Sara and her husband Antoine love peanuts for both snacking and baking. Sometimes they buy their own snacks in small packages during a quick run to 7-Eleven. Other times, they choose larger packages of various sizes for party bowls or for baking projects like cookies, peanut brittle, caramel peanut brownies and other treats for family and friends. They look for lower-salt or no salt options, they insist the packaging be environmentally friendly, and they sometimes order their peanuts online for next-day delivery.
This is just one of the thousands examples of mass customization where increasingly personalized products and customized delivery are the norm, moving from concept to reality. The convenience of online shopping means that consumers expect door-to-door delivery within a day or less.
In addition, the trend towards smaller households has spurred the growth in single serving offerings while our love for variety has prompted the emergence of more multi-pack options.
To keep up with this changing consumer demand, consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers require highly productive and agile packaging equipment. For OEMs, the challenge is designing cost-effective machines that can meet new demands for flexibility across primary, secondary and tertiary applications.
Your OEM Can Help
In a margin-driven world where productivity and speed to market are critical, your OEM is a key contributor to enabling smart and flexible manufacturing success.
Smart, flexible machines built with advanced technology can make it easier to shift between varying packaging sizes or even changeover to run entirely different products. The ultimate goal is multi-purpose equipment that can change between products, sizes and configurations at the push of a button, making your operations more agile and flexible.
The reality is, most packaging lines are not equipped for rapidly changing demand. While legacy equipment on plant floors was typically designed for high-speed throughput, it faces significant obstacles when handling highly variable products.
At the heart of the problem is the equipment’s ability to respond on the fly to a diverse product mix. These systems are designed to advance products through the line on a preconfigured path at a fixed speed. On a traditional packaging line, “pitch” – the spacing between products – is determined at the outset and based on “worst-case” scenarios. Pitch is limited by the longest dimension of product in the direction of travel, the largest packaging station and the maximum pitch achievable by the system.
Likewise, in a conventional system, it is not possible to vary the number of products handled at each station or the amount of time required for each operation. “Parallelism” – the synchronized movement of products through the line – is fixed and determined by system throughput requirements and the process that takes the longest to complete.
As a result, producers are finding themselves in a highly manual conundrum of delivering in this high-mix environment without the proper automated packaging solutions to make it cost-effective. This is where a machine builder can help you with the right solution to deliver the required flexibility and efficiency.
Advanced Packaging Technology
Linear Motor Independent Cart Technology (ICT) provides an advanced solution that provides infinitely greater flexibility and efficiency than traditional systems. ICT intelligently moves products as operations are completed and can bring a changeover downtime from hours to minutes, literally making changes with the push of a button.
How? Linear motors change the equation with magnetic direct drive propulsion of multiple product-carrying carts along a track. They enable independent control of each cart using control software – and embedded sensors that continuously calculate cart position. Accelerations, decelerations, velocities and positions are programmable.
Instead of traveling at a fixed speed, products independently move from station to station as packaging operations are completed. Once the system starts running, it precisely adjusts speeds and distance as needed in the process. As such, line pitch and parallelism are variable and dynamically modified to manage traffic flow.
Envision a packaging line that automatically adjusts pitch to accommodate first flat and then formed carton sizes. Or a system that seamlessly transitions from three-up box formation to four-up filling to eight-up loading – ICT makes this possible.