By Joan Mantini, Editor
Investing in better equipment can reduce the amount of labor, which can in turn, decreases long-term cost and raises profit margins, right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Not all investments are good ones. Which is why It is important to understand the different options available before investing in new filling machinery. Finding the right piece of equipment isn’t as simple as it may seem being that no two filling projects are the same, and each individual project has its unique questions and concerns. For example, some projects may require filling of a hazardous product or filling within a hazardous environment. The question of automation, or how much automation is best is another as some projects could have specific electrical requirements while others have no need for electricity at all.
With so many options available, purchasing the right filling machine can indeed be a difficult choice, especially if you are not sure what questions to ask. Answering a few general questions can be good preparation to ensure the most economical and efficient filling machine is chosen. So how can you know which filling machine will serve your business best? Here are a few questions to ask before you make your purchase.
- What exactly are you going to be filling? Some fillers are designed to fill specific containers, depending on what those containers are going to hold. Some fillers are designed for containers that store dry items such as powders, and others are better suited for holding liquids. When choosing a filling machine, make sure that the machinery is going to be able to collaborate most efficiently with your product.
- What is the shape and size of your container or packaging and how heavy is your product? Thinking about the size and shape of the actual containers that the machine is going to fill is important because some machines work a certain way depending on the sizing of the product.
Depending on the sort of products that you produce, weight might could be an issue. It is important to make sure that if you are producing anything with considerable weight to it that the equipment is able to accommodate for it over a sustainable period of time.
- Is the filling machine user friendly? If your factory handles larger consumptions of products, having a machine that is user friendly is imperative to the speed of your filling process. When it comes to the various machines available, try to consider one that allows for an easy changeover of your products, as well as one that can be properly sanitized and is easy to train employees to use as well as maintain.
- What is your production rate and will company growth make your machine obsolete? Determining your current production rate is fairly simple compared to trying to estimate anticipated growth. However, ensuring that a filling machine can handle increased production in the future is a important factor in determining which filling machine will be best for your operational needs. Packagers should be mindful in making sure that the filling machine of choice will have the ability to grow alongside the company. When thinking about this question, think about what production is like now and how you think it will be in the future as your business grows. Depending on your rate, it may or may not be necessary to upgrade machinery at all.
- Which type of filler automation system fits your needs? When purchasing filling machinery, determining which type is best suited for your individual production needs and if it fits your budge is definitely key.
Manual fillers can be a good option for small-scale companies with few employees and no plans for future growth, such as home brewers. Manual fillers are designed to handle a low production rate and would not be the best choice for small-to-medium-sized operations or a small business with plans for expansion.
Semi-automatic fillers can be an ideal solution for a start-up or small company with plans for future growth. These machines are capable of producing more than the manual fillers, but still require a bit of manual operating. A semi-automatic filling machine can definitely be an affordable and smart investment for smaller operations looking to move up from manual filling but not quite ready to go full automation yet.
And finally, fully automatized filling machines, which can be the best choice for any advanced and/or large-scale operation with higher production rates. While these machines do take up a little more space than both, they require little-to-no manual handling. If your operation is medium-to-large sized with greater productivity requirements, then this option is probably worth the investment.
- Can upgrades be added to the filling machine? Not all packagers will need to automate each aspect of its packaging system at the same time, so it is important to ask if once the filling machine has been chosen, can it integrate with existing packaging equipment or with equipment you may need to purchase in the future as production demands increase. Allowing for quick and easy upgrades down the road can save time and money.
- How complicated is maintenance and cleanup? Buildup in components can impact the operation of the equipment itself as well as the overall quality of the finished products. When choosing a machine, look for one that is easy to clean and maintain to prevent contamination, poor product quality and high wear-and-tear.