Once you’ve done the training, it’s time for the day-to-day operations of your flexible packaging line. Here are seven best practices for you to consider.
1. Use your resources wisely.
Try to keep the same operator on the same machine as much as possible. Over time, machines develop little idiosyncrasies that may cause them to react differently than expected. By keeping the same operator/machine combination together, you will get more out of your equipment.
2. Engage operations team directly.
It is critical to get the plant floor operators and technicians directly involved in the productivity improvement efforts. One way to do this is with a plant floor client application that provides the operators with a real-time “score” as they are running. This process can also be used to collect additional information from operators related to running the lines; for example, recording when operators stop the line for a changeover or for cleaning.
3. Find the equipment’s “sweet spot” speed.
Run the equipment at its sweet spot for each product. Continuous steady-state production at a less than maximum, sustainable speed often produces more output in the long run. Maxing out the machine in speed can produce lower quality output or increase downtime. Before pushing the limits, earn the right to incrementally increase the speed while maintaining control and consistency. The sweet spot is roughly about 80% of the cycle rate of the machine. The sweet spot is usually higher for stable and tight variances on containers or materials as well as for products with curved corner edges.
4. Sweat the details.
Ensure placement of film in the right position. Inspect consumables like heating elements, Teflon tapes, and back-up rubber (if the machine is impulse-sealing). Clean serration and seal surfaces with a mild brass wire brush after heating the seal jaws if the machine is a continuous-heater type. Clean the knives and remove any molten polyethylene.
5. Mind the changeovers.
When changing to a different size or width of roll stock, take the extra time to make sure that everything is centered as much as possible (by roll and web tracking device). By having this centered, you are not exerting forces upon the film that try to push or pull it in one direction or another. A wandering web can cause less-than ideal back seals.
6. Color-code changeover parts.
This both ensures regulatory compliance and makes it easier for production personnel to identify which parts are needed for specific products or groups. Conduct proper operator training and operating reevaluation to ensure that all operators are following the same procedures. It doesn’t take long for unsupervised staff to begin deviating from normal maintenance procedures and SOPs.
7. Schedule periodic inspections.
Inspections by the manufacturer or a designated service representative ensure that the system is functioning at its optimum level. Inspections also provide early detection of problems. Early detection allows staff to correct problems at a time convenient to ongoing operations. Better that than repairing the system after it has failed and the unit has shut down.