Robotic packing: What it is and how it works

April 30, 2024
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What is robotic packing exactly?

Robotic packing refers to the use of robotic arms and grippers to automatically pick, orient, and place products into packaging at high speeds. 

These robotic systems use advanced machine vision and AI to pinpoint the location, orientation, and attributes of objects on a moving conveyor belt. They then pick up the items and place them accordingly. 

Robotic packing is often integrated into larger automated packaging lines. Products move down a conveyor where they are detected by vision systems.

How do robotic packing solutions work?

Let’s take a look at how these robotic packing solutions work: 

  • Robotic arms or conveyor belts transport products to packing stations where robots gently grasp and manipulate them to place into shipping boxes or containers.
  • Their grippers, or end-effectors, snatch products from a conveyor line using suction cups or mechanical grips. They can pick a variety of shapes and sizes at high speeds. Robotic arms then transport and sort the products for packing into the appropriate boxes or containers. 

    (Some systems use conveyor belts to automatically move products into packing formations that the robots can easily access.)
  • At the packing station, robotic arms equipped with advanced vision systems scan and analyze the products to determine the optimal packing orientation and arrangement. They then carefully place the products into the boxes or containers to maximize space. 

Packaging robots in action: Real-world use-cases

Unsurprisingly, these robots are already widely used in the real world. 

Here are some industries that are seeing massive gains from robotic packing: 

The auto industry

Some of the earliest adopters of robotic packaging were major auto manufacturers. When producing thousands of vehicles per day, efficiency and precision are like oxygen.

Robotic packagers handle tasks like wrapping protective film around car doors and loading packaged components onto pallets for shipping. 

Food and drink companies 

For food companies, maintaining freshness and hygiene is priority numero uno. Robotic packagers are perfect in these controlled environments. They can quickly and hygienically place food items into packages, seal and label them, and palletize boxes for distribution. 

Many drink companies also use packaging robots to handle bottling, capping, and creating six-packs or cases in their production lines. 


The massive volume of products being shipped by e-commerce retailers has fueled greater demand for automated packaging solutions. Packaging robots can pick items from a conveyor belt or shelves, determine the right box size, place the item inside along with any padding or inserts needed, and seal and label the box for shipping. 

Some systems even print custom shipping labels and invoices to streamline the workflow. The always-on operation of these robotic packagers allows e-commerce companies to meet tight shipping deadlines, especially during peak periods.

Benefits of robotic packing

Robotic packing offers several advantages over traditional manual packing methods. 

Let’s take a look: 

  • Massive cost slashing. Robotic packers reduce costs in the long run. Although the initial investment in the equipment is typically high, businesses save money through lower labor costs, reduced waste, and fewer errors. Robotic packers eliminate the additional expenses of employee benefits, sick days, and turnover. Plus, they have a sweet ROI of just 1-3 years. 
  • Things get safer overall. Robotic packing improves workplace safety by reducing injuries associated with repetitive tasks. Packing lines can be dangerous places, and robotic packers eliminate risks like cuts, back strains, and repetitive motion injuries. 
  • Higher quality and consistency become the norm. Robotic packers produce higher quality, more consistent packaging than human workers. They apply the same technique precisely the same way for every item. This results in neat, uniform packaging that is securely sealed to keep products protected. 
  • Reprogrammability. While robotic packers are great at repetitive tasks, they’re also highly flexible. They can be reprogrammed to run different packaging for various products. Their operation can also be easily scaled up or down to meet changes in production volume. Some robotic packers are even mobile, which means you can shift them between different production lines. 
  • Productivity and efficiency rise. Robotic packing solutions can pack products at superhuman speeds, ranging from 50 to over 500 items per minute, depending on complexity. They operate continuously with minimal downtime, allowing warehouses and distribution centers to achieve higher throughput and productivity.
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The challenges and limitations of robotic packing

Robotic packing is great, but it’s not perfect. 

Let’s take a look at some of the challenges that come with packing robots: 

  • Still not 10/10 when it comes to skill. While robotic grippers and arms have come a long way, they still struggle with high-dexterity tasks that need a human touch. For instance, when packing irregularly shaped, fragile, or soft items may still be a point of contention for anything but the most advanced bots.

    Many robotic packers also have difficulty handling a wide range of product sizes in the same process.

    They work best when the items to be packed are consistent in size and shape.
  • Not so great on the fly. Robotic packing systems are programmed to perform specific, repetitive tasks very efficiently. However, they lack the flexibility that human packers have to adapt to changes on the fly. If there are updates to the packing process or materials, the robotic packing system will need reprogramming.

    This can require additional time and resources to implement compared to training human workers — but that’s not always the case. 
  • There’s a real impact on human labor. Although robotic packers aim to take over more mundane, repetitious stuff, their use can still significantly impact human jobs. While some new types of jobs, like robot operators and programmers, may be created, many traditional packing roles may disappear.

    This can have major implications both for individuals and the overall economy. So, companies need to consider how to implement robotic automation in a way that maximizes benefits but doesn’t leave people in the street. 

Summing up

Now you know the basics of robotic packing: What it is, how it works, seeing it in action, the good stuff, and the not-so-good. 

While the technology is not perfect yet, it’s evolving and changing by the minute, and it’s rapidly outpacing humans in most (if not all) productivity metrics. 

For now, though, it’s exciting to think about what the future may hold

Next steps

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  • Cutting-edge tech, budget-friendly price: RO1 delivers the features you need for streamlined operations at 50% of its closest competitors. 
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  • Designed for safe teamwork: Sophisticated sensors and machine vision features empower you to work confidently alongside RO1.
  • Easy to use: RO1's user-friendly interface and intelligent AI on par with GPT-4 take the complexity out of automation with a simple no-code framework. 

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