How to Successfully Prepare for Packaging Automation
Are you creating a packaging automation process for the first time? Or perhaps you already use packaging automation, but you want to upgrade your machinery. Either way, It’s important to have a plan.
Preparation can make the difference between a successful transition and a painful process that sets your business back. Here are four important things you’ll need to do before you make the change in packaging automation.
Understanding Your Packaging Automation Needs
If you’re automating your packaging system, you’ll first need to decide what kind of packaging you’re going to use. Flexible packaging comes in many varieties, and you’ll need to choose the correct type for your business. For example, are you packaging liquids, solids, or something tacky like mayonnaise or pudding? Each type of product is going to require an appropriate package.
Similarly, some packages are not rated for food. This isn’t a big deal if you’re selling motor oil or epoxy. But for foods like sunflower seeds and juice, it’s essential to use food-grade packaging.
Branding is also an issue. Regardless of what you’re selling, you’re going to want your package to stand out on the shelf. As a result, you’ll want to partner with a supplier who can produce pouches that are right for your brand. For example, HP Indigo’s Digital Pouch Factory integrates seamlessly with Karlville’s KS-DSUP-400-GSW stand up pouch machine.
Once you know what pouches you’re using, you’ll need to find an appropriate machine. For this, the most important consideration is speed.
How much do you need to produce per shift?
More to the point, how much do you think you’ll need in the upcoming years?
Depending on your needs, some machines package only a few dozen packages per minute, while others can package hundreds. Faster machines will tend to be more expensive, so this is a business calculation you’ll have to make.
Understanding the Project Scope
Another thing you’ll have to prepare for is transport and storage. If you’re buying your pouches from a third-party supplier, you’ll need to have your supply line set up and ready to go on day one. And if you’re producing your own, you’ll still need to have a supply line for materials, printing supplies, and so on.
You’ll also need storage space, both for your incoming supplies and your outbound product. Now, this is something you’ve no doubt considered already. But if you’re upscaling, your storage needs are going to increase proportionately. This means loading docks, staging areas, and enough space to store extra products in case trucks are delayed by foul weather or other circumstances.
Preparing the Site
Before you receive your packaging equipment, you’ll need to have floor space cleared and ready to go. For multiple machines, this can involve a considerable amount of space. You know your facilities better than we do, so you should be well aware if this is going to require new facilities or just an overhaul of your existing space.
You’ll also need to ensure that you have an adequate power supply. The last thing you want is to have to delay installation because you had to call an electrician. Make sure to coordinate with your equipment supplier to ensure that you can meet all of these requirements.
Another important thing to remember is that even the best machines require time for startup and testing. In other words, just because you’ve taken delivery doesn’t mean you can immediately start using your new machines. You are handling complex industrial equipment. You cannot simply plug-and-play.
For example, even a simple packaging machine has a feeder magazine, suction clamps, a hopper for your product, and infrared sealing clamps. And that is only the most basic design. If your packages require spouts or mixing of multiple ingredients, the machine will be considerably more complex.
All of these parts will need to be prepared, which can take a few shifts to complete. Conveyors and cutting blades need to be properly aligned, and hoppers need to be calibrated to ensure they’re dispensing the correct amount of product.
You’ll need to budget this time into your installation process, which means you’ll need to have a plan in place to keep your business operating during the transition.
Ideally, you’ll want to keep your old equipment running during the transition, but this is not always possible. Alternatively, you may need to have staff working extra shifts to produce extra products to make up for the gap in production.
Needless to say, performing all of these tasks will require a trained workforce. This means ensuring that your staff knows how to operate the machines. Karlville provides ongoing support, including staff training and on-site support if needed. But this is only part of the equation. To be truly successful, you’ll need to be prepared for routine and preventative maintenance.
This entails a working knowledge of whatever machine you’re using. For example, many components, such as cutting blades, are wear and tear parts that need regular replacement. If you don’t have these supplies ready to go, your brand new machines will quickly be out of commission. Once again, it’s important to partner with your supplier to ensure you know which parts are most important to have on hand.
For long-term maintenance, you’ll need to make a choice. You can either train your own staff to perform these tasks or partner with a supplier that offers maintenance services. Karlville offers preventative maintenance service for customers who require it.
If not, it’s important to have your people trained before you take delivery. This will ensure that your equipment continues to operate, without any downtime that can negatively impact your business.
Karlville is comprised of industry experts in packaging automation and pouch packaging. If you need faster, more efficient packaging methods for your products, we can help. To find out what Karlville can do for your business, contact us for a free consultation.