Hot, Cold and Product Viscosity Changes

It's that time of the year again and, at least in our Midwest location, the green foundation of our world has once again turned white. Of course, covering the grass with snow also means lower (much lower!) temperatures this time of the year! For some packagers, that can mean subtle changes in the way their filling machinery performs. Whether or not changes exist will depend on, among other things, the product being packaged, the manner of storing the product and environment in which it is packaged.

First, temperature will not have a significant impact on the viscosity of all products. Some products will flow the same whether they are hot or cold, at least when talking about the typical range of temperatures for summer and winter weather. Other products, such as syrup for example, will flow much more freely when warm than when cool. Without subjecting anyone to a full science lesson, this has to do with molecule movement at different temperatures as well as the complexity of the molecules involved. So water, with simple molecules, will not be affected to the same extent as a syrup, with more complex molecules. So certain products will be more likely to require modifications to filling equipment when temperature changes occur.

Of course, temperature changes on the outside will not always mean temperature changes on the inside. In fact, in more cases than not, packaging will take place in a temperature controlled environment. If product is also manufactured and stored in this environment, then the temperature changes probably only have an affect on the employees coming to and leaving work (in that no one I know wants to walk to a snow covered vehicle.) But when the outside environment in some way affects the inside environment or the product, changes in viscosity can change the way a filling machine performs.

For example, some bigger warehouses double as production floors for packaging products. These production floors can be hard to heat and cool, or constant deliveries and pick-ups may lead to the exterior weather causing changes to interior temperature if loading docks are open and closed repeatedly. In these cases, the temperature changes may cause slight differences in the viscosity of the products being packaged. The result will often be inconsistent fills from cycle to cycle. When an automatic filler is set up to run production, fill times, indexing times and other time-based settings are used to allow for consistent, reliable and repeatable fills. When viscosity changes, these times will also need to be changed. For packagers in these situations, some adjustment may be necessary to different times to allow for consistent fill cycles.

So as we all settle down for what is hopefully not a long winter's nap, keep in mind that if your bottle filler starts acting strangely, the weather can be the reason! For assistance with making temperature based adjustments, or for troubleshooting help in general, LPS Packaging Specialists are always just a phone call away.