Choosing the Right Pouch Machine for The Application

Understand the Key Points for Evaluating Premade Pouch Machines Versus FFS Technology.

By: Troy Snader, Senior Vice President, ProMach Flexible Packaging Group. TroySnader

The premade pouch machine fills and seals premade pouches, and offers fast changeover, simplicity of use, and small footprint.

This may be the golden age of the stand-up pouch. When a brand adopts the pouch style, industry data shows that sales jump by an average of 10%. The reasons for the sales increase include:

  • Full-front-panel graphics on store shelves help sell the product inside the package.
  • Brand owners and co-packers like the product lifecycle and sustainability advantages of film, from low initial cost to less weight in transportation.
  • Consumers appreciate being able to keep foods fresher with recloseable strips.

Two Types of Pouch Machines

There are two types of machines utilized for packaging products in stand-up pouches. One class of machines fills and seals premade pouches. The advantages of the premade pouch machine are fast changeover, simplicity of use, and small footprint. The second type of machine forms, fills, and seals (FFS) pouches from rollstock material. Forming the pouches on the machine generally means less material cost. There may be a general perception that FFS is superior because of lower material cost. The problem with this perception is that it does not take other critical factors into account.

The ProMach Flexible Packaging group offers both types of machines and does not promote one type of machine over the other, but instead helps customers make an informed selection. Here are suggestions for choosing the correct machine for the need.

What Is the Frequency of Changeover?

The FFS machine forms, fills, and seals pouches from rollstock material, and forming the pouches on these machine generally means less material cost.

Determine the frequency of changeover. FFS machines take longer to changeover than premade pouch fillers and sealers. Every time a new stock keeping unit (SKU) runs on the line there is a measurable effect on output, not only from downtime as the film is changed and threaded, but also during dial-in. When the first pouches of the new batch are initially being formed some may be out of conformance. Consider cost of labor and labor availability issues in the choice of machines. It requires higher skill to operate a rollstock machine. In a tight labor market, skilled people may be difficult to hire and retain.

Contrast these considerations with the ease and speed of changeover with a premade pouch machine where the process may be as simple as removing one set of pouches and replacing them with a second set of the same size. Only the graphics have changed, not the machine setting. In this scenario, changeover is fast with little to no waste. And the premade pouch machine is simpler to operate than a rollstock machine.

One way to reach an objective decision is to calculate capital-paid-per-bag of output. This calculation measures how many bags per minute realistically can be produced given the number of changeovers, type of pouch, and product. The calculation compares output with the cost of the machinery. It is a good baseline measure for comparing different machines, efficiencies, and cost per pouch. When making this calculation, it is also important for the brand owner and co-packer to estimate SKU proliferation over the life of the line. As stated earlier, the number of SKUs impacts the number of changeovers, which affects the total throughput.

Pouch Style May Be Limited to A Specific Type of Machine. 

Make sure that the desired pouch style can be run on the machine. For example, while there are many types of stand-up pouches, the true flat bottom style can only be run on a premade pouch filler and sealer. Another factor determining which type of machine to purchase involves the product to be packaged. Some products have such a low density they require a more stable pouch base and that comes back to the question of whether the machine can produce the pouch.

When in the market for a pouch machine, make sure to have input on both types – premade and FFS. Be as accurate as possible on the number of SKUs anticipated for the line and the frequency of changeover. Calculate capital-paid-per-bag of output over the life of the machine. Perform these steps and tap into your own golden age of the stand-up pouch.

Troy Snader has over 32 years of experience in the Packaging Machinery Industry, specializing in Flexible Packaging Machinery. Snader is currently employed as Senior Vice President of ProMach’s Flexibles Group. Previously, Snader was President and Owner of Packaging Synergies, Vice President of Global Sales for Sandiacre Packaging Machinery, and held sales management positions at Heat and Control. For more information, go to promachbuilt.com.