By Sander Smith Produce Manager at Wexxar Bel
Undoubtedly, phrases such as COVID-19, social distancing, essential workers and quarantine represent defining images of the turbulent, challenging year that was 2020. But perhaps adaptability and agility should be added to that list as well. That’s because nearly every business within the food, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and packaging sectors had to adapt to the suddenly changing business landscape that occurred almost overnight, with the agility to make the necessary decisions quickly and decisively.
Companies have had to deal with regional restrictions that dictated different levels of shutdown from one state to another. This led some to temporarily alter their business model and target a different audience. For many food manufacturers with labor intensive packaging operations, social distancing requirements, coupled with a surging demand or significant change in product mix, posed further challenges to navigate and overcome.
Industries needed to adapt and be agile in 2020, and that same outlook seems to be holding true into 2021 as well. For many companies, that meant new adding space to employees where there wasn’t in the past. Enter mobile packaging machines. If your packaging line is designed to be mobile, then equipment can be moved throughout a facility to accommodate changing social distancing mandates.
Realizing that conforming to these newfound distance requirements is going to be a critical component to success in 2021, companies have been reaching out to OEMs for advice on solutions they can quickly implement. Manufacturers, have responded in kind by redesigning compact, modular packaging lines that typically were staffed up to three to four employees, to now manned with a single operator, while still maintaining adequate productivity. This allows companies to maintain production goals, while providing a safer work environment for employees.
Along with adaptability and agility, a third term to include that can sometimes get lost in the shuffle is maintenance.
It’s equally important not to neglect basic maintenance procedures during COVID-19. To ensure packaging machinery and equipment are operating at a high level, Matrix Packaging Machinery, a ProMach brand, recommends companies follow these important maintenance guidelines:
Keep it clean – One of the simplest things you can do to keep your machinery running well is to keep it clean; the cleaner a machine is, the better it will operate. Cleaning should include all mechanical parts and be performed once a shift. It’s important to always turn off and disconnect power to the machine prior to cleaning.
Don’t ignore preventive maintenance – If you’re experiencing an increase in production, it may be tempting to push back the preventive maintenance schedule for your machines – it’s critical to not skip preventive maintenance. Packaging machines are engineered to be serviced at specific intervals. Delaying service could lead to premature component failure and a longer, more costly downtime when you can least afford it. Cleanliness and preventive maintenance go hand-in-hand; don’t cut corners and skip these two essential steps.
Keep spare parts on hand – Hopefully, you have a bench stock of spare and consumable parts, such as belts, knives and heating elements readily available. This will obviously help facilitate quick repairs and minimize machinery downtime. If you don’t have an adequate bench stock set up, some OEM suppliers can perform a parts audit and prepare a recommended parts list of common replacement parts to keep in stock. Essentially, a parts audit helps you develop a parts plan, streamlining the inspection, repair, and maintenance processes for your packaging equipment.
Schedule a service call – Most reputable OEM suppliers are still conducting service calls with customers. If your OEM supplier does handle your machines’ preventive maintenance, those field-service visits will likely occur as scheduled. An uptick in business means it’s more important than ever to keep those maintenance appointments. Keep in mind that some service and troubleshooting can also be done through remote monitoring.
The companies that are staying ahead of the game are the ones that have been able to adapt to the current landscape – ones that are agile enough to go out there and get it done.
Some people are calling this the new normal. While that remains to be seen, our current situation is an environment we all likely will be working in for some time. As 2020 rolls over to the new year, the key to success lies in finding those opportunities and be in position to quickly act upon them. That takes adaptability and agility…and of course maintenance – three words that will come to define 2021.
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