Eliminate mistakes and downtime while outputting consistently sharp packaging.
Your production line seems to be running just fine, humming along at peak efficiency. But you know in your gut that your numbers could be higher. As a cosmetics contract packager, or co-packer, many businesses rely upon you to ensure their product is perfectly packaged and quickly prepped for shipment. Being in a competitive industry, you can't afford to be the bottleneck of the supply chain.
Co-packers are continually looking for ways to move inventory faster. These days, shorter runs and increased communication with clients are expected. To reach peak performance, packaging operations have started hiring outside experts to analyze their production lines to identify and weed out overlooked inefficiencies.
Let's look at some ways you can eliminate mistakes, avoid downtime, and stay at the top of your game.
Move to Full Automation
As you know, many cosmetics packaging operations start out doing as much by hand as they can. As the operations grow, humans become the weak link. Labels can be crooked, boxes accidentally left unfilled, containers dropped, and the pace is far slower than what a machine is capable of. Even moving from purely manual labor to a semi-automatic machine improves speed and accuracy. Semi-automatic equipment still requires some human involvement, perhaps to place a cap on a bottle before a machine tightens it or to put boxes on a conveyor belt for the machine to apply labels, but it's much faster than human labor alone.
Fully automatic machines that can feed products to each other rather than relying on employees. But even if every machine has conveyors and rollers designed to pass off containers, they must connect seamlessly. Using equipment from different manufacturers puts the burden on the co-packer to ensure each piece of equipment can hand off products smoothly and cleanly. Once you've got each piece of equipment working as a seamless whole, you can expect straight labels, properly filled containers, and no dropped or mishandled goods. The speed gains alone could increase your profit margin substantially.
Implement Preventive Maintenance
Every machine eventually breaks in some way. Instead of waiting until a machine fails, shutting down the whole line, calling in a maintenance specialist, and waiting for parts to get ordered and installed, a better idea is to perform routine preventive maintenance, which can save hundreds of wasted hours. The manufacturers of your equipment may even offer a preventative maintenance program to take that burden off your shoulders. They'll inspect and monitor your machines to ensure they don't go out of alignment or experience malfunctions and keep them running at factory specs.
Here are some specific things you can do to keep your equipment in optimal condition.
- Buy spare machines: If a machine needs repair and there's no way to fix it quickly, slotting in an identical machine solves the problem.
- Invest in spare parts/repair kits: Parts that are more likely to break or get worn out should be kept on hand. Your equipment manufacturer should have standard sets of these parts you can order.
- Train staff: Having employees that can take care of basic or common repairs eliminates waiting for a repairman for every problem.
- Monitor your environment: Keep your facility as clean as possible. Dust, salt, and other contaminants can prematurely corrode and wear on your equipment.
Eliminate Material Waste
Evaluate the usage of your materials to make sure there isn't a hidden cost lurking somewhere. Trimming packing foam and tossing the scraps, using too much tape to secure boxes, using packaging that is too large, or labels that are too thick are all areas where material waste can be reduced. For example, backless labels eliminate the need for a paper lining, are generally cheaper, and are environmentally friendly. Thinner, lightweight glass will not only reduce the amount of glass per bottle used but will save on transport costs due to lower weight and is a good way to help reduce your carbon footprint, too.
But waste is not just a problem of too much or the wrong kind of materials. Machines are designed to operate at specific speeds. Even with automation eliminating human error at the point of packaging, it can still creep in at earlier stages like filling and capping. If your equipment is set to run product too fast, you can experience spills, broken containers, and bottlenecks as your machines try to feed to the next one in line too quickly. While the pressure to increase output might cause you to push your production line to its limits, it's best to find the right balance of your equipment rather than aim for outright speed.
Analyze Your Production
Hiring an outside expert to go through your production line may seem like a waste of money. Who knows your facility better than you do, right? But having an outsider evaluate your operation with fresh eyes — especially eyes that have seen what works to increase production in other packaging plants — will help you see issues you've overlooked. They can look at your energy usage and offer money-saving recommendations. They can help identify recycling opportunities, optimize your storage methods, point you to better suppliers, and find ways of keeping your facility as clean and friendly to your machines and employees as possible.
When you're looking for someone to perform an analysis, here are a few places you can start.:
- The manufacturing reps: The people who built your equipment will know what to do to keep it running properly. They can help you optimize it for the best results.
- Your vendors: The people who sell you your machines are invested in making sure you're happy with them! If you have a good relationship with them, ask for help.
- Packaging distributors: They are experts on supplying the right equipment and materials based on a packaging company's needs. They know multiple brands and how to keep machines running at peak efficiency.
Run all materials through your equipment and look for any bottlenecks, idle machines wasting energy, product getting damaged or mishandled, and identify any machines that might be broken or malfunctioning. You can cut down the time an expert will spend on-site if you can locate some of these problems beforehand. Also, take a video of any specific areas you think need improvement. As you review the footage, you may find issues that you missed the first time.
Rely on your team, too. Ask them if they've identified any inefficiencies within their scope of the work. Your team probably spends more time with your equipment than you do, so they may have insights you don't.
Once you've tested your line, consulted with your team, and documented issues both on paper and on video, you're better prepared to find solutions.
Labelers for the Cosmetics Industry
Keeping your production line at peak output may mean making some changes to your equipment. Pack Leader USA's labeling machines for the cosmetics industry are designed to make labeling easy, consistent, and fast! Download the Cosmetics Industry Guide to Labeling Equipment for more helpful advice and tips for improving your production line and output. You need trusted partners as you improve your operation, and Pack Leader USA is here to help.