A computational framework for the flexible packing of arbitrary planar shapes under visual control is described. Our aim in this work has been to produce an efficient packing strategy that is flexible enough for a wide variety of industrial uses and which can be implemented in fast, moderately priced hardware. We have deliberately adopted a systems approach, versus a purely algorithmic one, since we are concerned with industrial vision problems in which significant problem constraints exist. The packing procedure that we devised consists of two major components. The first is a geometric packing technique that is based on morphological image processing operations. This is used in conjunction with a heuristic packing procedure. Some of the factors considered at the heuristic level include shape ordering and shape orientation, both of which must be carried out prior to applying the geometric packer. The heuristic procedure also deals with problem constraints that are specific to a given application. Various issues arising from this approach, such as the properties and performance of the procedure, are discussed within the background of some sample applications. The ideas outlined are currently being used in the development of a visually controlled intelligent packing work cell.