Selecting the Proper Automation Level for Any Packaging Project
Part of knowing which packaging machine will work best for any project is knowing the automation level that will be necessary to meet production demand. While Liquid Packaging Solutions produces both automatic and semi-automatic machinery, at times a packager may look at automating only certain packaging tasks rather than putting an entire system in place. Finally, while speed is often the driving factor behind adding some level of automation, there are other reasons for using packaging machinery as well.
Given the number of liquid products on the market, it is no surprise that different levels of automation would be necessary for different products and industries. While some packagers may prepare tens of thousands of product per day, others may only package a few times a month. Automatic packaging equipment allows the machines to do the work. While an operator may need to set up the machine, once production begins, no manual labor will be necessary for each and every cycle run.
Semi-automatic machinery, on the other hand, will usually require an operator for each cycle of a machine. For example, an automatic capping machine will deliver a cap to a bottle, via a cap delivery system, while the bottles move down a power conveyor. Once the cap is received, the bottle and cap combination continue down the power conveyor to create a seal or cap the bottle. Once the machine is up and running, the operator will not need to interact with the caps or bottles other than to load bulk closures into the delivery system.
A semi-automatic capper, however, will typically require an operator to place the closure on the bottle, then slide the bottle into a nest or other area where the capping machine finishes the seal. There are different levels of semi-automatic capping, where such a capper may be built on a full frame and use a conveyor, allowing the operator to place the caps and send the bottle and cap combination down the conveyor and through the machine. Many of these full-frame semi-automatic machines, including fillers and cappers, may also allow for upgrading to automatic production in the future.
Simple tabletop and handheld semi-automatic machinery may not add a lot of speed to the packaging process, but will protect the integrity of the product and the reliability of the process. A handheld chuck capper, for example, allows an operator to place a threaded cap on a bottle and grab the handheld capper to apply torque in a consistent manner. Not only will loose and overtightened caps be avoided, but issues like worker fatigue and repetitive motion injuries can also be eliminated.
An analysis of the current packaging processes may also lead some companies to automate one task while using manual labor for others. For instance, if employees can fill and cap bottles fairly quickly, but labels are being applied not only slowly but uneven and wrinkled, that company may automate the labeling process first, to add speed to the project while also adding an aesthetic value to the product itself in smooth, consistent application of the labels. Many companies will completely automate their process over time, as the number of products and the demand for the products grows.
When choosing the correct level of automation for any packaging project, speed will of course play a part. The higher the level of automation, the faster the products will be produced. However, a company must also look at how much labor they wish to use, how much growth they expect in the future, the space available for packaging and of course their own budget, among other factors. Liquid Packaging Solutions will assist any packager in a review of their process and an analysis of where automation may be of benefit. To speak with a Packaging Specialist, obligation-free, about your own project, contact LPS through the Quick Connect on the website or call the LPS offices today.