The First Steps of Finding Your Automated Case Forming Solution
By Sander Smith, Product Manager for Wexxar Bel
Remember that scene from I Love Lucy where the chocolates are coming too fast for Lucy and Ethel to wrap? Their solution was to shove some candies in their mouths, others in their hats, and a very small amount actually made it into the wrappers.
This hilarious clip can hit close to home for employees at the end of packaging lines. If the line has a high expected throughput, product may be flying through at too high a rate for the case formers and packers. Just like in I Love Lucy, this can result in rushed, low quality packaging or completely unpackaged goods.
Is automated case forming right for you?
With staffing shortages continuing to make reliable labor difficult to find, the support these workers need can often be found in a case erector. This machine is available in either semi- or fully automatic models and can be used to assemble boxes to match the rate of the items coming through to be packaged. Comparing your operation to this checklist can help you determine if adding automation to this portion of your line is the right move:
- Labor-intensive line: If your setup demands several staff members working 8 hours or more on boxing, automation can be a huge support. A case erector frees up the time they would spend making boxes for other, more meaningful tasks. It is also a reliable member of the team no matter what the job market looks like.
- High expected throughput: A large throughput can both necessitate the capability increase from adding automation and produce a quick return on the investment on the machine purchase.
- Space concerns from pre-erected boxes: Space is money. If your employees have to pre-assemble massive amounts of boxes to keep nearby for packing, that takes up space you can’t use for other goods, operations or processes. Both kinds of case erectors have a low footprint, and the boxes themselves take up a fraction of the space.
- New packaging lines: New lines are a great indication of growth. Sustaining that growth and ensuring your line can seamlessly take on new business is a strength of automation.
- Large, corrugated accounts: When customers require a lot of boxes, case forming manually is a massive time suck and can cost business.
- Need to increase production: No matter why production is increasing, higher expected throughput means an upgrade to the packaging system. In these situations, the reasons above make automation a terrific option to consider.
Knowing you would benefit from a case erector machine is the first step to finding the right fit to boost your operation. The next is determining whether you should go with a semi- or fully-automatic option.
Most semi-automation applications provide a consistent, lower rate of production. For both case forming and sealing, the operator feeds the machine by inserting an unfolded case blank into the case former. Once the case is formed on the bottom, he or she loads the product in, then closes the flaps on top and feeds it into the case sealer for sealing.
A semi-automatic solution is ideal when applications call for packing about five or fewer cases per minute. In situations where the expected throughput is not significantly greater than employee capabilities, the lower footprint and overall cost of a semi-automatic machine may make it a better choice.
Fully- automatic applications
If the goal is to increase speed dramatically or minimize operator interaction with the packing line, then a fully automatic solution is the better choice. For the case former, an operator simply needs to load unfolded blanks in the magazine, and the machine automatically forms cases that are ready to be packed.
Depending on the application, product can be loaded manually or automatically through a case packing system. Packed cases then travel to the case sealer, where the flaps are mechanically closed and cases are automatically sealed, ready for shipping.
When all three components (case former, loader and sealer) are automatically working together, speed and efficiencies are gained as the system is driving the operator, whereas in a semi-automatic solution, the operator is driving the system.
Both semi-automatic and fully automatic packing solutions are great alternatives to those companies looking to add a higher level of automation to their packaging operations. Both systems are flexible, allowing easy integration of components to meet changing applications. Automation is a winning strategy to bring speed and efficiency to your next packing line.
About the Author
Sander Smith is the product manager for Wexxar Bel. Learn more at (www.wexxar.com).