1. Test case material consistency.
Packaging quality is critical, because out-of-spec packaging will cause problems no matter how good the case packer is. Ensure good quality control of incoming packaging materials, and that the cases are clean of dust and “off” cuts when presented in the magazine.
2. Simplify, simplify.
First, seek out machines with as few parts as possible to get each job done reliably. Then pay close attention to the proper integration of materials at both the infeed and the discharge of the case packer. If your machine tends to break down under high stress operations, consider running at 10% to 15% less than the maximum speed to extend uptime.
3. Have a maintenance schedule.
Regularly greasing bearings, cleaning belts, and checking for adverse belt and sprocket wear can save significant amounts of downtime. Initiate a training procedure for new operators or operators who just need to brush up on the basics of the equipment.
4. Find quality glue.
Ensure you are using the best glue for your application. Also, ensure that your machines are using the glue at the correct temperatures. Otherwise you risk “cobwebs,” open flaps, charring, and many other issues. Properly maintain the compression section to avoid skews or shifting.
5. Keep adhesives clean.
Keep glue tanks shut and contamination out. Removing corrugated dust from tape heads is vital in maintaining the proper function of the taper. Remove the tape heads once a month and thoroughly clean the guide rollers and cutting knifes. Make sure that the knife blades stay oiled using the oil pads inside the blade guards, and keep all sensors and mirrors free from dirt and dust.
6. Watch your hot melt unit.
Keep hot melt tank full with adhesive to within one inch of the top without overfilling. Letting the tank level get too low and then filling it with cold glue can result in thermal shock to the tank, causing the line to stop for lack of adhesive at the proper temperature. Flush or change system filters on a regular maintenance schedule. This might include an annual or semi-annual system clean-out of the tank and flushing all guns and hoses with fresh adhesive.
7. Double-check the vacuum system.
A professionally engineered system is often worth the investment. If your vacuum cups are lasting less than a month or become plugged with dust, that is an indication that something is wrong. A better cup has a small filter at the face, and can be cleaned with an auto blow back every hour. Also, today’s air-driven vacuum generators are far more efficient than a motor-driven pump running 24/7.
8. Set the stage.
“Staging” the items to be case packed is imperative when using a pick-and-place robotic case packing system. Once properly programmed, the robot will perform the same motion over and over, lending to repetitive case packing for long periods of time. The key is to deliver the items to be picked in the exact location each and every time. Conveyor speed, pneumatic brake synchronization, alleviation of back pressure, and the elimination of "shingling" are just as important to successful case packing as the programming of the robotic system.
9. Mind the change points.
On equipment with frequent changeovers, it is very important to identify any parts of the machine where mechanical "adjustment" is not intended. Although parts may be slotted or adjustable, great discipline must be observed by all team members across different shifts to be consistent in their execution. Identify all change points so they can be repeated. These adjustable points are often on machinery to aid in assembly and to give greater range to accommodate more package variations without having to build so many models.
10. Know the variations.
Some variations in the corrugated material may require operators to adjust the machine. This is called “off-centerlined,” so you need to generate an off-centerline report out and fill out a complaint form (sometimes called an MRC) to the corrugated vendor.
11. Fit the box to the parts.
When packing your cartons, use boxes that best fit your parts. A full box prevents unnecessary crushing during shipping. If parts alone do not fill the box, then use stuffers around your parts. Always shrink wrap to ensure the safety of the product and to avoid loss during any possible shipping damage while in transit. The farther the destination, the better the packing needs to be. If you expect more handling, use more shrink wrap to be safe.
12. Don't stop inspecting.
You have to spend time inspecting the corrugated for in-consistent quality or inconsistent ship-ping. Inconsistency causes machines to fail and increase downtime. Make sure cuts are clean and the score lines are good. Push back on your material sup-pliers to make sure quality specs are well defined. Corrugated suppliers are pushing their equipment to run as long as they can. If their tooling fails, pretty soon it starts impacting your case packing equipment and line efficiency.