Tag Archives: vision inspection
Packaging technology has been changing, updating and upgrading since the day the very first package manufacturing plant opened. Questions on whether a small adjustment in the speed of equipment could help solve a regular issue, or evaluating if a new system would increase the pace of operations and reduce downtime are perpetual to manufacturing. Today is no different and tomorrow will be more of the same. There are always improvements and advancements to be pursued in packaging manufacturing lines for things like food and beverage cartons, as well as for other cases or carton products.
In a globalized manufacturing world, competition is relentless. Keeping ahead of that competition is about selecting the best equipment, working with the best raw material suppliers and constantly being ready to make adjustments that will improve the profitability of your operations is vital. With this in mind, automated vision inspection technologies could be your next great decision. As a rapidly growing technology on case and carton manufacturing lines, vision inspection systems are designed to automatically verify the integrity of your cases and cartons while operating at top speeds.
An effective in-line vision inspection system will identify any packaging faults or problems immediately. This quick identification of problems is huge in its prevention of fairly large runs of items with consistent (or inconsistent) points of failure. With high-speed cartoners running at 6,000 – 8,000 cartons per hour, catching a fault even a single minute earlier can make a huge difference. Running with a traditional method of manually inspecting a single case every 30-minutes for an operator to inspect whether package sealings are correct will inevitably miss faulty packages. You can easily see the benefits of an automated visual inspection system that watches and verifies the quality of every single case as it passes. Let’s say your manual packaging inspection operator catches a consistent failure 10-minutes after it started, that’s good news – but you missed the start of issues and you probably don’t know exactly when the fault started. How many cases or cartons do you have to pull out of your palletized products to make sure your shipment remains top-quality? How much time will that take?
At first glance, those consistent faults might seem precisely like the type of dire situation that in-line visual inspection would offer significant benefits compared to traditional sampling inspections. And that is true as the failure will be identified by an automated inspection system immediately when it starts. Some may say that traditional inspection still catches that type of consistent fault pretty quickly as well. However, having such consistent faults with every package is actually a fairly ideal situation for traditional sampling inspection methods as long as it is caught fairly quickly. What happens on a beverage manufacturing line where operators eject a single beverage case every 30-minutes to inspect if there is an inconsistent failure? Imagine a line operating at high-speeds where only 5% or 10% of the cases have faulty sealings coming through – that logically means that you only have a 5% or 10% chance of catching the failure before the first faulty packages are palletized and shipped out to customers. That 5% or 10% failure rate is the type of error that gets truckloads of product returned.
It is also the reason automated in-line inspection systems exist today. The way visual manufacturing inspection systems identify every failure, even inconsistent failures or a flaw in one individual package, is the key point of advancement. An automated infrared visual scanning system will allow you to inspect and validate the integrity of every hot-melt seal on every case shipped. Such visual inspection systems allow manufacturing lines to operate at top speeds without missing inspection on even a single package. That means you can run faster with more certainty that each and every package is correct. That certainty that batches of failures as well as one-off single failures will be caught before palletizing is a great sense of security and giant quality improvement for your packaging operations. By identifying problems immediately, a visual inspection system can also help you increase the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in your plant. For example, inspection systems can help identify periodic failures that indicate specific consumable parts are approaching their life-span. Then you can conveniently schedule maintenance before a before the occasional error transitions to become an active trend or a complete part failure that produces a stream of faulty packages.
The growing use of visual inspection systems in manufacturing has shown that such systems can be used effectively to inspect any type of packaging line. However, automated inspection systems have made their earliest headway in packaging for products with some physical weight to them. This includes products such as beverage casing for items like beer, liquor, or soda – as well as for food products like cartons of baking soda or muffin mix. The importance of ensuring quality packaging for any B2C company is obvious. With packaging failures of your food or beverage cases and cartons, it may send the message to customers that your product is cheap. Customers might interpret a failed beverage case or food carton to mean that your product’s quality issues extend beyond the packaging and into the contents of your product. That is not the type of message you afford to send to consumers about your brand or product in this global marketplace. Such brand reputation harm can happen with new companies as well as with trusted and established brands alike, having packaging failures can raise suspicions that your company is either scrimping on or reducing quality.
Even with packaging products outside of the food and beverage sectors, an automated inspection system can still be worth its weight in gold. A box of powder that fails in a customer’s car trip home or fails when a package is tipped to pour some of its contents out can drive a customer away from future purchases. That is, of course, assuming the failure holds out long enough to get to a customer. Having the grit of cat litter boxes spilled on your manufacturing line during operations can be catastrophic with considerable downtime required for cleaning. As illustrated with that example, the impacts of ensuring quality packaging through visual inspection systems are a big deal even before your products leave the plant.
Reducing in-plant packaging failures will likely help to reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO) by reducing consumable part replacement and cleaning needs for equipment that get gummed up with spills.
Other similar examples of in-plant benefits exist with almost all heavy products that need to be shipped in packaging. For example, think of the time and labor involved when flawed cases fall apart inside a pallet or lead a pallet to tip over in your plant. That can happen with packaging for heavy items like cases filled with cans of paint being delivered to a store, or even with items like beverage cases that fail during palletizing in a manufacturing plant like yours.
