A lot has changed since Burl Massman started his company from his garage in 1978. But one thing hasn’t changed. The company he founded retains a commitment to long-term customer relationships – and meeting the demands of modern packaging with high-performance, automated solutions.
Today, Massman Automation has grown to become a leading supplier of packaging systems in North America. From headquarters in Villard, Minnesota, the company supports a diverse customer base ranging from “mom and pop” shops to co-packers and Fortune 500 companies.
Massman has developed many standard designs over the years, but also customizes solutions to address specific application requirements – and industry challenges. Two challenges are dominating the packaging industry today: The increasing number of SKUs and an accelerated need for technical training.
“The diverse packaging requirements of e-commerce, dollar stores, club stores and retail groceries are driving the need for more flexible packaging lines,” said Mark Suchy, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Massman Companies.
“Our customers also need equipment that is easier to operate and that includes detailed diagnostics to help ensure quick recovery from faults – and guidance on maintenance,” Suchy added. “We continue to invest in better ways to train the operators of our equipment.”
Nimble & Highly Productive
To meet industry demands, Massman recently developed the KD high-speed case packer, a solution that can easily transition between various pack patterns and case sizes – and keep up with the front of the line. The carton case packer is designed for knock-down (KD) or regular slotted containers (RSCs).
“The days of putting 12 cartons into a case of the same SKU – all day, every day – is a thing of the past,” said Suchy. “It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to run 8 to 10 different packaging SKUs each day.”
For example, a food producer might run the same carton for an entire shift at a constant rate, but case sizes could include 12-count, 10-count, 8-count and 6-count options. A line that runs 240 cartons a minute must pack 12-count cases at 20 cases per minute (CPM) – and 6-count cases at 40 CPM.
“That increased speed requirement obviously drives us toward high-speed, servo control instead of air for most of the mechanisms,” Suchy said. “And to simplify changeover, the KD case packer includes a recipe-driven HMI with electronic counters that allows operators to select the pack pattern and adjust the machine without the traditional hard copy changeover instructions.”
Efficient, Unified Design
The new KD case packer features an efficient, unified design that manages multiple operations.
A metering conveyor belt brings flat cartons into the machine. At the infeed, cartons enter a high-speed rotary upstacker, which stacks the appropriate number of cartons needed for the case. The stacked cartons advance to the load station, where erected cases are side loaded. Next, case flaps are tucked, glue is applied, the case is squared and then compressed. At the final station, cases are rotated 90° to place the flaps at the top and bottom. Cases exit the system and move on, typically to palletizing equipment.
Built on a Rockwell Automation® platform, the machine runs on an Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ controller. Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 5500 servo drives and VP-Series servo motors handle 16 axes of motion for the loading operations, while PowerFlex® 525 AC drives handle the conveyors. The system is integrated on EtherNet/IP™ and monitored on an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ HMI.
“Many suppliers provide separate machines to address a packaging system – a standalone case erector, case loader and case sealer,” Suchy said. “At Massman, we believe delivering an 'all-in-one' machine combining erecting, loading and sealing in a single frame provides simpler operation, vertical startups, better utilization of floorspace – and better overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).”
In fact, the new high-speed KD case packer, like all Massman machines, is designed to achieve 98% or better OEE.
Exploring Better Ways to Support Workers with AR
To help customers maximize machine capabilities, Massman offers extensive aftermarket service throughout the lifecycle of their equipment.
“We pride ourselves on the support we offer our customers – from 24-hour live personal coverage to formal training by PMMI-certified professionals,” Suchy said.
In the near future, Massman plans to add augmented reality (AR) experiences to their service portfolio to provide customers with innovative ways to thoroughly train frontline workers – and reduce training time. Based on Vuforia® Expert Capture, the AR experiences deliver in-context, step-by-step instructions and capabilities that support machine operators, maintenance personnel and supervisors.
Specifically, the customizable AR experiences will include:
- General machine operation, including changeover procedures and basic troubleshooting – such as clearing a jam.
- Maintenance tasks – such as advanced troubleshooting and zeroing a machine. In a subsequent release, Massman will add capabilities that enable maintenance workers to combine an Expert Capture procedure with Vuforia Chalk to receive remote, real-time guidance from Massman service technicians as needed.
- Task completion validation and documentation. This feature also enables supervisors to provide feedback during a procedure – and to gain insight regarding which procedures are executed most often and which workers might benefit from additional training.
“Our plans for AR are evolving,” said Suchy. “But our goal is to provide our customers with a powerful way to streamline technical training and reduce troubleshooting time – not just for the new KD case packer, but for all of our offerings.”