In any factory there should be a desire to ensure that packaging lines are working to the maximum efficiency and output. Failure to do so results in higher operating costs and reduced profits.
Despite this, many manufacturers are vulnerable to inefficiency by making these common mistakes. How many of these pitfalls have you encountered on the packaging line?
1. Stranded assets
One of the drivers to success on the packaging line comes down to how well the various pieces of equipment (“assets”) used in the process are integrated with each other. This could include date coding equipment, labellers, check-weighers and metal detectors.
For various reasons, it’s extremely difficult to treat the packaging line as a single, integrated entity rather than as a collection of individual pieces of equipment – there are “stranded assets” that are difficult to communicate with and integrate into a bigger automation framework.
A scenario that we find all too familiar is that there are no standards for connecting ERP/MES to these assets. And with a plethora of different coders, labellers and machines that exist in this area, it’s difficult for them to communicate with each other.
What’s often needed is a specialist in this area to bridge the gap between the IT world and the real world of the packaging line. But sometimes such middleware solutions are not sustainable because they are one-off projects dealt with by local systems integrators or engineers that subsequently move on.
2. Lack of flexibility and choice
Sometimes equipment vendors offer software to link their various pieces of equipment together, but these solutions rarely extend to other vendors or areas of the production line.
The pace at which packaging production and product packaging evolves means that flexibility and choice are key to sustainability. The flexibility and choice to choose the best in class equipment for the job it needs to do, without compromising connectivity to factory IT is where you want to be.
Being locked into a middleware or IT solution that constrains this flexibility and choice is a situation to be avoided.
3. Lack of reporting on efficiency
If an operations team really wants to understand how their lines are performing, they need to measure and report on these three things:
- Downtime: how much of the available production day is lost due to breakdowns or line stops for non-engineering reasons.
- Line Speed: Is the line running at the rate costed for the product.
- Quality: how much product is saleable, and how much is scrapped.
If you bundle these three pieces of data together, you get the calculation of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). While the calculation might be easy, the problem is getting accurate data.
In the absence of automation, manual paperwork systems are used and operators are expected to write down their findings such as when the line stopped and for how long. However, in our experience this is rarely done accurately because operators are simply too busy on the task in hand to spend time on reports. Plus there’s no way to record line speed manually so this data is either not recorded or it is simply inaccurate.
Factories that have made a significant investment in automation infrastructure will be aware that an automatic data collection system removes this primary problem.
Automation systems allows those who are serious about improvement to have the tools they need to determine where the pitfalls are in their operation and take action immediately.