There are undoubtedly a few different inspection tasks that an automated system would be valuable in helping to solve at your plant. Visual inspection systems can serve many different quality verification purposes in manufacturing operations, including essentials like verifying the lid on cases/cartons are closed and sealed properly. Issues like failed hot melt applications or faulty wrapping in applied packaging tape are things you can inspect. You can also integrate such automated vision inspection systems into convenient areas of your operation line that would work best for your operations. Would it fit better in your packaging line systems or on your exit conveyor system? Both are possible. All you have to do is think about the packaging issues on your manufacturing line and search for a visual inspection system to address those problems.
You’ve probably already heard the buzz about automated inspection via a trade show, video, or colleague at another plant. Even if the competition doesn’t already have such systems in place, you know they are at least looking at automated vision inspection systems. The reality in today’s competitive manufacturing is that you can get ahead or you can fall behind, but the global markets are moving too fast to stand still. This article started by noting that, “Packaging technology has been changing, updating and upgrading since the day the very first package manufacturing plant opened. ” Are you ready for the changes coming?
It can be a frightening question, but the answer is easy to find. If you already know about automated visual inspection systems and how they would help your operations – then you have taken the first step. The next step is about finding the right systems for your operations at a price point that helps raise your OEE levels and reduce your TCO for the manufacturing systems you have running.
To learn more about Valco Melton’s automated visual inspection systems click on any of the below links:
- ClearVision – A branded series of camera inspection technology suited for the inspection of various aspects of packaged goods and boxes across the packaging, folding carton, and corrugated industries.
- PackChek –automated packaging inspection system to inspect missing, weak, damaged, open, or misaligned glue beads.
Would you like to read more? Check out the next topic on Big Data Collection in Manufacturing.
Big data is nearly everywhere now and can be used to improve your manufacturing. You can already see its impact in your everyday life. It’s in the supermarket you visit with the codes and tracking on every package. It is in the data evaluated on every internet search you run. Data is also growing and will be a changing factor in sectors like health care systems in the coming years. McKinsey estimates that big data could generate up to $100 billion in value annually in the United States’ health care markets alone (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticals-and-medical-products/our-insights/how-big-data-can-revolutionize-pharmaceutical-r-and-d). The growing wave of big data is already huge in business and industry, but there is a lot more coming. The International Data Corporation estimates that “big data and business analytics will grow from $130.1 billion in 2016 to more than $203 billion in 2020” (https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS41826116). When even the United Nations believes that big data can have a ‘big impact’ towards improving the world – then there is no way to deny that the incredible value of big data has been realized (https://news.un.org/en/story/2017/05/557492-big-data-can-have-big-impact-achievement-global-goals-un-says-it-day). Big Data is everywhere – and it is available to help your manufacturing operations, but are your manufacturing operations ready to use big data?
Big data is impacting business decisions every day – and its growth in manufacturing industries will be at least as big as it is in the rest of the economy if not bigger. Some manufacturing big data capabilities like coding and traceability data is already almost ubiquitous. Areas of pharmaceutical manufacturing cannot even operate without full lot-tracing on all products. Quality assurance and vision inspection systems are increasingly used to monitor and verify quality on every package, corrugated box, folding carton and bag that passes through a manufacturing line. These systems can scan to ensure everything from accurate packaging colors are applied or to confirm all required labels are placed on every package. Quality assurance procedures can verify that proper hot melt applications are set on every carton or case created online, running at high-speed. Inspection technologies like the use of X-rays are used on products to make sure there are no metal fragments to be found in shampoo bottles or yogurt containers. Quality inspection systems also generate some of the best big data to help you maximize your manufacturing operations.
As any plant with an inspection and data collection system can attest, big data can quickly play a pivotal part in advancing your manufacturing facility. However, the scale of the data collection can get confusing in a hurry. On large manufacturing lines that are increasingly automated and sometimes running with a single human operator, there can be massive amounts of data being collected continuously. For instance, by the time a product is finished and palletized, a plant could have collected data-points including:
- Electronic images for all sides of a product and its package to guarantee image quality and colors
- Complete measured dimensions of a box to validate perfectly square packaging
- X-rays of product contents to make sure no debris or contaminants are included
- Data on tracking codes and verification that all packaging stickers have been placed correctly
- Verified hot-melt seals for every single box, carton, package or bag manufactured
Those are just some of the data-points that can be collected through different quality assurance processes. In a corrugated box making plant that produces about 20,000 boxes an hour while operating 20-hours a day for approximately 340-days per year – it is straightforward to see how data can become very very BIG in a single day. That data can be useful when reviewing both a fault with an individual package in real-time on the factory line or later with a customer weeks or months after it was delivered. It can also help track the date of manufacture and shipping for an individual folding carton. All those data-points also build into incredible elements that will help you evaluate and improve your operations. Big data can help identify both small issues like the under-performance of a specific piece of equipment or can help you identify whole new areas for improvements on your manufacturing line.
