Better to Automate - Filling Machine or Bottle Capper?

Not all packaging companies will fully automate all equipment at one time. Some smaller companies may never automate every aspect of preparing a product for the shelf. Growing companies, as the budget allows, may automate certain processes, while continuing to leave other processes to be completed by manual laborers or by an operator of a semi-automatic machine.

As an example, imagine a small company supplying a liquid window cleaner to a regional market. With lower sales to begin, employees of our sample company would likely fill and cap product by hand. But after customers find the product to be high quality, additional demand for product may raise new contracts and expand the reach of the cleaner. As demand increases, the employees will reach a point where they simply cannot fill and cap enough bottles by hand to fulfill all of the contracts. While both need and budget might not currently call for full automation, automating either the filling or the capping process will allow the employees to focus on the other chore and meet all contracts in a timely manner.

The next questions which is often raised by packagers in this scenario is, which process is the better of the two to automate? While this may surprise some people, the answer will not always be the same and actually depends on a number of different factors! In our example, imagine a somewhat typical cleaner in a spray bottle. while the filling in our example might be pretty straight forward, the capping process entails picking up a trigger sprayer with a tube, inserting it in to the bottle and then tightening the cap. In this situation, it may make more sense to automate the capping process and allow all employees to focus on the easier, quicker filling process.

Now imagine a company producing distilled spirits, which may have a strict volume requirement for each bottle produced, as well as fines if these are not met. The filling process in this situation may take longer when done by hand, in order to ensure everything is properly measured and the correct volume of product is placed into each bottle. The capping process simply involves placing a cork in each filled bottle. In the same growth scenario described above for our cleaner company, the distiller may want to move all of the employees to the capping process and automate the filling process to provide accurate, consistent and reliable fill results quickly.

These two examples are simplified, but show that deciding which packaging processes to automate may differ from company to company. Many different considerations may be taken in to account, including the product, bottles, caps and space. As a general rule, the process that takes the longest for the employees to complete will typically be the first process automated. However, sometimes a process will be automated for consistency or reliability purposes even if another might save a little more time (think loose or overtightened caps, even where capping might be faster than filling).

For assistance or questions about automating your own packaging process, contact a Packaging Specialist at Liquid Packaging Solutions today.