Automating Packaging Machinery over Time

Automating Packaging Machinery Over Time

Unfortunately, not every packager can start their business with a complete and automated packaging system.  Truthfully, very few packagers start that way.  Most companies will build their system over time, relying more on manual labor at the outset than on packaging machinery.  Over time, however, successful packagers will add power conveyors, container cleaning equipment, filling machines, capping machines and other automatic machinery as their production demands increase, until one day the fully automatic packaging system exists on their production floor.

So for those packagers using manual labor to fill, cap, label and pack containers, a frequently asked question is where should the automation start?  Should I purchase the filling machine first?  Or the capper or labeler?  The honest answer to that question will come on a case by case basis.  Each packaging process should be studied and analyzed before opting to automate any single component of the process.  For example, if a company has a unique label that takes time to apply and apply correctly, the company may find that the filling and capping process is getting backed up by the delay at the labeling area.  For this company, purchasing an automatic labeler first may make the most sense.

The issue may not even stem from speed.  Manual laborers may struggle to apply the label in a consistent and even manner, again making the labeler a good choice for the start of the automation process.  The same may be true of capping machines.  Though manual laborers may be able to keep up with the filling process, a packager may find their company dealing with inconsistent tightening, which could lead to leaking bottles or caps falling off.  In this situation, automating the capping process may be the best first step.

In some situations, there simply may not be a good way to pull product from the bulk supply tanks, making it hard on manual laborers to complete the filling process in an efficient manner.  For some projects, therefore, purchasing an automatic liquid filler first makes the most sense, allowing manual laborers to continue capping and labeling bottles.  

Also keep in mind that the move from manual labor to automatic packaging machinery will not always occur in one step, as suggested above.  Tabletop machinery and other semi-automatic packaging equipment provides an in-between phase that will be utilized by many companies.  Tabletop fillers, cappers and labelers provide a great opportunity for facilities with limited space to add speed and efficiency to their packaging practices.  Semi-automatic packaging machinery can increase efficiency and can also be manufactured in such a way that future upgrades will allow the equipment to perform automatically.  In essence, many semi-automatic packaging machines can grow with the company, eventually becoming a part of the automatic packaging line.

It is unlikely that any two packaging companies will follow the same path to total automation.  But, each and every company should assess and analyze their packaging practices to follow the best path for their individual needs.  If you are new to the packaging industry, take advantage of the knowledge and experience of individuals and companies that have lived through the growth process and find that best path for your company.