Best Practices for Finding the Best Packaging Machinery

With so many different packaging machines on the market, how does a packager find the best machine for their own specific project? At Liquid Packaging Solutions, we work with packagers to identify their specific needs and the equipment that will best meet those needs. The factors considered, and the weight given to them, will vary from project to project, but a recent article found on the new PMMI ProSource website lays out a number of good practices when searching for equipment.

The first two best practices identified by PMMI are documenting and discussing your requirements and getting operators and technicians involved early on. These practices are crucial for several different reasons. First, the person in charge of procuring the equipment will often not be the same person running the equipment on a day-to-day basis on the production floor. Internal discussions with operators and technicians can help to identify areas that need improvement, which can be used in the design of any new machinery. Involving the operators of the equipment in an early discussion can help to focus the search for the correct equipment.

Second, as noted above, LPS always works with the packager to identify the best packaging equipment solution for any project. The search for the best solution may include discussions on speed, budget, space, bottles, caps and so much more. However, the packager holds this key information during the consultation. LPS can only act on the information given by the packager. Involving operators and technicians also helps LPS identify areas that may need attention and, ultimately, add efficiency to the process by understanding the needs of everyone involved.

Two additional best practices identified by PMMI include determining speed and considering flexibility. At LPS, these two practices go somewhat hand in hand. Packagers may have a number in mind when looking at packaging machinery that meets their current production needs for the bottles, caps, labels and other components that they currently use to prepare products for the shelf. However, as the article points out, and LPS agrees, looking at higher speeds and flexibility of the machinery is almost always a good idea.

First, business and demand are almost never static. The production needs of tomorrow may far outweigh the needs of today, and not just in terms of speed. Consumers may demand single servings of a product one day, and want six packs, cases or more the next. Keeping in mind that each piece of equipment, from the filling machine to the capper to the labeler, will have a different speed, and that the packaging line, generally speaking, will run at the slowest machine speed for automatic systems, LPS will often recommend building in a little additional speed over current needs. By building in this speed, a packager can actually extend the useful life of the equipment and plan for growth in the future.

Similarly, LPS seldom, if ever, build equipment for a single bottle or product. Simple adjustments to bottle rinsers or fillers ensure that the equipment can handle a range of bottles sizes and shapes. This, too, helps extend the useful life of the machinery by allowing the equipment to handle future additions to the product line.

PMMI also suggests that packagers not skimp on training and plan for spare parts. At LPS, we offer training on all equipment and keep spare and wear parts in stock for all of the equipment manufactured in the LaPorte, Indiana plant. However, LPS also suggests that the packager keep certain wear parts in-house. Both training and stocking wear parts helps to ensure limited downtime and maintenance on equipment.

When LPS technicians install equipment, the opportunity to train the actual operators of the machinery at the same time can help the equipment to reach its maximum potential from Day One of production. While machinery is not difficult to operate, having a full understanding of the equipment versus learning on the fly can reduce some painful lessons, keep downtime to a minimum and protect the machinery. Production operators on a timeline seldom have the time or the desire for trial by error. Instead, training and support after that training can help the packager's operators feel confident in their equipment and their ability to meet demand.

And while LPS keeps parts in stock, waiting on a part to arrive can mean a full day or more of downtime if the needed component is crucial to the machine. Working with packagers to understand the wear parts on the machinery - that is, those parts that come in contact with other parts or components and will occasionally need replacement - can help reduce that downtime. For example, discs on a spindle capper that tighten screw-on type closures will eventually wear to a point where they no longer provide consistent and reliable seals. Keeping these items in-house allows for replacement in minutes, keeping the flow of production running nearly without interruption. LPS will always suggest a spare parts package to help avoid extended stops in production.

There are several other best practices suggested by PMMI and you can the entire PMMI article, Best Practices for Specifying Packaging Machinery. Of course, neither PMMI nor LPS can provide an exhaustive list of best practices for any packaging project, which is why LPS works with each and every packager individually to identify the best solution for each specific project.