A Typical Turnkey Packaging System

A Typical Turnkey Packaging System

A turnkey packaging system generally refers to a complete packaging system that is ready to use by the packager.  However, explaining exactly what a turnkey packaging system includes is somewhat more difficult.  Each packaging project will use different machines or different variations of machines, such as power conveyor systems, loading and accumulating turntables and rinsing, filling and capping machines.  So in the packaging industry, while turnkey refers to a complete packaging system, the components that make it complete will differ for each and every customer.  Below we will explain the components of a simple automatic packaging system along with some of the alternatives that would be available.

The first step on an automatic packaging system is to get the bottles loaded on to the power conveyor system so that they can be delivered to each of the other packaging machines on the line.  Many basic systems will use loading turntables to complete this task.  Operators or production workers will simply unload bottles from a box or other container to the top of the loading turntable.  Once on the turntable, the bottles will rotate around the table until they work their way to the outside of the table with the help of a bottle guide that directs the containers to the power conveyor.  Depending on the speed required, loading turntables may be replaced by laning conveyors, unscramblers or bottle hoppers to assist in the beginning of the packaging process.

The power conveyors make up the circulation system of the turnkey packaging line.  Conveyor systems may be manufactured using a number of different materials, including aluminum, stainless steel or HDPE, depending on the product being packaged, the environment in which it is being packaged and several other factors.  Conveyor systems can run in a straight line, with other machinery lined up to accept the bottles, or the conveyors may use transfer turntables or curved sections when space restraints do not allow the straight line set up.  Conveyor systems are almost always a must, but some projects may use a rotary type packaging system, using a starwheel to move containers from one machine to another.

Once the bottle transfer system is set up, the machinery to fill, cap, label and otherwise prepare the product for the shelf must be set up.  A basic system may use an inverting rinsing machine to clean bottles prior to filling the bottles with product.  The inverting rinsing machine will grab bottles and lift them off of the power conveyor, then blast the inside of the bottles with clean air, water or other solution to remove dust and debris and help to avoid contamination.  Once the rinse is complete, the bottles are returned to the conveyor, released and sent down the line.  Depending on the container and the needs of the packager, a bottle vacuum or a bottle washer may be used instead of an inverting air rinser.  Rinsing and vacuuming machines are more likely to be seen in industries that package products that will be ingested or consumed in some manner, such as bottled water, beverages, foods and pharmaceuticals.

Once cleaned, the bottles are ready to be filled.  Filling machines exist for a variety of different products.  As a general rule, overflow fillers and gravity filling machines work well with thin products, while piston fillers and pump fillers can handle thicker liquids.  There are, however, many exceptions to the general rule.  An automatic filling machine will use one of several indexing systems to move bottles under the fill heads.  A PLC is used to set delay, duration and fill times, and filled bottles are released down the packaging line.  In addition to the filling principle, there are many different options that can be added to filling machines to create the ideal piece of equipment for any project.  Nozzle type, nozzle size, number of fill heads, diving heads, hazardous location construction and many other possibilities exist for these machines.

After being filled, the next step is to consistently and reliably seal the bottles or containers.  The most popular capping machine is a spindle capper, used to tighten screw type caps onto a number of different containers.  A chuck capper can also be used for screw on caps and other capping machines exist for snap on caps, plunger type seals, corks and more.  Automatic capping machines will also use a cap delivery system to allow for continuous capping.  These delivery systems will normally consist of either a cap elevator or a vibratory bowl, allowing the operator of the packaging line to simply load bulk caps into the hopper or bowl from time to time.  

The packager has now been able to load bottles onto the system as well as rinse, fill and cap those bottles.  To this point, all of the equipment discussed could have been manufactured by Liquid Packaging Solutions.  However, to fully prepare the bottle, most companies are going to want to add a label to each and every container.  LPS uses our strong relationships with other packaging machinery manufacturers to procure the labeler for our customer, adding it to the existing line.  Pressure sensitive labelers can be used to apply wrap labels, front and back labels, panel labels and custom configurations.  Most labelers will also include a coding machine to add expiration dates, lot numbers and other information right to the label.  Once the label is applied, the product is generally ready for the shelf.

At the end of the packaging line, product must be gathered for the shipping preparation.  Just as a loading turntable was used at the beginning of the line, an accumulating turntable can be used at the end of the system.  The accumulating turntable will gather the finished product in one place for easy loading into boxes, crates or other shipping containers.  Again, manual labor would be used for the packing process.  Alternatives could also include pack tables added to an extended conveyor, a serpentine or accumulating conveyor or additional packaging machinery to complete the packing process.

This simple packaging system would run from turntable to conveyor to rinser, filler capper and labeler, then back to a turntable.  Again, there are many variations on this layout, including packing equipment such as case packers, taping machines, pallet wrappers and more, with some of the equipment manufactured by LPS and some of the packaging machines integrated into the system from other equipment manufacturers.  The end result, however, is one stop shopping for packaging machinery needs.  At LPS, we are able to provide truly turnkey packaging systems by integrating OEM machinery, such as pressure sensitive labelers, induction sealers and pallet wrappers, with those pieces of equipment that we manufacture at our La Porte, Indiana plant, including liquid fillers, conveyors, capping machines, container cleaning equipment and more.  If you have a packaging project, we welcome you to speak with our Packaging Specialists to learn more about the advantages of turnkey systems and the ease of procuring all packaging equipment from one central source.