Start Slow and Build To An Automatic Packaging Line
For start up packaging companies, an automatic packaging line may not make economical sense from Day One. Start up companies often have lower production demands, while at the same time needing cash flow for other aspects of the business, including marketing focused on growth. Where low or medium production demand exists, a fully automated packaging line may simply be more than the packager needs. The team at Liquid Packaging Solutions understands this need, which is why many different types of packaging machines are manufactured to work semi-automatically, while also being designed to allow for an upgrade to automatic production in the future.
Semi-automatic packaging machinery, in general terms, will require manual labor for each cycle being run. In other words, for each bottle or group of bottles that are rinsed, filled, capped or otherwise prepared, the operator of the machine will have some interaction with that bottle or group of bottles. So for a rinsing machine, the operator will position the bottles and activate the rinse cycle, while also removing bottles once the rinse is complete. Filling machines will have the operator position bottles under fill heads and manually begin the fill cycle, while capping equipment will usually require the operator to place the cap, and, depending on the type of machine, activate the capping cycle.
Semi-automatic equipment can be designed in many different ways, including tabletop machinery. But for those packagers who expect growth and the need for automation in the future, semi-automatic equipment can also be manufactured on the same frame as automatic machinery. This allows the packager to begin with a semi-automatic packaging line that can be upgraded over time to run much higher production speeds. In most cases, the upgrade will consist of conveyors and indexing, along with a PLC and control box. Once the upgrades are completed, the operator will no longer need to interact with each machine for each cycle. Instead, each machine will be set up at the beginning of the production run. The operator of the line will then ensure that bulk bottles, closures, labels and any other components necessary are supplied to the machinery, in addition to simply monitoring the line to ensure smooth operation and making adjustments when product, bottles or other components are changed over.
In other cases, packagers may hand clean, fill and cap bottles, and automation may simply take place one machine at a time. For instance, if a company spends a significant amount of time getting bottles sealed, they may invest in an automatic capping machine while manually rinsing and filling bottles. Another packager may start with an automatic liquid filler if rinsing and capping are done quickly. As demand and profit increase, the next phase of automation can be put in to place.
Finally, many packagers will use a combination of labor-driven, semi-automatic and automatic machinery together on the journey toward a fully automated packaging line. Many factors will play a part in deciding the best course of action, including the different products, bottles and caps, the amount of space available and, of course, the budget. To discuss your own packaging plan, for now and the future, with a Packaging Specialist, simply contact the LPS office today!