Semi-Automatic Machinery and Bottles Per Minute

Though we have touched on the question of bottles per minute in the past, based on some recent inquiries, we thought now might be a good time to talk about semi-automatic equipment speed and why this is harder to estimate than automatic equipment. Though the explanation makes perfect sense once explained, it is not an obvious explanation.

Automatic machinery makes it easy to estimate the bottles per minute that can be run simply because the process is automatic. With a filling machine, for example, all times will be recorded in the machine before production begins. This includes the time it takes for bottles to index in and out of the fill area, the time it takes for bottles to be filled, delay times for components and features such as bottle grabbers and diving fill heads and any other time included in the process. When all of the times are set, recorded and known, it becomes more or less a simple equation to figure out how many bottles the machine will fill each minute.

With semi-automatic machinery, not all of the relevant times will be known. Using the filling machine example from above, let's apply the same to a semi-automatic filler. Rather than indexing, the machine operator will move bottles in to the fill area before each cycle, possibly on a slide track, and line the bottles up under the fill heads. The time it takes to do this will depend on the operator, where the bulk bottles are kept, the loading process and other factors, so that indexing time may change from cycle to cycle. With semi-automatic equipment, the operator will also initiate the fill cycle. This may simply consist of stepping on a foot pedal or pushing a finger switch. In some cases, the fill time will be known, and the same amount of fill time will elapse with each cycle. However, some filling machines require the operator to hold down the fill switch until bottles are full (for example, a tabletop overflow filler for products that foam. In the case of the latter machines, the fill times may vary from cycle to cycle as well. Finally, the operator will need to remove bottles from the fill area and transport them to the next packaging process, usually capping.

The difference between semi-automatic and automatic speeds exists for other machinery as well. With an automatic spindle capper, for example, bottles move continuously down the power conveyor, automatically receiving a cap, making it easier to estimate the number of bottles that can be sealed each minute. Operator involvement with a semi-automatic machine, however, will consist of placing the cap, placing the bottle and activating the sealing process.

This is not to say that bottles per minute cannot be estimated for semi-automatic machinery. But whenever manual labor is involved in the process and where the process may vary from project to project, bottles per minute truly does become an estimate. Making the machine manufacturer aware of the process for semi-automatic machinery, including the storage and transport of the bottles before and after filling or capping, can help fine-tune such an estimate and assist the packager in both understanding what to expect from a semi-automatic machine and possibly creating a more efficient process to increase speed.

For more infomation on semi-automatic packaging equipment, browse the different categores of packaging machinery on the Liquid Packaging Solutions website, or contact a Packaging Specialist at LPS today.