08 March 2017 //
by Matt Rose
There’s a saying in the packaging industry — “the only thing that remains constant is change.” New pack sizes and styles, packaging materials and rising throughput rates, coupled with dynamic distributor and customer demands, make it increasingly difficult for manufacturers and co-packers to accommodate the ever-changing packaging landscape. Unfortunately, existing packaging equipment is often unable to accommodate the flexibility demanded by the industry, and it must be evaluated for modification or replaced altogether.
There are many perceived benefits of modifying existing equipment, rather than purchasing new. They include:
- Lower overall cost
- Ability to maintain existing equipment
- Allocating upgrade costs to a maintenance budget rather than a capital equipment budget
- Shorter turnaround for installation and, therefore, less downtime
Upgrading your existing packaging equipment may appear to make the most sense, but perception and reality are often two different stories. That’s why, when deciding between an upgrade or replacement, it’s important to answer the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, and why.
Who will perform modifications to existing equipment?
Depending on the type of modification needed, it may require the more intimate knowledge of the OEM. Keep in mind that while your internal maintenance staff is likely highly talented, no one knows your machine’s potential better than the manufacturer who designed and built it. Modifications may need to be performed by a number of OEM employees, so their costs should be figured into your decision.
What modifications will be needed for this change?
This could be as incremental as a change in parts to accommodate a new product size or configuration, all the way up to a complete machine overhaul. This question also includes decisions about your control system’s capabilities. If component upgrades, such as servo or VFDs are required, it’s important to make sure they’re compatible with the existing PLC and that the electrical cabinet can house these components. Lastly, if you’re increasing the number of electrical components, it’s critical to calculate the new max amp load to ensure the fusing, disconnect and power source are sufficient.
Other questions that fall under the what question include decisions regarding the machines footprint. For example, is the frame robust, and will it tolerate new components and loads applied? In many cases, a tubular steel or stainless steel frame is required for significant modifications to occur. As speed and throughput rate increases, the required space, and subsequently footprint will increase as well.
When does the upgrade need to happen?
Your project timeline will be largely based on the what of your project. Considerations that should be taken into account when mapping out your schedule include the downtime of a production line. How long are you able to shut down a particular production line? Sometimes, it’s quicker to remove a piece of equipment and replace it than it is to perform necessary modifications. At other times, you may be able to put more people and resources onto a particular project.
Where will the work take place?
While it would be nice to have all modifications completed at your facility, this may not be possible for a variety of reasons. It’s not uncommon for a machine to be shipped back to the original equipment manufacturer for a complete teardown and rebuild integrating the required modifications. This question also ties into the who.
Why do I need to modify my existing equipment or production line?
Knowing the why simply requires stating all the reasons you may require a change such as a desire to increase speed, a configuration change, or new product.
To an extent, every machine can be modified, but you must ask yourself if it’s the best action to take. Answering the 5 Ws will put you in a better position to assess the true costs, benefits, risks and timeframes associated with modifying your existing packaging machine. It can also help you create a more accurate comparison of the costs associated with purchasing a new machine.
Are you exploring the possibility of modifying an existing EDL secondary packaging machine? Contact us for a complete evaluation of your system and its potential.