How To Improve Packaging Line Efficiency

Sometimes we get so used to doing things in a certain way that we fail to take a moment to look for new methods that might make things easier for us, save time, save money, or all three at once. This can be true in our personal life or in the business world, and packaging processes often get overlooked once something is in place that "works". A simple analysis of your own packaging process can lead to a more efficient workplace.

While every packaging process will differ based on products, containers, caps, and even personal choice, an analysis of any project should include two broad areas, the current process and the current machinery. In looking at the process, pay attention to the flow of the work and the way the packaging line is laid out on the production floor to identify any areas of waste. Is there a process where components or products are being dropped or mishandled, becoming unusable? Can this process be changed to avoid that waste? But waste does not just apply to lost money or product. Time can be wasted just as easily. By analyzing the line layout, packagers can often discover time-saving techniques or changes. For instance, does your packaging line end on the side of the production facility farthest from the shipping dock? Where are bottles stored before being loaded onto the packaging line? If moving empty products from storage to the beginning of the packaging line takes five minutes every time new containers are needed, an opportunity may exist to save time by optimizing the layout of your system.

Once you find the ideal layout, it is time to look at the current machinery on your packaging line. Analyze each individual machine or process to determine which takes the most time. In looking at rinsing, filling, capping and other packaging tasks, are there one or two that lag behind the others? If half of the production day is spent tightening caps, an automated capping machine may help maximize production, saving both time and money in the long run. For those processes that are already automated, decide whether upgrades to the equipment can improve the efficiency of not just the machine, but the entire packaging line. Adding two more nozzles to a filling machine can increase output on the entire line.

Even where the machinery meets the needs of the project, two simple steps can still improve efficiency. Performing routine maintenance on packaging equipment not only leads to a longer useful life but maximizes the performance of the individual machine as well. Routine maintenance may simply consist of regularly wiping down equipment to remove debris buildup that can decrease performance through excessive wear and tear. While other equipment may require more extensive routine maintenance, as set out in machine manuals, the few minutes necessary to perform the maintenance will keep the line running at maximum efficiency. Most packaging machinery also includes wear parts. Wear parts are those that come in to contact with product, bottles, caps or other components of the packaging line. Over time, these parts tend to break down, which can cause a drop in the performance of the machine. To improve efficiency, analyze your maintenance routine and replace wear parts when they start to break down, but note that frequent replacement may indicate an underlying issue.

Finally, employee turnover is an issue that almost any business will face eventually. New employees may require training on packaging machinery or veteran employees may need retraining when new products are introduced. Ensuring that operators of machinery know how to run and maintain equipment is crucial to the efficiency of the packaging line as a whole, for many of the same reasons mentioned above. Employees may not understand the importance of keeping dust out of pinch points on conveyors or replacing spindle wheels on capping machinery to avoid loose or marred caps.

The overall efficiency of the packaging line depends not just on the equipment being used, but also on planning the process, running the machinery, and maintaining the equipment. For questions on routine maintenance, assistance completing an analysis of your own packaging process, or help with training, contact the Packaging Specialists at LPS for a no-obligation consultation.