There are numerous reasons to install automated packaging systems, but several questions pop up when you consider automation. How much automation is right for your packaging line, when is the right time to automate, which processes can you automate for the highest ROI? This article will answer some of those questions. Read on.
5 Factors to Consider When Determining Packaging Automation
- Level of Production Needed
With automated packaging, you can speed up the production and overall pace of the processes in a day. Consider if the product’s demand would benefit from an automated packaging line solution. It would be ideal to keep the packaging process manual if you have small operations or low-volume applications.
- Impact of Automation on Packaging Line
Determine which areas of the packaging process are the most time-consuming. Automate the areas that will have the biggest impact on speed. This means you must scale up the automation depending on a balance between gains in speed and cost.
- Cost of Automation
It is not necessary that the most expensive parts of the packaging equipment will have the biggest impact. For instance, automating a case packing will have more impact and is economically more viable as compared to automating a sprayer inserter, which is difficult and expensive. Consider the cost of automating different parts before taking the plunge.
- Flexibility of the Line
A fully automated solution may not be a good idea if you are trying to run multiple products, packaging sizes, and run lengths on a single line. In that, case a semi-automated solution would be ideal. Take flexibility of your line into account before automating.
- Complexity of the Packaging Operation
If your packing operation is complex, then automation can be less accurate than manual operations. In such cases, there will be more packaging wastage and loss of money while producing unreliable packaging results. It would be ideal to consult with a packaging automation expert to determine the difficulty and benefits of automating your process.
Best Quality Control Systems for Automated Packaging Line
There are three main quality control systems — sensors, machine vision systems and check weighers.
- Sensors help in detecting missing packages and eliminating wastage.
- Machine vision system help in executing several tasks like inspecting date codes, collecting real time data, capturing events, etc.
- Check weighers make sure that all the individual packages are accurately weighed. They eliminate instances of empty or partially filled packages.
There will be a significant impact in the packaging processes when you include smart weighing systems along with automation.
What to Add to an Existing Automated Packaging System
You might have to update your automated system if it isn’t equipped to deal with the growth in output or produce the desired results.
Check if you need to redesign your factory in terms of access and flow or if you need changes in product specification such as height, weight, and stacking patterns stability to get better results.
You can opt for semi-automation, full-automation or retrofits on the existing equipment.
Key Considerations While Investing in an Automated Packaging System
To begin with, you must understand your current requirements. Follow that with evaluating your requirements five years down the line. Check the quality in terms of reliability and system build. Compare the system’s performance with other brands available in the market and measure its performance by trial.
Other factors you need to consider:
- Warranty of the system
- Cost of ownership, which includes servicing, parts, breakdown and depreciation
- Suitability of the system for your products and workflow
- Its stability
- Its ability to cover the range of sizes and weights for your products
- Brand reputation, customer service and customer loyalty
Kevin Hill heads up the marketing efforts and provides technical expertise to the sales and service teams at Quality Scales Unlimited in Byron, California. He enjoys everything mechanical and electronic, computers, the internet and spending time with family.