Saving Time with Packaging Machinery Design

Normally, the bottom line when automating a packaging process is getting more product out the door to meet consumer demand. In other words, automatic packaging machinery saves time, though there are other benefits. Obviously, the machinery can move faster than manual labor hand packaging a product and the equipment takes up less space than the number of laborers that would be necessary to achieve the same output. But there are other ways that automatic packaging machinery can save a company time as well, through both the design and the operator interface. Anyone running automatic equipment has likely used or at least heard the term downtime. Downtime refers to the time that the equipment is not filling, capping, labeling or otherwise packaging product. While machine malfunctions may occasionally cause downtime, set up and changeover of the machine can be the biggest creator of downtime. Here we will take a quick look at how the design and controls of the machinery can minimize downtime.

While some companies may only package one product in one container, the more typical business will include multiple products and/or multiple container types and sizes. Imagine just about any beverage and you can likely come up with different size bottles from single serve to two liter and other sizes. The setup of each different product or bottle, as well as the changeover from one bottle to another, has the potential to create excessive downtime for a company trying to meet production demands. However, this is where the design of the equipment can reduce that time and keep a packager up and running for a larger part of the production day.

Imagine a simple automatic packaging line consisting of a loading turntable, power conveyor system, rinsing machine, filling machine, automatic capper, automatic labeler and an accumulating turntable. The first time that the machinery is set up, the equipment must all be set to run the first product and bottle to be used. In most cases, the set-up of equipment will save time by not requiring any tools for adjustments. The bottle guide for the loading turntable can be adjusted using simple knobs, as can the conveyor railing that will guide containers from machine to machine. Both the rinsing and filling machine nozzles can be adjusted left and right using similar knobs and the machinery will include a power height adjustment that uses a switch. Indexing systems for each machine, depending on the type of indexing being used, might require the loosening of bolts to adjust a pin or gate, but will not require extensive time. Different capping machines will require different adjustments, but most will also include a power height adjustment along with knob adjustments for cap delivery, stabilizing components and tightening or sealing components. Labeling equipment will also normally require simple adjustments with hand knobs and/or dials and the accumulating turntable will not normally require any adjustment at all.

The removal of disassembly and reassembly significantly reduces downtime for set up and changeover, but there are still rinse and fill settings that will need to be adjusted for each product and container used by the packager. These setting may include rinse and fill times, pump speeds, indexing times and other settings that ensure consistent and reliable rinsing and filling of bottles. This process also has the potential to be time consuming, especially where many different products and bottles are run throughout a day. Finding the correct fill times, for example, is a process of trial and error. A packager could be stuck lining bottles up and adjusting times over and over to find the ideal fill level or volume. However, automatic rinsers and fillers include a recipe screen on the operator interface that allow all of these settings to be recorded once found, then recalled at a later date when the product and bottle combination are run again. In other words, the settings need be found only once and can then be recalled at any time in the future. Add to this the fact that in most cases these settings will be found and recorded at the equipment manufacturer's facility before the packaging machinery ever reaches the end user and the downtime avoided becomes significant. The only time a packager should need to spend the time finding these settings is when a new product, bottle or combination is introduced after the machinery is delivered.

So while automatic packaging machinery set up and changeover has the potential to cause significant downtime, the proper design and controls will solve this problem without the packager ever even knowing the potential. To get the most out of your packaging machinery or for more information on any of the equipment manufactured by Liquid Packaging Solutions, contact a Packaging Specialist at LPS today.