Changing Seasons, Changing Viscosity
These last few days of hot weather, while wonderful, also provided a reminder that fall is on the way when the temperature dropped quickly and many air conditioners went off this past weekend. While most of us (not all!) love the change of seasons here in Indiana, the changes in temperature can have an effect on a packaging process, depending on the environment of the production floor, the storage of product and the product itself. This may not be new information to those familiar with our website and news articles, but we like to give everyone a reminder each year that, among other things, the temperature itself may cause packaging equipment, and more specifically bottle fillers, to act inconsistently.
Changes in the temperature of a product can sometimes lead to changes in the viscosity of that product. This temperature change may come from the storage of the product or the environment in which the bottle filler is being used to move product to the containers. Knowing that viscosity is generally a measure of how freely a product flows, it becomes easy to see how a change in viscosity could change the way a machine works. The first indication of weather affecting the packaging process is the time of the year. The second indication is an unaccounted for change in performance. One day the machine is working efficiently and consistently, and the next day, with the same settings, the fill levels are inconsistent, too high, or too low. While there may well be other factors, one to check at this time of the year is the temperature.
LPS requests both product and containers from a packager prior to manufacturing filling equipment. By acquiring product, not only can LPS test the machine to ensure optimal performance using the packager's components, but technicians can also store and save settings for fill time, head dives, indexing and any other features that might be available on the bottle filler. These settings can then easily be pulled up by the packager each time the bottle and product combination are run. However, changes in the flow of the product can necessitate changes in all of the settings mentioned above, as well as others. If a temperature change is found to be the source of the problem, the typical solution will be to run through a set up procedure to find the correct settings for the new viscosity. This process can entail some trial and error, but settings can once again be saved to the PLC and in rare cases a company may actually use hot weather and cold weather settings.
Of course, other fixes may be available. Stabilizing the environment or the temperature when storing product can eliminate the change in viscosity as well. Though other factors may be the culprit, we encourage all packagers to analyze their environment if unexpected changes occur during seasonal changes. Of course, LPS technicians are always available by phone to help troubleshoot if the source of the issue cannot be identified!