How to Choose Cannabis Packaging Equipment — 3 Critical Steps

When it comes to the future of cannabis packaging, anything is possible. With the allowance of commercial-scale production facilities and ever-changing state laws, opportunity exists to leverage automated packaging machines to increase operating efficiency—and more importantly, save time and the cost of labor.

Choosing a cannabis packaging machine can be a daunting process, especially since marijuana flower possesses several unique challenges.  For example, it varies in both density and size.  THC also promotes stickiness between buds and machinery components.  All of these issues make reapplication of existing packaging systems problematic.

In addition, customers demand ‘no underweight’ packages. This is a rare complexity because many machines are built for the food industry which tolerate slight underweights and mainly focuses on achieving average target weight—not adequate for packaging cannabis without significantly impacting profits.  Retailers also demand small batch orders which limit a processor’s ability to run large batches efficiently.

When you’re considering a packaging machine for cannabis it is important to understand that most commercial solutions struggle at the small gram package sizes of 1 to 3.5-grams, there are two specific challenges in small gram production—1) The inconsistency of cannabis itself, and 2) the machine’s capability to weigh hundredths of a gram accurately.  But, the benefit of identifying a machine capable of small gram packaging provides the opportunity to achieve significant cost savings by reducing giveaway and increasing labor productivity (bags/hour).
The important watch out when choosing packaging machines is the assumption that high speed machines can package 1 gram sizes as well as 7 grams or more.  During buyers investigation into machine capabilities it is recommended to focus 1, 2 and 3.5-gram performance.  Packaging solutions for 7 grams or more are available but are not generally capable of small gram size production.  Profit enhancing cost savings from reduced labor and giveaway are significantly greater with small gram machine production.  Keeping this in mind will help to quickly pare down the packaging machine options that meet your business needs.
Depending on the needs and budget of the producer, there are machines that can minimize a company’s dependency on labor for weighing, sorting and packaging product.  Before you decide on a machine, consider these critical evaluation steps:
  1. Clarify Your Business Needs
  2. Investigate Suppliers & Capabilities
  3. See it in Action
STEP 1 – Confirm Business Needs
Before perusing the internet looking for the answer to jump out, I recommend you first clarify the question, What do we need?
What packaging capabilities are required for your business?  What package weights, accuracy and approximate quantity per month are needed?  Answering these questions prior to calling suppliers will help a great deal.  This can be accomplished by estimating the package weights and percentage of production orders (i.e. 1-gram 20%, 2-gram 60% and 3.5-gram 20%).  Knowing this arms you with the data needed to be specific with suppliers when requesting performance specifications.  Remember, if a majority of your production is small gram packages, a high-speed and inaccurate large bag machine is a bad investment, especially since small bag production is the most labor intensive and costly due to giveaway.
STEP 2 – Investigate Suppliers & Their Capabilities
After determining your business needs you are ready to investigate suppliers.  So, make a list of all the suppliers your interested in and the key questions you need to get answered.  You will then be ready to call suppliers.
Key questions to ask:
  1. Packaging Capability – Does the machine package or weigh, sort and fill 1, 2 or 3.5-gram packages? at what quoted speeds? Small gram package sizes of 1, 2, & 3.5-gram are challenging with automated packaging machines.  When suppliers answer yes they can packaging small sizes, then ask the following to clarify how well:
    • What weight range can be specified?  i.e. 2.0-2.05?
    • What percentage of production will achieve that range?  i.e. 95%
    • What percentage under the package target weight occurs? i.e. 2% underweights?
    • What percentage over the maximum ( i.e. 2.05) can you expect?
  2. Accuracy – How does it accurately minimize expensive cannabis giveaway?  Accurately minimizing expensive cannabis giveaway will maximize cost savings.  It is also one of those terms that can confuse and convolute the selection process.  Basically, all that should be of concern is the capability to achieve specified target weight range.  Achieving target weight with an upper limit or maximum of 0.05 grams above delivered in the package is a good place to start.  Cost of inaccuracy adds up quickly; every 1% of giveaway at $3 a gram is $1,362 of value per 100 pounds packaged.
  3. Speed – How fast does it package 1, 2 & 3.5-gram packages? This is an important question, but just as important is the weight range achieved 95% of the time at those quoted speeds.  Claims that machines can package “any size” at high speed should be scrutinized and met with extreme skepticism.  Knowing both the speed and accuracy capability provides a basis of comparison to differentiate the options.
  4. Labor – How many people does it require to package at quoted rate? (bag/hr/person)?  Knowing this provides a basis of comparison between machines.  Remember, if it takes three people to produce 500 bags per hour, that is an equivalent of 166 bags per hour/per person.  If another machine produces 166 bags per hour with one person, it has the same productivity.
  5. ROI – What is the potential return on investment?  A monthly or annual minimum savings calculation is recommended to determine if the purchase is financially advantageous.  Total savings has two components; reduced give-away & labor.  Together these improve overall profitability.
  6. Service – Is a service plan offered and at what cost?
As the supplier begins to answer your questions, I recommend keeping them focused on providing small bag size packaging performance specifications. Doing this helps ensure the machine can first meet your business priorities prior to discussing additional capabilities.
BudBot RobotSTEP 3 – See It In Action
Next step is attending a live demonstration. Request one because there is no substitute for seeing it yourself and inspecting what you expect.  But the key is focusing on key performance specifications you expect.  How to have a successful demonstration?
  • Request ahead of time to see package production in the weight range you need.  (i.e. 2.00 – 2.05 gram).    Asking prior to the demonstration provides suppliers time to prepare and ensures you will see a demonstration relevant to your business needs.
  • Weigh samples yourself – Verifying capability yourself is important.  Be prepared by bringing a scale and personally inspect what you expect by opening bags and weighing the contents.  This is the whole point of the demonstration!  Believe it or not, I have heard of customers never weighing a single sample during the demonstration to confirm it works.

To learn more about high speed accurate small gram packaging or to request a live demonstration, contact BudBot at  http://budbotrobot.com/contact-us/.