Packaging Machinery Troubleshooting
Packaging Machinery Troubleshooting
Just when everything seems to be running smoothly, just when you let your guard down and start to relax - this is the time when the alarm screen will pop up on the liquid filling machine, the belt conveyor system will suddenly and inexplicably stop moving bottles or the automatic capping machine will begin firing loose caps in every direction as bottles exit the machine. Though 99% of the time your packaging machinery will run production without a problem, how the other 1% of the time is handled can make the difference between completing a production run on time and dealing with extended packaging system downtime. While each piece of packaging equipment - filling machines, capping equipment, container cleaning equipment and labeling machines, for example - may have unique issues or components to check during troubleshooting, some general rules can also be followed.
Whether you are troubleshooting an issue on an automatic filler, belt conveyor system or a capping machine, one of the first things to check are the machine settings. Most automatic packaging machines will include some type of operator interface to set up and adjust the machine. Some of these interfaces will also include an alarm screen that will assist in the troubleshooting process, directing the operator to the specific problem. An operator of an automatic packaging machine should always check the control box settings as well as the physical settings of the machine to ensure nothing has been improperly adjusted. Rinsing machines and liquid fillers usually have both delay times (indexing, for example) and duration times (the actual fill or rinse time) that may cause issues if set incorrectly. Similarly, if a bottle changeover occurred recently, an operator should scan the entire conveyor system to ensure that the conveyor rail is not too wide or narrow so as to cause bottle jams. Height adjustments on liquid fillers, conveyor belt speeds, capping machine gripper belt width and many other settings should be double checked when investigating a packaging machine issue.
Many other common problems also exist on different packaging equipment. Most machines should include an operators manual that will point out common troubleshooting issues. These common issues may include a lack of lubrication, overheating of motors, blown fuses or simple wear and tear that requires replacement of a wear part. However, there are occasions when an operator of a packaging machine must become a detective to solve those rare and unusual occurences of less than optimal performance.
Uncommon issues with packaging equipment performance usually come from uncommon sources. For example, where more than one operator uses a machine throughout the day, a supervisor may see varying results from that machine. It may not always be easy to see that each person is using the machine in a slightly different manner, with a slightly different operating procedure. Different procedures can easily lead to different results! Writing standard operating procedures (SOP's) for rinsing machines, liquid fillers, capping equipment and labeling machines can help reduce variations in product packaging.
Along the same lines, some issues are simply due to operator error. The operator error may not be evident immediately. For example, perhaps a bottle or other container is placed on a conveyor system in a way that causes labels to be improperly applied down the line. The operator error may cease to exist long before anyone notices the faulty labels, making it difficult to pinpoint and solve the problem. Finally, environmental issues may play a large part in causing - or solving - packaging machinery malfunctions. A factory that is extremely cold overnight and warms up only during the day may cause problems with both product and packaging equipment. Changes in temperature can have a number of different effects on product and equipment, from expanding to sweating to rusting. Controlling and maintaining a comfortable temperature at the prodcution facility can work as preventative maintenance for your packaging line.
Of course, these are only a few general examples of troubleshooting packaging machinery issues. The truth is, if the problem area is not immediately or obviously apparent, the time clock starts ticking. At Liquid Packaging Solutions, we have "solved" many common and unique packaging machinery problems. If you have an issue and just can not pinpoint the source, call LPS and take advantage of our expertise and experience. We understand that time is money, and every second of packaging machinery downtime is lost money.