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Packaging Machinery Shelf Life
Many different industries use packaging machinery. Food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, household goods, automotive products and almost every industry imaginable will use filling machines, capping machines, power conveyors and other equipment. Almost all of these packagers, in all of these industries, will think about the shelf life of their product. But what about the “life” of your packaging machinery? Each and every packager should ask the question “How long will my packaging machinery last?”, although it is seldom found as a machinery manufacturer.
The question is not as simple to answer as it may seem at first glance. There are a number of different factors that can contribute to the decline of packaging machinery. However, most packaging machines are built to allow for upgrades, and while there are wear parts that may need to be replaced from time to time, you could argue that the machinery itself can last a thousand years.
To better understand the above paragraph, let’s take the example of a liquid filler. A start-up may have regional distribution and begin packaging its product using a semi-automatic filler with four filling heads. After receiving rave reviews for your new product, the demand for the product may double after one year. However, instead of purchasing a new filling machine, the current equipment can be upgraded by adding four more filling heads. Production demands can be met once again!
After another year and an even greater increase in demand, the company may decide to completely automate its packaging process. Again, the semi-automatic filling machine can be upgraded with the addition of a PLC and indexing to handle automatic production. Once the additions are made, the filler can roll up to the new power transport system and start filling bottles without prior assistance provided by manual workers. In other words, the filling machine – or other packaging equipment – simply grows with the company.
The above example, however, is somewhat simplified. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the decline of packaging machinery, some of which are simply beyond the control of the packager. One area that is under the control of the packer, but is often overlooked, is the simple cleaning and maintenance of the packaging machines. Filling, for example, may require O-rings, nozzle seals, or tubes to be changed from time to time. These wear parts may have a limited lifespan, but if replaced when necessary, they should not contribute to the long-term decline of the machine itself. Similarly, keeping packaging machinery free of dust and debris can help prevent long-term detrimental effects on packaging machinery. Conveyor systems that are not routinely cleaned can cause damage not only to the conveyor belt, but also to the sprockets, drives, and even the frame itself if dust and debris are ignored and allowed to accumulate at different points on the conveyor. transporter In the end, routine maintenance and cleaning can go a long way in extending the useful life of packaging machinery.
Of course, even automated packaging machines will require human intervention from time to time, from start-up and changeover to the aforementioned cleaning and maintenance. Human error, also known as accidents, is sometimes beyond the packer’s control. However, implementing and maintaining specific procedures for those in contact with packaging machinery will help a packager control accidents. Ensuring packaging line operators understand the machinery and how to interact with the machinery will also help extend the life of the equipment.
Along the same lines, fires, water damage, and natural disasters are beyond the packer’s control. But then again, establishing procedures for equipment shutdown at the end of the production day can at least reduce the likelihood of such events, at least those, such as electrical fires, that may arise from the equipment itself. Make sure the packaging equipment is compatible with washing before plugging it in. While no packager has the ability to completely protect against such damage or unforeseen events, the potential may again be limited.
Finally, technological advances in both machinery and packaging itself can make packaging equipment obsolete, although both are rare cases. It is possible that certain components of a packaging system can simply be replaced by better technology. In most cases, replacement technology will be available as a machinery upgrade. However, on rare occasions, a packaging machine can become so old and obsolete that the only efficient and productive option is to purchase replacement equipment.
Similarly, the packaging itself may change and require a different set of packaging machines to automate the process. For example, the plastic bottle has been receiving criticism for years. As a result, many companies are looking to alternative packaging, such as pouches. Not all packaging equipment will handle both bags and bottles, and in these situations, new packaging equipment may become a necessity.
So how long will the packaging equipment last? The truth is that the purchase of packaging equipment, even with the unknown factors mentioned above, should be a long-term commitment, allowing the capacity of the packaging equipment to grow with the company. Proper care and attention can allow packaging equipment to last a lifetime or several. Anticipating growth and planning for the future can also extend the useful life of equipment. While we cannot avoid the unknown, we can plan for the future and equip ourselves with the machinery to thrive.
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