Side Load vs Top Load: Which Option is Best for Your Case and Tray Packing Machine ?

1 February 2023

When it comes to packing goods and products, the choice of machine between side load or top load ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the business. The key factors to consider when making this decision include the desired line speeds, the available space for the system, the nature of the products to be packaged, and the number of different SKUs the system will need to run. Generally speaking, side-load machines are more suitable for businesses looking to run 20 or more cases a minute, whereas top-load machines are a better fit for those prioritizing flexibility and labour savings over speed.

Side loader

The side-load case and tray packing machine offers several speed-related advantages, including the ability to handle all three critical packing functions of erecting, filling, and sealing, to provide a fully integrated solution. This design is also faster than top-load as the product is filled into the cases directly, instead of being picked up by robots and dropped into the case as is the case in top-load machines. The side-load design is a popular choice among large converted paper and tissue manufacturers that run the same application 24/7 and are looking to pack cases as quickly as possible. For example, our side-load machine can pack beer packs at rates of between 20 to 30 cases per minute.

Top loader

On the other hand, depending on your business’ size, a top-load case and tray packing machine may be the better option. These machines offer several advantages for all kind of businesses, from small-to-medium sized manufacturers to larger ones. It includes flexibility, a small footprint, and labour savings. Typically, a top-load machine operates at speeds of around 12 to 15 cases per minute and uses either a servo-driven gantry system or robots to pick and place product into cases. This design is flexible due to the different end-of-arm tooling options that allow it to pack a wide variety of SKUs for the industries. Our top loader from ET-PACK Sprinter allow you to chose the production rate you need, up to 200 cases/min ! In addition, top-load machines take up very little space on the plant floor, making them an ideal choice for smaller businesses.

top load enopac automatic packing machine

For manual hand-packing operations, switching to a top-load case and tray packing machine can provide significant labour savings. Hand-packing operations can require as many as 10 employees, but with an automated top-load system, the entire operation can be run by just one or two people. This can help businesses overcome the challenges posed by the ongoing labour shortage and make it easier to hire and retain employees.

The recent release of the top load box erector and closer ETPACK SPRINTER is a great example of a top-load case and tray packing machine that was designed with simplicity in mind. This machine requires minimal adjustability during changeovers from one product to another, with the end-of-arm tooling adjusting automatically. An operator simply inputs the recipe or SKU they want to run, and the controls make the necessary modifications. This is in contrast to traditional case and tray packing machines, which typically require multiple change parts to be replaced and adjusted for different SKUs.

A top-load case and tray packing solution is also an ideal choice for e-commerce applications, which are expected to grow in the coming years. E-commerce sales accounted for 13.3% of all retail sales in the United States in Q2 of 2021, according to, and are expected to reach $5.4 trillion globally in 2022. As online shopping continues to grow, so too does the demand for converted paper products. In this context, a machine like the 4000TL is well-suited to accommodate e-commerce sales, which are generally smaller runs with fewer individual rolls.


In conclusion, the choice between a side-load or a top-load machine for packing products is dependent on several factors, including desired line speeds, the footprint of the available space, the products to be packaged, and the number of different SKUs to be run. Generally, a side-load machine is preferred for high-speed applications running 20 cases or more per minute, while a top-load machine is better for low-speed applications, offering flexibility, a small footprint, and labor savings. Additionally, top-load machines are well-suited for e-commerce applications as they can handle multiple SKUs in smaller case sizes. Ultimately, the choice between a side-load or a top-load machine depends on the specific needs of the manufacturer and the application they are running.

We are here to guide and help you chose the right solution that fits your needs, contact us for a free of charge quotation.

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