How Ancillary Components Impact Packaging Line Efficiency

03 June 2016 //

Equipment PurchasingPackaging Line EfficiencyProject Planning

When designing a new packaging line or retooling an existing one, the emphasis is understandably on the major packaging functions and related capital equipment. In fact, the amount of attention paid to investigating, specifying and selecting a particular piece of machinery is roughly proportionate to the financial investment for that component relative to the overall project.

However, maximizing modern packaging line efficiency also requires careful selection and implementation of ancillary equipment that, while often relatively small in size and investment, is critical to overall project success.

Inspection equipment is a perfect example of these minor – but critically essential – components:

Contaminant Detection

Metal detection remains the primary function under this group, but advanced X-Ray, MRI, Ultrasonic and other technologies can detect and alert to food contaminants and quality defects prior to final packaging for any product.

Weight or Volume Verification

Traditionally checkweighers are used on food product packaging lines to detect and reject underweight/overweight primary packages. However, they also play a pivotal role in integrated packaging line efficiency, detecting inconsistent product weight that presents challenges to high-speed downstream equipment in addition to the more obvious quality concerns.

Similarly, weight or volume verification benefits lines that are designed to run at maximum efficiency even when the input product is subject to change within a set of parameters, such as extruded food product that may vary in density by +/- 10% but is packaged by weight. By monitoring the volume and/or weight of the product, it’s possible to automatically adjust downstream equipment to accommodate the changing input without loss of efficiency.

Vision Systems

Applications for this technology range from label and fill verification to ensuring products are correctly oriented for automated processes downstream. The recent and rapid development of optical verification technologies emphasizes aligning hardware and programming with real-world environments. For example, cameras and related programming have been simplified to the point where it’s now practical to “teach” a vision system a new product and accept/reject parameters as part of a rapid changeover on a packaging line. These systems can sometimes replace functions previously handled by checkweighing and some other inspection technologies as well.

A vision system can “look at” the number of primary packages in a shrink bundled secondary package to verify the correct count, look for the presence and legibility of labels, verify correct orientation and size of product, etc.—all within a very small footprint and with few, if any, components that would otherwise be subject to wear and tear.

When specifying an integrated packaging line, it’s imperative to take a step back from major packaging functions and related capital equipment to investigate the impact of ancillary components to ensure maximum efficiency. Contact us today to discuss how to align the needs, technologies and equipment of your next packaging line project.