Different industries, and even different products within an industry, will present different challenges for those doing the packaging. Some industries, such as bottled water, may show very little variance in packaging equipment from bottler to bottler. Generally speaking, packagers in the bottled water industry will use the same type of bottle, the same type of cap and the same type of label. While some modification will be necessary for the level of demand, larger three and five gallon containers or for the occasional unique bottle or lid, many bottled water lines are likely interchangeable from plant to plant.
Other industries, such as the chemical industry, will see more variation in the type of equipment that can and will be used to package their products. Chemicals can range from small containers containing a few ounces to industrial sized buckets and other containers. A quick case study of a recent project involving chemicals will help to demonstrate how choosing the right equipment can save time and money while also extending the useful life of the packaging machinery.
A start-up chemical company began a search for packaging equipment, looking for machinery that would handle a recent order placed by a customer, which would make it nearly impossible for the small company to meet production demands with manual labor alone. After contacting a manufacturer, the company was initially interested in tabletop equipment, including a liquid filler, capping machine and labeling machine. However, before anything was finalized, the company received another order for their product, boosting production demand once again.
The focus of their search turned to automatic equipment, which meant adding power conveyors to the three pieces of machinery desired as well as the possibility of loading and accumulating options. The company began by looking into standard power conveyors and turntables, but quickly learned that the “standard” stainless steel material would not be the ideal option for their product. The chemical packaged by the company was a corrosive liquid, tending to break down stainless steel material. By communicating with the equipment manufacturer, however, they learned that HDPE turntables and conveyors were available just for these types of projects. In the chemical industry, products of a corrosive nature are commonplace, so that while the search for packaging machinery was a first for the packager, the corrosive nature of the product was not a first for the equipment manufacturer. A simple inline conveyor system with turntables for loading and unloading bottles was designed for the company.
The chemical itself, though corrosive, was a free-flowing liquid, which gave the company several options for a filling machine. After analyzing their production demand, taking into account their recent growth and discussing the options with the packaging machinery manufacturer, the company opted for a six head HDPE gravity filling machine. This machine not only allowed the company to meet current production demand with a single eight hour production shift, but it left the chemical packager with some room for growth in the future. Furthermore, the design of the gravity filler allowed for an additional ten heads to be added in the future, allowing for a simple upgrade, rather than all new equipment, as new orders were received. The HDPE construction ensured that the machine life would not be shortened by undue wear and tear. In the end, the company also enclosed the filling machine to avoid spills, splashes and excessive fumes, extracting the same from the machine.
As the company moved on to the capping machine and labeling equipment, the need for HDPE construction lessened. At the point that the bottle and product reached the capping machine, the product should be secure in the bottle, so absent a splash, the product should not come in contact with either the capper or the labeler. More specifically, the company chose to seal bottles with a flat, screw-on type cap. The cap would be presented to the bottle just before entering the capping area. Using a spindle capper, several sets of rubber spindle wheels then contact the cap to screw it down onto the bottle. Keeping in mind that the entire conveyor system used HDPE construction, even in the rare event of a tipping bottle, the capping machine itself would be unlikely to have excessive or prolonged contact with the chemical itself. Therefore, the spindle capper was constructed using a stainless steel frame. The spindle capper was also chosen over other options, such as a chuck capping machine, for its ability to continuously cap bottles on an inline system, again leaving the company room to increase production.
A simple wrap label would then be applied to the bottles being run. A wrap label is more or less self-explanatory, with the label wrapping around the bottle or other container. While the company considered both semi-automatic and automatic labeling equipment, they chose the automatic machine because it fit into their budget and the packager wanted to take advantage of automating the entire process at once. This specific case is somewhat rare for a new company, and many times a packager will automate one process – filling, capping or labeling – at a time to eventually reach a fully automated system. At this stage in the packaging process, the chemical would not only be in the bottle, but the bottle would also be sealed by the capping machine. Therefore, no special construction material would be necessary for the labeler either, as there was little likelihood of the chemical coming in direct contact with the machine itself.
Once the system was designed, the manufacture, integration, installation and training took place both at the manufacturer’s site and on the production floor of the packager. The system is up and running production to the satisfaction of the chemical company in part because both the packager and the manufacturer of the equipment took time to understand the product, current needs and future expectations before the first component had been sent to be built. It is this teamwork in the packaging industry that leads to an ideal solution for each and every packaging project.
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