Packaging Machinery Trends 2014: Ergonomics

Packaging Machinery Trends 2014: Ergonomics

If one trend has been around from the first time a packaging machine was manufactured and will arguably always be around, it is the trend of improving ergonomics.  A quick search of the internet will find several different definitions for this term, but in general, it refers to the ease of use, efficiency and safety of packaging machines.  This general definition makes it easy to understand why ergonomics will likely always be a talking point in the packaging industry.

Packages are designed to sell products, there is no argument there.  But the design must also take into consideration such factors as cost, consumer usability and the ease or difficulty of packaging using a specific design.  Nearly all packaging machinery will be custom designed to a certain extent to handle the products and containers being used for a specific project.  To make machinery more ergonomic, manufacturers will look for the best way to create an easy to use, efficient and safe machine during the design phase.

EASY TO USE

Automatic packaging machinery such as bottle rinsers and filling machines can seem intimidating to an operator with no or limited experience with such equipment.  However, by using a simple, touchscreen operator interface, almost anyone can have a rinser or filler up and running in no time.  The interface allows the operator to set all delay and duration times for a rinse or fill while also giving control of certain functions of the machinery.  After initial setup for a product and container combination, all settings can be saved for recall at the touch of a button.  Other machinery may also use touchscreen interfaces or a centrally located control panel where a PLC is not necessary.  By constantly improving the interaction between operator and equipment, it becomes possible for the manufacturing to increase the ergonomics of the machinery.

EFFICIENT

While production speed and bottles per minute are obviously important to the efficiency of a packaging machine, achieving true efficiency includes many other factors.  For example, very few packagers using automatic packaging equipment are only running one product and one container.  Each time a changeover occurs, of product, container or both, production time is lost.  Therefore, machinery manufacturers must find ways to make changeover as quick and as easy as possible.  Tool free adjustments can save hours of time versus assembling and re-assembling for these changes.  Adding backup sensors is a simple way to avoid conveyor jams and downtime.  Goals such as these are achieved by manufacturing equipment that can handle a range of container sizes and shapes with simple, hand knob adjustments.

SAFE

Building a machine that is safe will require an analysis of each unique packaging project.  Where simple chain and pinch point guards may work for one project, the other extreme may require a remote control panel and hazardous location construction to protect against fumes, sparks and explosions.  In addition, the safety of the equipment must also be taken into account.  Acids and bleaches can eat away at stainless steel, so that some other material choice is optimal when packaging such products.  A plan to Keep operators out of harms way and protect the equipment should be an integral part of every packaging machinery design.

Research, development and innovation will always have in mind the goal of creating ergonomic packaging machinery, even if this ultimate goal is sometimes overshadowed by other trends.  One could argue that ergonomic machinery is not truly a trend in the packaging industry, but rather an ultimate goal.