Packaging line efficiency is a critical part of your operation.
Are you worried about the output of your packaging line? Do you think it should be handling a higher volume at a faster rate? Are you scratching your head, wondering why the output is less than projected even after you've done so much to ramp it up?
When's the last time you evaluated and optimized your packaging line? Many problems stem from inefficient packaging processes.
You may have the best branding, phenomenal marketing, a brilliant sales team, great pay and benefits for your employees, but if you can't reliably get a product out the door and into the hands of a customer because of a flawed packaging process, your output and sales will suffer.
According to a Decision Analyst Survey in 2019, 76% of all manufacturers prioritize improving shop floor productivity as their most valuable growth strategy.
If your packaging line seems to have constant problems and bottlenecks, there are solutions. Here are some problem areas you can improve to start gaining the momentum you need.
Problem #1 - Poor Material Quality and Wrong Supplies
The shipment just delivered contained the wrong container size, several boxes of deformed bottles were found among the lot you ordered, and your labels contain typos.
All of these are a problem, but the easiest one to let slip through is a typo. Sometimes label misspellings or graphical errors happen, but they should be caught before they ever make it onto a product. Some might believe that any free advertising is wonderful, but having the internet collectively point and laugh at your mistake is not.
Spending time inspecting everything can save you from the headache of recalling products, ordering new labels and packaging, and wasting energy and resources. This principle can be applied to every aspect of your packaging, from labels and lids to primary and secondary containers. Whether you have cracks in your glass bottles, tears in cardboard boxes, discolored plastic, or some other quality issue, you need to catch them before they make it into the hands of consumers.
In the pursuit of trying to eliminate all production and packaging errors, Toyota engineer Shigeo Shingo developed a system called poka-yoke. Delta Airlines adopted this model nearly ten years ago. They went from thousands of canceled flights per year due to maintenance issues down to less than a hundred.
Using the poka-yoke method, you could work toward eliminating ordering errors, getting procedures in place to keep things moving even when the wrong materials are delivered, avoiding misspelling, and more.
Problem #2 - Conveyor Issues and Poor Handoffs
Let's say your company produces soft drinks. Empty bottles get filled, capped, and labeled. Your line needs to take each bottle or can from the previous machine and feed it to the next. If you have misaligned or broken equipment, you're going to end up with misfeeds and potentially bigger problems.
Sometimes it seems like the solution for poor handoffs is to slow one of the machines down. After all, if bottles are tipping over when they go through at 600 bottles per hour, but move just fine at 400 per hour, doesn't slowing the machine down solve the issue? No, it does not.
While it's important to match operational speeds between machines for optimum efficiency, if a problem has cropped up all of a sudden, it could be because something is stretching or bending and is out of alignment. Get the machine repaired and up your packaging rate rather than slow down to accommodate poorly functioning equipment. Besides, the problem is only going to get worse if it's ignored.
Problem #3 - Downtime Without a Backup Plan
You probably have a backup hard drive or online storage in case your computer crashes, right? The same principle applies to your packaging line. Having two machines, one of which you don't use, might seem like a waste. But if you're gearing up for increased holiday sales or introducing a new product, having equipment break and hold up your entire operation could be devastating.
Some jobs can be done manually in case of emergency, like folding boxes or screwing on tops. Something that requires more precision, like applying labels, can't be done effectively by employee labor alone. Budget for a spare machine that can be slotted in the place of the broken one, and you'll be grateful when the time comes to use it. Remember, even if you have preventative maintenance measures in place, you can still experience equipment failure.
Some equipment manufacturers like Pack Leader USA sell Spare Parts Kits — having a kit like this is one way to guarantee minimal downtime.
Problem #4 - Not Automating Manual Tasks
Hand labor is, of necessity, slower and costlier than machine labor. If you have complicated cardboard inserts that need to be folded by hand, like packaging origami, that’s wasted time, resources, and manpower. Your production line would operate more smoothly if your packaging switched to vacuum-formed plastic or pre-cut foam that could be placed in boxes automatically with dedicated equipment. Automating tasks, from placing products into containers to adding cushioning material and even just taping boxes, will save you time and money.
Automating tasks also reduces human error. To use the example of applying labels again, no matter how accurate and cautious an employee might be, they can’t apply hundreds or thousands of labels perfectly in any reasonable amount of time. While a dedicated automatic labeler can produce dozens or hundreds of cleanly labeled products in a matter of minutes, an employee will be painstakingly wrapping a single label, trying to eliminate air bubbles and keeping it straight.
Don’t Let Your Labeler Slow Down Your Packaging Line
If your labeler is the number one pain point in your packaging line, creating bottlenecks, and slowing output, then it might be time to upgrade.
Pack Leader USA's label machines are durable and modular for easy integration and repair. Find the right model for your product line, and watch your efficiency increase immediately. Pack Leader USA's skilled and experienced technicians will help set up your new labeler and train your employees, too. Set up a free consultation today.