Manufacturers considering upgrading to an automated packaging system or replacing their current shrink packaging machine are often faced with significant space constraints. In fact, it’s one of the most common challenges, and one that some believe creates an insurmountable hurdle.
We know, however, that these constraints only limit you if you let them. When looking to upgrade to an automated packaging system, start by believing there’s a solution, then follow these 4 steps to identify the most effective – and the one that addresses your constraints:
Step 1: Gather Information
This is the most critical step of updating to an automated packaging system, or replacing a current packaging machine. If you don’t gather all the correct information, the likelihood of your project being a success is slim. This step should include identifying:
- which products currently run on this line, and/or what products will run on this line in the future
- how frequently each product will run
- the desired orientation of the product throughout
- your actual product speeds, space available in the line
- any plant drawings you might have available
Step 2: Analyze the Information
In this step you’ll use the information you gathered to determine the project goals. What are you trying to achieve – a better looking pack? A different pack orientation? To use a different type of packaging material? Maybe your goal is simply to increase the speed of an already determined pack. In many cases, it’s a combination of these.
Use the product information gathered to create a table that lists each product, its orientation, speed, and frequency. This table will help clarify any discrepancies and help in the next step to decide on a path that is right for you.
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What to Ask Before Upgrading your Packaging System
Step 3: Create Solutions
Now that you’ve set your goals it’s time to create solutions. Yes, that’s plural – solutions – because there’s always more than one way to achieve an outcome. As you come up with ideas you’ll need to verify if each potential solution can achieve your speed and address your orientations; this is where the table will come in handy. Your system may go vertical, in a (z) shape, a (u) shape, or straight inline; you may use conveyors, pushers, stackers, any type of device to move your product through the system.
This step is also the time to look at your available space in order to narrow down your packaging machine options. Not all systems are flexible enough to work in your space, and of course these must be eliminated. You’ll have some “off the shelf” solutions, some designed from the ground up, and some that are modular packaging systems. Consider the costs of each, and the appropriateness: Are you “force fitting” a packaging system into your existing footprint? Is the cost of a ground-up solution going to offer good ROI? Or are you choosing an efficient and effective solution that can be easily tailored to your needs? Once you have a few viable options, make lists and tables so you can compare them. This process will help to take you to your final step.
Step 4: Implement Your Findings
In the final step of the process you’ll take a final review of the systems in front of you and determine which will work best and fit into your space best. Once you’ve done this, you should be ready to purchase that new packaging machine and achieve your goals.
No matter what your available footprint is, follow this 4-step process to ensure that your needs (today and in the future) are directly and thoroughly addressed by the solution you choose.
Need help evaluating all your options? Contact our team today to talk about the innovative ways we can solve your packaging challenge!
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