When automating a production process it is not unusual to end up with mismatched performance at different steps in the process. As technology evolves, upgrades or replacement systems could overcome previous bottlenecks clearing the way for significant gains in capacity, quality or efficiency. Pulling out one “island” from an existing line has it’s challenges, but the possibility to re-purpose some of the legacy equipment into a revamped line potentially provides a more interesting ROI. Investing the resources to research and investigate the myriad of potential improvements might seem to be prohibitive. Resurrecting old equipment or following established guidelines to replace an entire line may offer an easier path. Here’s an example where the effort paid-off, in a big way.
Even though the installed production line was not yet 10 years old, a seasoned process engineer analyzing the labor content, yield loss, and process quality of an adhesive packaging line made some interesting observations. He concluded that overcoming some generally accepted limitations of the line could potentially offer huge savings on an annualized basis. He focused specifically on eliminating spills, which for adhesive applications, demand immediate attention to avoid much larger reliability and maintenance issues. As is frequently the case, operator training was one opportunity that could not be ignored. Looking beyond the training, his investigation revealed 2 more areas of opportunity – placement of the lids on full containers and container alignment along the conveyor path. Human intervention to overcome these systems limitations increased labor expense and was frequently the source of more costly errors.
Armed with solid data, he engaged Ideal-Pak® to see what recent advancements might benefit his current process. Collectively it was determined that his technicians were struggling with change-over of the existing lid placer. Variations in lid and container manufacture made it difficult to precisely change between metal and plastic lids. By the time the system was “dialed-in”, multiple containers were mishandled requiring re-work or causing spills. Between the extensive down time for change-over and added labor for repackaging or clean-up, a justification to separate the placement of plastic and metal lids could be investigated. The justification became more interesting when customer product quality complaints associated to packaging errors were added to the ROI model.
Accurate root cause analysis of container misalignment in the process, extending across multiple pieces of equipment and conveying systems, appeared to be a more complex issue to understand and correct. Making some assumptions about the improvement contributions from the added lid placer, container sensing and container stop mechanisms stood out. The solution started with moving away from multiple table-top-chain conveyors to a single conveyor with multiple strands of conventional conveyor chain. This allowed container stops to rise up from under the conveyor, as opposed to extending from the container side guide rails – providing better precision, reducing damage to containers, and eliminating one source of spills. Secondly, since some steps in the process only applied to metal packaging which comprises 70% of production demand, where possible gap sensors could be eliminated in favor of more effective proximity sensors.
Knowing how to improve the process is one thing. Implementation at a compelling return is another.
Despite the strategic value offered by eliminating customer complaints related to packaging integrity, it was also necessary to increase capacity and fit within the existing footprint. Add a new lid placer, increase the number of fill heads, and increase spacing between containers but do it within the same amount of space? The solution, the AE2-CFM from Ideal-Pak®. With the increased productivity, it was possible to reduce conveyor buffer capacity and space the different processes more tightly by adding container stops with reliable sensing. Also, by repurposing the existing lid placer, labeler, and plastic lid closing station, the installation resulted in a much lower cost than a new automated line. Ideal-Pak® Engineers in cooperation with a very talented customer process engineer designed a customized filling and packaging line with an ROI under 9 months.
Need to improve your process productivity, versatility, or flexibility? Do you see advantage to improve packaging integrity? To explore how Ideal-Pak® systems can be custom designed to fit your unique process challenges give us a call at (800) 383-1128, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our Website and fill out the Request Form.