Packaging machinery is used throughout all packaging operations, involving primary packages to distribution packs. This includes many packaging processes: fabrication, cleaning, filling, sealing, combining, labeling, overwrapping, palletizing.
Some packaging operations cannot be accomplished without packaging equipment. For example many packages include heat seals to prepare or seal a package. Heat sealers are needed, even in slow labor-intensive operations.
With many industries, the effectiveness of the heat seal is critical to product safety so the heat sealing operation must closely controlled with documented Verification and validation protocols. Food, drug, and medical regulations require consistent seals on packages. Proper equipment is needed.
Packaging operations can be designed for variable package sizes and forms or for handling only uniform packages, where the machinery or packaging line is adjustable between production runs. Certainly slow manual operations allow workers to be flexible to package variation but also some automated lines can handle significant random variation.
Moving from manual operations, through semi-automatic operations to fully automated packaging lines offers advantages to some packagers. Other than the obvious control of labor costs, quality can be more consistent, and throughput can be optimized.
Efforts at packaging line automation increasingly use programmable logic controllers  and robotics.
Large fully automatic packaging lines can involve several pieces of major equipment from different manufactures as well as conveyors and ancillary equipment. Integrating such systems can be a challenge. Often consultants or external engineering firms are used to coordinate large projects.
Choosing packaging machinery includes an assessment of technical capabilities, labor requirements, worker safety, maintainability, serviceability, reliability, ability to integrate into the packaging line, capital cost, floorspace, flexibility (change-over, materials, multiple products, etc.), energy requirements, quality of outgoing packages, qualifications (for food, pharmaceuticals, etc.), throughput, efficiency, productivity, ergonomics, return on investment, etc.
Packaging machinery can be:
In addition to purchasing equipment, leasing options are often attractive.
Machinery must be compatible with the expected operating conditions. For example, cold temperature operations require special considerations. Some industries must perform periodic washdowns of all equipment. This high pressure chemical washing puts special demands on machinery and control systems.  Condensation within closed portions of machinery can also be problematic.
Machinery needs to keep control of the product being packaged. For example, powders need to be stable, liquids cannot slosh out , etc.
Some manufacturers decide not to do their own packaging but to employ contract packagers to perform all or some operations. Capital, labor, and other costs are outsourced.
Packaging machines may be of the following general types:
Packaging is necessary to protect products, and is now done mainly through the use of packaging machinery. Machinery plays increasingly important roles such as: