3 Dairy Packaging Equipment Selection Tips to Consider
We've created this short case study for you to give you the answers to these important questions and challenges every dairy manufacturer faces:
What considerations should I be aware of when choosing dairy packaging equipment?
How does the product application affect equipment design?
How can I maximize up-time of my dairy packaging machinery?
Also, if you're serious about making better decisions on capital equipment purchases, specifically regarding fill/seal packaging equipment, make sure to check out this exciting resource right now - www.wnapt.com/knowledge-center/articles/total-cost-of-ownership
Selecting the right machinery for your plant — and maintaining it — is essential to keep operations running smoothly.
For most dairy processors, fill-seal and/or form-fill-seal equipment is an essential part of operations. After all, these pieces of equipment ensure the product is put into primary packaging accurately and smoothly before it continues down the production line. Furthermore, there is a lot to consider when selecting such machinery for a plant, and many potential hurdles to avoid after purchasing it.
Maxwell Davis, general manager at Waldner North America, says a common mistake he sees when dairy processors choose filling equipment is that they do not consider the way the product and packaging will interact on the line. Some manufacturers think that packaging is interchangeable, and thus don’t consider this part of the equation when they select a filler.
“Where we most often see problems is when equipment isn’t properly engineered to the exact package and product you’re looking to run,” he adds.
Davis points out that processors should take a “holistic approach” during product development — meaning one that considers the exact product and packaging specs that will be needed during manufacturing.
For its part, Waldner North America designs custom equipment for manufacturers, so it is able to take information about specific operational needs and create the filler that would be appropriate for a given product and its packaging.
Handle challenging applications
Not all dairy products are created equal in terms of how easily they interact with filling equipment. For example, butter and cream cheese are far more complicated to fill than other offerings. Butter can be difficult because solids separate out very easily, so manufacturers have to be careful when dosing it that it isn’t overworked.
Cream cheese, on the other hand, is a challenging application because it is filled into containers when it is cold, explains Davis. That element, along with the product’s thickness, can make it difficult to move accurately and smoothly into packaging.
Davis re-emphasizes the importance of knowing the product and packaging specs before selecting a filler for these more difficult product types. He says processors can elude problems if they make sure to consider this element.
“[A way to avoid issues] is to size and fit your processing and packaging together to harmonize them early on during project development and not wait to introduce the two partners until the equipment is on-site,” he points out.
For example, in cream cheese production, product is sent to the filler after it is crafted into cream cheese, and these two machines need to be able to work together.
“We have to be able to do more than just a signal exchange, but really understand how they're designed to function and [in] what flow rates and pressures they work best,” Davis notes. “And then we can build our machine to meet those requirements.”
Keep a long-term perspective
In addition to being aware of a product’s exact specs, Davis says processors need to keep a long-term perspective in terms of maintenance once they have selected the appropriate equipment. A common error that many manufacturers make is waiting for something to fail to replace equipment parts.
“In our equipment, there are thousands of little parts. And for maybe 20% of them, you will have a data sheet that will tell you that every 5000 hours of production you need to replace this O-ring,” he notes.
“And some companies go, ‘Ah I’ll wait until it leaks.’ And other companies go, ‘Every 4,999 hours of production we change all the seals on the whole [equipment].’”
Davis says that it ultimately is much more expensive for companies to replace parts due to failure as opposed to keeping up to date on what needs to be changed.
“An excellent and well-considered preventative maintenance plan is essential. It’s really important that you are running not to failure but to replace, to minimize downtime and maximize output,” he adds.
“Once you’re running to failure you’re going to have cascading issues across the machine.”
Davis explains that the reason “running to failure” is ultimately a lot costlier for plants is because it results in unplanned downtime. This can lead to a large loss in production capacity while a manufacturer has to scramble to fix failing equipment.
“Product waste, packaging waste are issues, but more challenging [is] uptime preservation,” he emphasizes. “So unplanned downtime is much more expensive than either of the other two. If all of a sudden, your filler is not producing for three or four days or a week … that's a bigger issue than one out of every 2000 cups [you produce] is bad.”
So for small parts such as O-rings or seals, Davis recommends that manufacturers track production hours to ensure they are replaced in a timely manner. And for larger parts of the equipment, Waldner offers a machine audit service wherein it will send replacements for these parts as needed.
“We can work with the client to track when things are due,” Davis says. “But those are more for the bigger picture parts … we’re there for the jobs you do every quarter.”
This is just the TIP of the iceberg when it comes to designing, evaluating, and choosing packaging equipment for dairy products.
If you liked this article and you're a dairy manufacturer who wants to avoid costly equipment design and selection mistakes, and want to discuss Waldner’s learnings over 60+ years in packaging dairy products in cups/pouches/spouted pouches, you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly speak with a North America product manager at 316-477-1067.
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