BULK BAGGERS CALL IN THE AUTOMATION HEAVYWEIGHTS
Increasing numbers of industry wide manufacturers are automating their packing facilities as they strive to enhance their competitive edge. This includes a growing number of bulk handlers involved in the supply and distribution of sand and aggregates, wholesale foods and agricultural produce.
Bulk packers considering making the switch to automation can raise many questions, from legislative to bag stability and presentation. As a specialist in designing packing systems, Pacepacker is no stranger to advising bulk manufacturers on the best way to introduce a new bagging system. The company’s innovative Total Bag Control system (TBC) makes up 98% of their bag closing systems sales from this industry alone. Commercial & Information Systems Manager Paul Wilkinson explains why.
“The ability to withstand often harsh environments, produce a consistent pack presentation, accommodate differing pack sizes and overcome wastage when bagging high quantities, are just some of the issues we help bulk manufacturers to address. Constricting health and safety regulations and the need to relieve employees of onerous, laborious tasks is the driving force behind automation in the bulk sector.”
The application of automation is an essential ingredient in the sustainability of manufacturing businesses, reinforces Mike Wilson, President of the British Automation & Robot Association (BARA). “Automating manufacturing processes not only drives costs down; it improves quality, reduces waste and optimises energy use,” says Mike. “In a relatively high cost economy, such as the UK, automation will consequently increase a manufacturer’s competitive edge.”
Today’s systems are designed to tolerate the most abrasive of environments. Robust equipment, like Pacepacker’s TBC system, can even be built within a portable container, providing bulk manufacturers with multiple packing locations a single turnkey solution that can be easily transported around an estate.
Tips for automation rookies
When selecting and implementing a new bagging system, Paul flags three critical factors to consider upfront:
Equipment compatibility – check that any equipment feeding the new packing system, and any other equipment integrated or affected by it, is suitably compatible. The overall line speed is determined by the slowest element; concerns should not be limited to the weigher alone. For example a weigher and sack placer may be able to operate at 10 sacks per minute, but if the exit conveyor can only transport 8 bags per minute, it will hinder the entire system.
Adherence to regulations – sacks and bags destined for resale are subject to Weights and Measures Legislation. Whichever way you look at it, inaccurate bag weight is detrimental to business; aside from underweight bags being illegal, overweight bags will directly hit your bottom line. The impact on revenue can quickly mount up. Imagine a weighing system that averages 10 bags a minute, operating eight-hours a day, 250 days a year, overfilling bags by an average of 15 grams. This equates to 18,000 kilograms giveaway a year!An approved weighing system or check weigher can be incorporated to verify the weight of products prior to them being palletised or made ready for distribution. The check weigher must have a suitable reject system to remove bags that are ‘out of tolerance’. In some instances, a simple operator alert is sufficient.
Pack presentation and contamination – bulk products are by their very nature tough to handle. Stabilisation of bulk bags during the filling and sealing process has plagued bulk manufacturers for some time. Inconsistent sealing can result in product wastage through spillage, while unaided open bags moving from the filler to the sealer risks product contamination. Having a secure grip on the bag at all times during the filling and sealing process is something that Pacepacker’s TBC system addresses. Designed to handle paper, plastic, woven polypropylene, hessian and even nets, the TBC supports and guides bags throughout the filling and closing process. It presents sacks to the stitcher/sealer with precision, and accurately seals the most difficult-to-handle, heavy sacks. Resulting in the delivery of a consistent pack, with a premium appearance.
With all of these advancements, Paul exclaims that there has never been a better time for bulk manufacturers to consider investing in automating their bagging and palletising lines to boost productivity and reduce costs. “As with any investment, confidence in your automation partner is paramount. When exploring your options, ask plenty of questions, request demonstrations and check the level of technical support that’s available. Whether you are installing a new system or a second-user system, the most experienced providers should be able to quantify the return on investment.”
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