Long before Covid, we were seeing an increase in the number of packaging SKUs. In 2019, Packaging Digest reported an estimated 42% increase in SKUs in the food and beverage industry.
Since Covid, there has been a further explosion of new packaging sizes, especially in the food and beverage marketplace. Food manufacturers have gotten very creative. Instead of raising prices due to the higher costs of goods, for example, they can reduce the size of product packages while keeping the consumer prices the same.
Many of today’s production machines are not equipped to changeover as quickly and as accurately to meet the demand of the marketplace. Manufacturers now face the challenge of “semi-automating” their existing machines, as opposed to procuring new machines or adding expensive motors to existing machines. One solution is to digitalize change points on existing machines.
Companies are looking to reduce the amount of time and the mistakes that occur when doing product changeovers. Allowing for operator guidance and position measurement can reduce your time and enhance your accuracy of those changeover events. Measurements are then tied to the recipe and the operator becomes the prime mover.
Guided Format Change
There are lots of technologies out there for helping with guided format change, such as automated position measurement, machine position, distance measurement, linear measurement, and digitalized rotary encoders.
As you are likely quite aware, there are often scales, marks, etc., written onto machines that don’t provide the greatest degree of accuracy. Introducing digitalized position and distance sensing can help you reduce time and limit errors during changeovers.
Change Part Identification
The other side of changeover is change part identification. Quite often during this process parts on the machine must be exchanged. Using the wrong change part can result in mistakes, waste, and delays, and can even damage existing machines.
Technologies, such as RFID, can help ensure the correct change part is chosen and added to the machine. During a recipe change, the operator can then validate that all the correct parts are installed before the startup of the next product run.
Guided format change is a cost-effective way to reduce changeover time and increase productivity either by retrofitting your existing machines or even new machines.