The Cost of a Do-it-all Shrink Wrap Machine

23 January 2017 //

Packaging System Upgrade

Purchasing capital equipment, regardless of how large or small, requires a significant amount of planning and buy-in from across the entire organization. Competing department interests can stall an initiative or create hidden project costs; in some cases these competing interests cause the project to be put on hold before it even gets started. When purchasing a shrink wrap machine, it’s critical to align your current and realistic future needs with one that matches them the best.

Competing Internal Interests & Requests

When exploring purchasing a new shrink wrap machine internal interests and requests across various departments must be managed. For example, your brand management/marketing department may request flexibility to create unknown package formats to suit the needs of the ever-changing buyer landscape; manufacturing may demand additional capacity to prevent potential future downstream bottlenecking, while the equipment operators may push for zero change parts.

It’s somewhat second nature to try to accommodate each department’s request, you really need to ask, “At what cost is this functionality worthwhile?” As you consider a new shrink wrap machine, keep in mind that the added functionality requested by key stakeholders will equate to additional hardware, ultimately inflating the overall packaging project scope and cost.

If additional functionality is truly necessary, and the cost is justafiable, then communicating this to your shrink wrap manufacturer is key. However if the requests are “pie-in-the-sky” functionality that attempts to account for all manner of things that might happen in the future, it’s important to go back to your core project goals.

Automated Packaging Machine with Robotics

It’s not uncommon for a growing company to invest in their future by purchasing an “automatic do-everything shrink wrap machine, with robotic technology.”  And, without a doubt, robots are useful in many situations. But if a gantry pick-and-place satisfies your needs, your “do-it-all” robot won’t deliver the return on investment your CFO is hoping for (or, rather, demanding). Answering the following questions at the onset of your equipment project can help determine what you really need to get the job done…and what’s just a “nice to have.”

  • Robots offer some flexibility, but can the project tolerate the increased cost for it?
  • Does the operations staff have the capability to program and maintain the robot throughout the long term or does a simple pick-and-place option satisfy the need?
  • Will the latest technology be fully utilized long-term, or will it become an unwarranted investment if predicted market needs do not pan out?
  • How does the do-it-all piece of equipment alter the total cost of ownership throughout the equipment’s life span?

Weighing dollars and cents is simple and straightforward; balancing the needs of today with investing for the future can be more challenging. Analyzing and preticticting future trends and needs can create a “what if?” atmosphere that quickly (and in some instances falsely) expand the original project scope. At this point in the project, it’s important to ask yourself if it’s really necessary to predict what tomorrow’s specifications will be, when the demands of today are so clear.

There are always trade-offs associated with packaging equipment procurement. For example, is a small footprint machine better than a large footprint machine? However, what also should be asked are what not-so-obvious trade-offs are being made for the sake of the footprint? Asking a question like this can uncover what other other areas might be affected, such as total project cost, change over times or OEE as a whole.

The Solution

Buying a shrink wrap machine that aligns with your requirements today may appear to limit the needs of the future, but consider this — you probably wouldn’t purchase an Indy car to drive to work with the assumption that at some point the speed limit on your route might change? The importance of maintaining a laser-like focus on actual machine requirements, not foggy potential capabilities, is critical if you want to make the most practical purchase. If the right-sized solution is well defined early on, capital will be better invested.

EDL Packaging Engineers adds value to customers by sharing insights based on years of experience of shrink wrap and end-of-line packaging experience for a variety of industries. We take a consultative approach — we’re not trying to sell you a piece of equipment, we’re working to solve your specific challenge. If you’re considering a new equipment project, get it off on the right foot by talking with EDL. You’ll be glad you did.