What you need to know before you automate your packaging line
Business is picking up and you find yourself struggling to keep up with demand. Now you are thinking of automating or upgrading your existing equipment to meet your increased volume.
Automating and upgrading packaging lines can reduce costs, improve productivity, and increase capacity to meet customer demand. However, be aware that your existing packaging will most likely require some redesign to perform on the new or improved equipment lines.
Additionally, your adhesive, ink, labels, and other materials can be affected. For these reasons, we recommend you involve your suppliers in the initial stages of any project that impacts your packaging. Suppliers have the experience and knowledge to help you through the transition.
Machine speed, seal pressure, and temperature all contribute to packaging line performance. Your package materials, structure, ink, labels, and adhesives are designed to perform according to how a machine operates at specified speeds. Packaging designed for hand packing will almost certainly require alteration to meet the speed and efficiencies expected from a new process.
For instance, a company we had dealt with for years suddenly had trouble with their bags failing at the seal. Upon visiting the facility, we learned that the customer had upgraded their form, fill, and seal equipment to run faster. With a shorter dwell time (less time when the heat was applied), the seal layer of our film no longer worked. The answer was to reformulate the packaging material to meet the new process.
Even carton erecting equipment may alter the structural design of your boxes, requiring alterations to the size of the glue tab or changes to the creases and flaps to meet the machine specifications.
Here are some examples of how automation can change packaging requirements:
- material slip properties can impact performance;
- sealing properties may require adjustment to meet higher speed;
- material rigidity can impact efficiencies;
- inks and adhesives may require reformulation to adhere to material construction;
- structural design will affect the ability to erect, fold and close;
- box flap positioning and size may need adjusting
- graphics could require redesign to fit structural adjustments.
Even small machine adjustments can impact the performance of packaging materials so if you find you are struggling with packaging that has performed in the past, ask yourself "What has changed?".
You can save money and time by involving your supplier(s) at the beginning of any packaging machinery acquisition or upgrade. Not only will you avoid the cost of obsolete packaging, but it will also help determine project costs and ensure a smoother transition.
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