Accumulating Product on a Packaging System


While an automated packaging line may run from unscrambling bottles right down to placing bundles on a pallet, many packagers today still automate only a portion of the packaging system.  The amount of automation on a packaging line will depend on several factors, including budget, production rates, space and other considerations.  For example, a company may utilize automatic container cleaning machinery, a liquid filling machine, capping equipment and a labeler.  However, when it comes to packing the product for shipment, manual labor may be used.  In many of these cases, the manual labor cannot keep up with the packaging machines and it becomes necessary to accumulate product for packing.
In some cases, normally where the package is smaller in size or the production rate is on the low side, a simple accumulating turntable will be used to amass product.  The individual products exit the power conveyor onto a turntable of the appropriate size, where manual labor can then remove each piece to pack into a box, crate or other container.  Accumulating turntables can be manufactured in different materials suitable to the product and the environment as well as in different sizes to accomodate the product and package.  Loading turntables along with accumulating turntables are often used at both ends of a packaging system leaving labor only to load empty bottles and unload finished product. 
Both power and non-power conveyors may also be used to accumulate product on a packaging line.  Serpentine conveyors use multiple compact rows and/or multiple tiers of belting to accumulate product.  Packing can be accomplished by simply removing finished product from the end point of the conveyor system, with the conveyor using a motor or gravity to keep finished product flowing toward the packing point.  
While the most common set-up is the placement of accumulating packaging machinery at the end of an automatic packaging system, product may be accumulated at any point on a packaging line.  For example, though rare, turntables may be used to accumulate product after capping has taken place.  The accumulated product may then be moved to a stand alone labeler or simply hand labeled.  Of course, moving or handling uncapped product can lead to a number of different issues and this set up is simply not the most efficient use of time or space, only a couple of reasons such a set up is rare.  
Another example is the accumulation of product after it has run through the filling machine.  This is more common than most people might guess until the reason for accumulation is explained.  A number of products require a certain amount of time to cool, or gel, after traveling through a filling machine.  Molten products, wax, pastes and even some food products must be filled while hot.  The accumulation of these products on a serpentine or cooling conveyor between the filling equipment and the capping machines allows the product to cool before being sealed, avoiding potential damage to packaging and equipment.
So while accumulation for packing is the most commonly seen use of turntables and conveyors for gathering product, there do exist legitimate reasons for accumulating product at other points on a packaging system.  If you have questions about accumulating product or would simply like to discuss your system with a Packaging Specialist, contact Liquid Packaging Solutions toll-free at 1-888-393-3693.