P

roperly setting up your flexible packaging line will help you avoid downtime later on. Regular cleaning of your machinery is one way to keep your line running smoothly, while keeping an eye out for anything that could develop into a bigger issue down the road.

1. Fit the machine and packaging to the product.

First, make sure the packaging material and structure are right for the product. Then find the right machine for the job. Then make sure the packaging substrate and structure are uniform and undamaged for efficient operations. Finally, inspect all incoming materials for consistency, which is essential in keeping the line running.

2. Choose carefully between continuous motion and intermittent machines.

If you use continuous motion, you need to keep it continuous with certain films, as temperatures are a little higher. If you’re on a line that starts and stops, you’ve lost control of the temperature of the film on cooling rates. This tends to cause some wrinkles in the film and make the package look bad. It can happen with any film, so know when to use a continuous machine vs. an intermittent machine.

3. Demand high-quality substrates.

Make sure you have good quality poly woven laminate bags for running on automatic lines. Good quality bags remain standing after filling. Do not accept distorted bag bundles from supplier. Keep pre-made poly bags in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room; otherwise, they tend to stick together due to electrostatic van der Waals forces.

4. Keep a clean work area.

Pay attention to the correct design of the aspiration system for a bagging line handling powdered solids in order to have a nearly 100% clean operation. After each shift, clean the entire area and aspirate the control panel. Think of cleaning as the best preventive maintenance. Every three months, take a component of the system, deep clean it, and re-lubricate it with the correct lubricant. Regularly check for air leaks, adjust settings, and change damaged parts.

5. Clean on a schedule.

Ensure that the sealing jaws are cleaned regularly during every changeover and, if possible, apply a dry PTFE spray to avoid film-sticking problems. This helps run the machine with minimum stoppages due to sealing issues. Keep your forming tube/shoulders clean and free from debris. Not only will this allow you to pull film straighter, it will also allow you to pull a more consistent length of film through the shoulder.

6. Document all cleaning procedures.

Machines handling raw product invariably get dusty and dirty. Regular and proper cleaning helps improve efficiency and enable quicker troubleshooting when the need arises. Document a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the cleaning so each shift delivers consistent results.

7. Pay extra attention to sealing equipment.

Spills on conveyors often get transferred to other equipment. Keeping the seal bars and platens clean is essential for repetitive and sustained heat sealing. Make sure liquid does not splash back into the seal area. Having the operator 100% responsible for clean machines heightens operator awareness and encourages autonomous maintenance. After establishing a clean sealing surface, then it’s important to understand the temperature, pressure, and dwell time variables. If possible, have the settings visually displayed and recorded hourly.

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