14 April 2015 //
by Matt Rose
Everyone wants to have their packaging equipment project go smoothly, and to avoid unexpected delays or problems from arising. As with most problems, clear communication is almost always the answer.
When looking at investing in new capital equipment, a clear, comprehensive specification will ensure your company’s core wants and needs are communicated to the potential supplier. Today’s specifications seem to be congested with terms, conditions, non-disclosure/purchase agreements and other irrelevant ‘boilerplate’ information that tends to dilute what is really being asked.
Therefore, when it comes down to the “nuts and bolts” part of the specification it’s crucial to convey exactly what is being asked for clearly and thoroughly. There are several specific areas that should be detailed out, not glossed over (or excluded altogether) when looking for a new end-of-line packaging machine.
Here’s the checklist of the critical areas that need to be covered in your specification:
1) What is Your Current Process and What Has Been Attempted Up to This Point?
All background information specific to the machine being requested helps paint a picture of where you were, are now, and are looking to be. Knowing what hasn’t worked or has been already attempted will help accelerate the initial design process and eliminate many ground level and time-consuming questions.
2) What are Your Current Product Sizes, Pack Configurations, Throughput Rates, and Product Weights? What About the Future?
Here you need to go beyond stating just a minimum and maximum. Be honest and upfront – what will this machine need to accommodate? What does your marketing department have in its plans – make sure you have those internal discussions. All too frequently additional products and or increased throughput rates are added at the last minute, causing delays, changeovers, and dollars to add up.
3) What are Specific Goals and Performance Requirements of the Actual Package that the Proposed Machine Creates?
Clearly identify what the end-of-line package is being used for. Is it for distribution purposes only and will never see the end user? Is a high level of aesthetics required? Can the sides of the pack be open (bull’s eye)? Does it need to the totally enclosed for dust and debris protection? The more information that can be communicated about the performance of the package will help you identify machine capabilities that will best suit your needs.
4) Film Specification
There have never been more options available for film materials than right now. With endless options out there, you need to take time to clearly specify which film you’re looking for. Identify film material (e.g., LDPE), film gauge (e.g., 2.0 mil), film properties (e.g., clear, opaque), film printing (e.g., none, random, registered) If known, state the maximum preferred diameter of the roll of film (e.g., 14”, 20”).
5) What Utilities are Available?
What electrical and compressed air services are available? What can be made available? What is not available? Typically, a 460/480 VAC (3ph 60hz) electrical and 90 psi air services are preferred. Do not underestimate the utility requirements and associated costs during the preliminary ROI and clearly state these in the specification.
6) Does Your Company Have Any Preferred or Required Subcomponents?
Be sure to include all preferred electrical and mechanical components, including specific part numbers if possible. Having a clearly defined list of preferred or required components will help create an apples-to-apples comparison between bids and remove potentially expensive change orders down the road. This will also open the dialogue between you and the supplier if they are any concerns regarding specific components, such as a requested component which may become obsolete.
7) What is the Production Environment?
The machine will need to be designed and built to accommodate the everyday production environment for continuous operation. It’s important to identify what the production environment is. A few typical questions you should be asking yourself are:
- What is the temperature range?
- What is the humidity level range?
- Is it dusty? Is the dust abrasive?
- Is it wash down?
- Does it have an IP rating?
- Are cleaning agents used?
- Regarding operator safety, are there any combustible or explosive environmental concerns that need to be addressed?
8) What is the Available Machine Footprint?
Determine if there are any limitations to the machine footprint. If possible, include an AutoCAD or PDF layout drawing with dimensions. Also communicate the existing infeed and exit working elevations or any elevation limitations that may exist. Providing an accurate layout will ensure a complete machine is being proposed including any infeed to exit conveyors.
The investment of new packaging equipment can be significant, and any missteps can be costly. Before embarking on this type of project, do the critical upfront work of creating a detailed and comprehensive specification using these guidelines to ensure your needs are accurately and effectively addressed by the equipment you choose.