Combining Semi-Automatic and Automatic Packaging Machinery
For those that follow Liquid Packaging Solutions, you are already aware that we talk quite a bit about the benefits of both semi-automatic and automatic packaging systems. We tend to differentiate between the two to point out how they meet different packager's needs. However, the truth is that quite often a packager will combine both types of machines to create an ideal solution for their own needs.
At LPS, most of our automatic systems are designed as inline packaging solutions. This means that machines will be positioned in a line, be it straight or curved, with a power conveyor system connecting the different equipment. So, for instance, bottles that are introduced to the main conveyor system may move from a filling machine to a capping machine and then a labeler, all while staying on the same conveyor line. Once the machines are set up and dialed in, the operator will need only monitor the line and replenish bulk components from time to time, such as product or caps.
Semi-automatic packaging systems, on the other hand, will seldom use a conveyor system, and each machine will require an operator to begin each new cycle. One operator may run more than one machine, but that operator will still need to start each cycle on each machine. For example, a semi-automatic filling machine would require an operator to slide the bottles under the fill nozzles, then use a foot or finger switch to start the fill. That same operator might then remove the bottles, place a cap on each bottle and slide the bottle into position to be capped or sealed. Semi-automatic packaging systems might also use a different operator for each station, leaving one person in charge of filling, one in charge of capping and more in charge of other packaging processes.
Understanding how these to different types of packaging machinery work, it is not difficult to imagine how they might also be combined. Some companies simply do not have the production demand necessary to justify a fully automated packaging line. Other companies may only have the space required for a mostly semi-automatic packaging system. In these cases, certain aspects of packaging may be automated while leaving others to be completed via manual labor. The most common example would be an automated fill, cap and label system, leaving the packing to be completed through laborers. Bottles may be loaded on a turntable and filled, capped and labeled by automatic machinery, then simply accumulated on a conveyor or turntable. From here, case erectors, case tapers and other semi-automatic packing equipment may be used to prepare the products to be sent to retailers or consumers.
However, another common combination occurs when a company is growing in to an automated system. Smaller companies that experience growth may automate the most difficult packaging processes over time. A company that is hand bottling, capping and labeling a new beverage, for example, may purchase an automated filling machine and a semi-automatic capper, if the filling process takes longer. Manual labor is now free to cap the containers as they are released from the automatic filler. As demand for a product grows, an automatic capping machine and conveyor may be added to again speed up the process.
Regardless of the level of automation, the addition of packaging machinery can help make a process more efficient. The design of equipment at LPS includes the ability to upgrade and add machinery as needed due to growth or expansion. As with every packaging project, the best overall solutions will be determined on a case-by-case basis by looking at a number of different factors including, but not limited to, the product, containers, space available and production demand. LPS Packaging Specialists are always available to consult with packagers to find the best system for any given project.