How Much Does a Packaging Machine Cost? A Modern Pricing Guide

By Mike Terry
Posted In : cost, packaging machine cost, packaging equipment cost, packaging equipment price, packaging machine price, packaging system price
FS400 machine

How much does a packaging machine cost?

The unsatisfying answer to that very simple question is: “it depends.”

Your initial investment is predicated on various elements unique to your production: packaging parameters and requirements, packaging application, product specs, budget, physical plant space, and so much more. When purchasing packaging equipment, these elements play a vital role in the overall equation, allowing you to dictate the terms of the purchase price according to what you need.  

And the truth is, you should.

Your Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) partner should provide you with customized packaging equipment options to optimize your productivity, throughput, and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) over your system’s lifespan, while simultaneously lowering your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

If the OEMs quoting you prices can’t live up to those expectations, or they can’t explain precisely HOW their equipment will accomplish this, they may be simply trying to offer you the lowest bid. These gaps should register a red flag with you, indicating you may not be getting the quality or Return on Investment (ROI) necessary to justify the cost.


One essential fact to remember is:

“The price of your packaging equipment, while important, should never be the deciding factor when investing in the right application for your operations.”

The “sticker shock” alone will influence your choices and leave you in the obvious trap many consumers fall into: opting for the lowest price.

Instead, focus on long-term cost savings, not just through direct and tangible revenue opportunities but by the maximum reduction of your annual expenses.

By this, we mean perfecting system performance.

Opting for superior machinery means packaging at higher speeds and achieving higher throughput. As a result, you can run more packages in any given cycle than standard or lesser equipment and offset price differentials from the onset through tangible and quantifiable results.

What kind of results? To start, delving beyond upfront investment and choosing higher-quality packaging machinery allows you to run 20% more (on avg.) packages on your line, guaranteeing higher throughput over the life of your system.


System performance is key, but how do you define “superior packaging equipment?” What does it have to do with packaging equipment costs? And, if costs depend on individual production, are other factors influencing price?


But first, let’s define “superior packaging equipment” as machinery that may have a potentially higher initial investment but also offers better value. Next, understand that each will influence the cost of your investment – raising it or lowering it by turn. Yet each will also provide you with the greatest value, shortening your ROI schedule and helping you save more on your investment over time.

Robust Machine Design

Packaging equipment costs often come down to machine design and how packaging machine features interact with products. Opting for robust design over a possibly less expensive yet weaker construction is proven to yield:

  •         Improved Cycle Times
  •         Better Package Consistency
  •         Faster Run Speeds with Various Materials
  •         Enhanced OEE
  •         Less Wear and Tear on The Equipment

For instance, with thermoforming equipment, lesser quality machines do not preheat film prior to forming, instead completing the heating process over the forming station and adding time. This process increases cycle time overall and makes the film flexibility very limited.

Superior machinery preheats the film at an alternate station and then advances to form the package. This enhanced process not only improves the amount of heat that gets into the film, as you’re heating both sides, but it also allows you to run a wide variety of materials within that operating system.

For a thermoforming system that can cost between $120,000 and $1.2 million, these and other features directly impact the system’s price.

Equipment Range

Like robust design, equipment range and the associated mechanical complexity determine price. You can select entry-level options for your packaging line and get a broad, affordable, customized equipment range to meet your production needs.

However, as you add line elements – product loading, ancillary equipment, secondary packaging, full packaging automation, or palletizing – the costs will increase, reflecting those changes. This stage is also where value adds grow proportionally, offsetting the cost of your initial investment over time.

Price becomes a secondary consideration as TCO lowers, and annual labor savings and ROI can begin to grow by up to $560,000 in less than three years.

When superior flow wrapping systems have an average cost between $85,000 and $490,000, those annual savings and ROI make all the difference.

Present & Future Production Capacity

Along with range, speed, size and output, capacity can also be a determining factor. If you are producing a single consistent product within traditional parameters, you’re unlikely to evolve your operations with investment in advanced packaging innovations. Opting for smaller, entry-level equipment makes sense, as it saves more on TCO, material costs, plant space, and technology expenditures.

However, with the advent of the Digital 4.0 revolution, designing your systems for optimized flexibility, scalability, and Smart Connected machinery integration may be a priority. Opting for more robust design and advanced capabilities will have an impact on your investment, as you spend to meet your current operational needs, future growth, and an increased capacity.

Packaging Machine Quality & Longevity

As we have seen from previous evidence, sanitary machine design also plays a vital role in any packaging machine system’s quality, lifespan, and performance.

Customizing your hygienic design at cost, instead of opting for simple washdown capabilities, allows you to remove and clean machine tooling individually. This process eliminates contamination and product recall risks (a matter of millions of dollars), offers significant annual repair and part replacement savings, and extends the longevity of your packaging machine by up to ten years.

