would claim that packing goods into cardboard boxes is a highly skilled career, but nor is it straightforward.

CVP Automated Packaging Solutions from Sparck Technologies – the new name for Packaging by Quadient – create ‘right-size’ boxes in seconds by scanning and measuring the goods, whether they be single or multi-item orders, cutting to size and erecting the box, sealing, weighing, and labelling automatically.

With CVP Impack, one or two operators can pack up to 500 parcels an hour; with the CVP Everest, two operators can pack 1,100 an hour. On average this replaces up to 20 manual packing stations, which in tight times for staffing means not just savings on packer and supervisor wages, but recruitment, training and HR costs too.

The labour benefits of automated packing can be felt not just in the distribution centre but out on the road as well. Less wasteful, more compact packages mean a higher density of saleable goods, rather than fresh air, on the vehicle, be this a 44-tonner on a trunk route or, more acutely, the small vehicles that are commonly used on last mile and urban delivery.

Ideally, a vehicle on a delivery round would leave the depot with all the packages to be delivered in a full shift. But very often this isn’t possible, and the driver has to make several trips back to ‘restock’. That is a lot of empty running, creating unnecessary congestion and emissions.

More information on Sparck Technologies’ CVP Packaging Solutions at

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