Investing in well-trained personnel means you won’t have to worry about the efficiency of your flexible packaging line. Here are eight tips to keep in mind:
1. Require comprehensive training that is verified.
Inexperienced operators and maintenance personnel will damage equipment, deliver poor performance, and become a safety hazard. Management’s commitment and involvement in maintenance are critical. Back up with daily operator checklists and feedback, both a.m. and p.m. Also implement weekly and monthly checklist inspections and be prepared with quick remedial actions and proper serviceable spare parts.
2. Retain highly skilled and well-trained employees.
Staff should be trained to use proper controls for fine-tuning the speed and efficiency of output. Ideally, operators should be rotated every three hours. Avoid line stoppages by making sure a machine set for a particular size remains in that setting until the batch size is completed. Have the line clearance implemented by quality assurance. And only authorized engineering team members with prior approval permissions should be allowed to change or modify settings.
3. Talk to those who know.
Talk to the machine manufacturer about the ins and outs of the machine. They know more than anyone about the equipment. Many mechanics are not as skilled as they think they are. The manufacturer might alert you to a feature or advantage of the machine that you, or the operator, never thought of.
4. Memorize the manual.
Or know the manual intimately. You should spend hours reading the manual and knowing it inside-and-out and backwards-and forwards. Try to always have in mind the operation cycle and its exact motion so that you can predict an upcoming problem coming from the sealing material or a machine malfunction. Mostly be there 120%—the machine needs you.
5. Make preventive maintenance a weekly routine.
There are a lot of moving parts on bagging equipment, and they all need regular maintenance and inspection. Oil all the cams and bearings on a rotating maintenance schedule to avoid machine stoppages that will damage the film. Have operators clean the press and sealing jaws daily and check the tightness of all connectors. Every time there is a stoppage for more than a couple of hours, dry-clean the machine.
6. Perform modular maintenance on heavily used parts.
Maintenance procedures on these parts can be as frequent as every 48 hours, depending on the line. Train your operators to listen to the machine as it is running, so they can learn to hear a minor issue before it becomes a large one. Consider automated greasing of machines and monitors that protect from over-greasing. Service fill valves regularly, lubricate filler properly, and check uniformity of capping torque on all capper heads.
7. Keep preventive maintenance procedures in place.
Train all operators to install the parts in the filling area and de-install them after filling is done. Operators are trained to handle minor to moderate machine problems and to immediately attend to any unusual sound or abnormal vibration. Any change is closely considered in the context of risk and maintenance down times. Clean machines externally with proper, approved sanitizers that do not cause stains or rust to stainless steel.