Maintenance & Repair Costs

“What are the overall maintenance costs for packaging equipment? How do those costs influence the overall TCO of my packaging system?”

These are imperative cost-related questions yet are often overlooked by producers looking to equip themselves with suitable packaging machinery.

The answers, like packaging machine costs in general, will always depend on the systems you’re comparing. Yet, the silver lining here is when selecting superior machinery from a trusted partner OEM, you know you will always have less unplanned downtime and fewer associated costs.

Even when you have planned downtime, the superior system will cost less in terms of fixes and/or repairs, as there are fewer moving parts and minor wear and tear.

For example, many machines rely on traditional pneumatics vs. servo parts. These common failure parts – air cylinders, air bladders, heating elements, etc. – will break down over time, causing you to repair or replace them at your own expense.

Superior packaging machine design eliminates these parts, replacing them with more durable and reliable components, offering better system performance, lower annual costs, and an in-depth understanding of savings derived from potentially higher-priced equipment.

Rockwell Automation & Allen Bradley Controls

In addition to more durable components, superior flow wrapping equipment, thermoforming machinery, and other equipment will have advanced built-in features such as Rockwell Automation, and the Allen-Bradley® Integrated Architecture™ controls platform.

Rockwell LogoThese widely recognized systems create harmonious operation between new and existing packaging machinery components through the Human Machine Interface (HMI) and provide significant savings for parts and labor.

More than handshaking from the HMI, these state-of-the-art components also allow for open-source part resourcing, meaning you can purchase necessary parts from local industry suppliers. Lesser equipment may offer a lower price but doesn’t necessarily offer these components or capabilities.

For example, if you experience a failure on your production line, you can source your parts locally to get your equipment back up and running faster. However, if you order components from a specific supplier, you must wait at least 24 hours to get those parts.

Let’s examine the costs of those 24 hours with ten employees on a production line:

10 employees per shift x $24 per hour (on avg.) x 3 eight-hour shifts = 

= $5760 total of unplanned downtime and stranded labor costs

That cost doesn’t seem significant at first glance; maybe it even comes across as the cost of doing business. But multiply those instances across 260-300 working days per year. Your expenditures in stranded labor and unplanned downtime are now potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars and could have easily been avoided.

How does that compare to the price differential between lesser and superior packaging machine systems?

Material Costs

Like parts and service, materials feature prominently in your pricing and purchasing decisions. When discussing actual packaging costs, you must always consider how only superior equipment can reduce material expenditures year over year.

When comparing flow wrap machine packaging to thermoforming, for example, superior machinery will cut material usage in half in many instances. A thermoform packaging machine uses a top and bottom film to package many of the same products, and sourcing both those films in today’s marketplace can be costly and time-consuming.

Switching to a superior flow wrapping machine, which uses one film and offers the same Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), facilitates material conservation without sacrificing packaging quality. You also get a boost in productivity and, therefore, higher potential revenue, as superior flow wrapping equipment can provide a higher throughput than many existing and less expensive thermoforming machines.

Scalability & Digital 4.0

An investment in superior packaging machinery is not limited to present production. Spending more at the onset for superior packaging systems offers future benefits regarding cutting-edge innovation and scalability.

Connected MachinesConsider the advent of Digital 4.0. Machinery is more interconnected than ever before, providing automatic packaging system operation and service assistance from anywhere in the world. Packaging capabilities are becoming more advanced, sustainable, and adaptable to market and consumer trends. Customers are looking towards the horizon and following OEMs brave enough to embrace this digital technology as far as it will go.

With a superior packaging system, you are in the best position to adopt and integrate these trends in real-time as they become commercially viable and utilize your packaging flexibility to streamline production. Moreover, you put your customers in a better position to reduce product time to market and benefit from everything advanced digital capabilities can offer.

The alternative? Spend less initially at purchase then constantly play catchup to the newest packaging system innovations, purchasing new equipment every 5-10 years to replace inefficient or outdated machinery and detract from your bottom line.


Pricing for packaging systems is complex. Unlike any other retail experience, your investment is completely customized to your unique production, parameters, requirements, and vision for the future.

With this customization, the right budgeting, and foresight, you can optimize your operations for decades. But you cannot, and should not, do it alone.

Schedule a consultation with our experts at Harpak-ULMA Packaging to discuss your packaging needs. We have the knowledge, experience, and superior single-source packaging equipment inventory to help you prepare for and realize present and future success.

We’ll help you overcome the common “sticker shock” that can lead to poor purchasing decisions, provide real-world insights on today’s top packaging applications, and give you detailed TCO analyses and data to ensure ideal performance and ROI.

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