Improve Packaging Line Efficiency

    1024 320 ITB Packaging

      “Watch the little things; a small leak will sink a great ship.”

      —Benjamin Franklin

      OVERVIEW

      Manufacturers, distributors, and everyone else involved in the supply chain know that there is always room for improvement. Improving your packaging line efficiency can involve either making improvements to what you already have in place, and/or upgrading your operation with more advanced equipment or automation. In either case, you’ll want to evaluate things like floor space, downtime, throughput, packaging materials, waste, and employee training.

      WHAT IS THE PACKAGING LINE?

      If you’re just starting out, a basic understanding of a packaging line might be helpful. To put it simply, the packaging line is where containers enter into the packaging system, and are assembled, filled, and sealed before being loaded on pallets or readied for shipping. The packaging process can be done either manually or using automated or semi-automated machines. Depending on the volume of products you need to ship in a given time period, you’ll need to select the right method for your packaging line to be successful. Low volumes can be managed with manual labor while high volumes will likely require some machinery and automation for the highest level of efficiency.

      BENEFITS OF AN OPTIMIZED PACKAGING LINE

      An optimized packaging line provides numerous benefits, including improved efficiency, quality control, safety and customer satisfaction.

      • Productivity:  The benefits of increased efficiency are clear. Not only does it keep things on schedule, but it also reduces labor costs associated with overtime, absenteeism, and turnover.
      • Quality:  A streamlined process leads to better quality control as employees can focus more on quality and less on their physical environment.
      • Safety: Optimal production speeds create a safer work environment by allowing employees more time to react to potentially dangerous situations.
      • Customer Satisfaction: Reducing lead times can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction by helping to ensure that they receive ordered products in a timely manner. This, in turn, can lead to increased brand loyalty and repeat purchases.

      TIPS FOR PACKAGING LINE OPTIMIZATION

      If your goal is an optimized packaging line, consider the following tips:

      1. Identify potential problems: The first step to optimizing your packaging line is identifying potential problems. A full packaging line audit will include analyzing the current process, checking for errors, and looking for inefficiencies. By pinpointing and understanding where the problems exist and the challenges you need to overcome, you can take the necessary steps to improve the process. Finally, be sure to set clear and measurable performance goals.
      2. Minimize packaging waste: Reducing packaging waste is a great way to optimize your packaging line while taking actionable steps toward sustainability. Evaluating and using suitable packaging materials and techniques can significantly reduce the amount of waste produced. Additionally, ensuring that packaging materials are stored and handled properly can greatly impact your process’s efficiency.
      3. Reduce machine downtime: Reducing machine downtime is essential for maintaining an efficient packaging line. This can be achieved by regularly inspecting and maintaining equipment and automating certain processes. Additionally, keeping critical spare parts on hand and implementing a preventative maintenance schedule can help ensure that machines run optimally. Lastly, consider staggering employee break times so that machines can run continuously. And don’t overlook tapping into your equipment supplier’s expertise.
      4. Choose the right equipment: Before you get started with optimization, make sure your equipment is up to the task. For example, if you’re replacing outdated machinery with newer technology, make sure it has all the features you need and will work well in your environment. Opt for machines with automated packaging options that enable you to save space by integrating multiple processes into one machine. Consider purchasing machines with built-in features that preserve the packaging material’s integrity to make sure it will be eligible for recycling. Careful packaging line design and equipment integration will factor in machine placement, speeds, accumulation capacity, flexibility, conveyor systems and the products primary and secondary packaging characteristics.
      5. Don’t skimp on training: Training employees and operators may initially reduce productivity, but it can pay off in the long run by empowering employees to recognize and proactively address problems. There are several ways that better training leads to improved performance. A thorough understanding of the equipment can help employees work more confidently and quickly, as well as develop skills that can reduce downtime, such as preventative maintenance.

      HOW TO MEASURE PACKAGING LINE EFFICIENCY

      If your line relies heavily on machinery, you’ll need to understand Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) measurements and know your packaging line efficiency calculation based on availability, performance and quality. A complete explanation is beyond the scope of this article but the basic steps include:

      • Determining your maximum production rate
      • Identifying and defining causes of line stops
      • Establishing center line operating parameters

      For a more in-depth explanation of OEE, see Calculate OEE

      THE BOTTOM LINE

      Optimizing your packaging line is a must for businesses that depend on packaging for their success. There are a number of factors to consider and tips to follow when optimizing your packaging line, including streamlining processes, automating processes, and investing in the latest technology. With the right optimization, you can ensure that your packaging line runs smoothly and efficiently, while still meeting your customer’s needs.

      Want to read later or share this information with your team? Download our Guide to Packaging Optimization.