Best Manufacturing Uses for Big Data
Big data does bring some exciting possibilities for industrial manufacturing. But, for manufacturers like you, there are some critical things to strategize about before you get swept up in the movement. Specifically, there are a couple of considerations that you need a plan for before you implement new collection systems:
- What are you going to do with all of your big data? How will you use the information to help your operations?
- Where are you going to store your data and how long will you keep it?
Both of the above are significant points to consider, but the first one is the most critical decision you will make regarding any information your manufacturing plant may collect. Just as data is only big when there is a lot of it, so too, it is only important if you have a plan on how to use it in your operations.
In manufacturing, big data can help in numerous ways, but some of the most obvious uses for data include:
- Using data trends as indicators to make machinery adjustments such as altering performance settings. This information can help correct errors or identify service needs through early-detection of signs that consumable parts will need replacement soon.
- Review your manufacturing performance data related to the line operators working during sessions. Is there an equipment setting or procedure that a line operator is missing that causes problems? Could a short training-refresher solve some of your operating issues?
The two big data uses above are good examples of the difference between just having big data and actually using big data to drive your manufacturing improvements. Achieving things like increasing the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and having line operators who implement the optimal systems and standards on every shift could completely change your operations. Data can reveal your best opportunities to improve your machinery and/or performance of your line operators. Big data can notify you when consumable parts are nearing the need for replacement before they break and cause damage. Big data can even highlight problematic equipment where a replacement might offer an immediate ROI and quick payback. You can use big data to reduce or eliminate faulty packaging and defective products produced on your line. Reducing downtime with data support is already here, and all that data could one day reach into obscure areas of your operations such as identifying the environmental conditions that your plant operates most efficiently at.
If you don’t already have it, big data will be coming to your manufacturing plant. That is inevitable. It will be more prevalent every year. Most new manufacturing and industrial equipment have data collection and reporting capabilities. Which pieces of big data you can benefit most from analyzing is the key to your manufacturing improvements that you should start evaluating today. A PwC industry report last year stated,
“Industrial manufacturers will have to figure out how to manage the data coming from an avalanche of sensors, integrated equipment and platforms, and faster information processing systems. … (T)he anticipated efficiency returns from digitization over the next five years across all major industrial sectors are substantial: nearly 3 percent in additional revenue and 3.6 percent in reduced costs per year. “(https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/trend/2017-industrial-manufacturing-trends)
This change is to take place in just the next five years. For manufacturing companies that resist jumping onboard with big data advances, dangerous days are coming. The revenue increases and cost reductions reported by PwC may be the differences in manufacturing efficiency that determines which manufacturers survive and which fail in the global economy during the next five years.
Big Data is Important Today
However, big data is not just about the distant future or the next 5-years of manufacturing operations; It is about right now. Today, with decisions you make regularly, big data can help you make them better. For instance, you probably have regular (daily, weekly, monthly) reviews of your spot check results. You may even be looking to evaluate where you are in the journey to achieve the elusive Six Sigma defect rates. However, with traditional spot checks only looking at a tiny number of total packages, boxes, cartons, packages, or bags, you will always have to worry about the misfortune of pulling the wrong box and missing defects. Furthermore, pulling the wrong package will send you looking for issues that do not actually exist, rather than addressing the true nature of what is occurring. Without big data, no one can immediately identify whether an issue is a trend affecting many of your products or just a random occurrence impacting a small number of products.
When a spot check pulls a package with faulty adhesive applications, how long is spent checking other packages and investigating what problem created the fault? What if misfortune had an operator pull the one defective box out of tens-of-thousands of packages with perfect adhesive applications? Think of the time lost. Big data derived from an automated quality assurance or visual inspection system that automatically ejects a faulty package, would also be a night and day difference in identifying whether you have a random package fault or an actual defect trend. This action can be taken immediately at any point during a shift or even on regular monthly reviews. Big data collection can show results from every single package that runs through your line during this shift as well as dating back months or years. So, not only will you know your exact production defect rate, you will be able to remove such defects automatically before shipping, and you will have the ability to differentiate between a single error or trending defects. These are the types of improvements that make big data sound pretty great, right?
Where Should I Start with Big Data?
Jumping into big data already has a ton of options that can offer immediate impacts on your manufacturing operations. A great starting point might be a vision inspection or quality assurance installed to scan every individual package, box, carton, or bag assuring that every product leaving your manufacturing line is in excellent condition. Such quality assurance and inspection systems can help you take big data from a concept to an easily-implemented action that makes your manufacturing better. There are so many significant data opportunities to select from with inspection systems, and each of them will help keep your plant competitive. Examples of where data collection on your lines can benefit include:
- Data collection that helps identify the source of problems or faults on your line. For instance, big data’s individual images of glue faults will help diagnose if the defective products are the result of an empty glue container, a problem with the pump or a dispenser/applicator head problem. However, longer-term defect data trends can indicate shift crew or machine problems that may be recurring or worsening due to maintenance issues. Harvesting this valuable big data for worsening or improving trends forms the foundation for the process, maintenance improvement, or accolades for personnel that work on the lines.
- Vision inspection systems that identify printing errors on your line. An inspection system can eject any package with a faulty barcode or poor image quality, but it can do more by recording every variable code for inclusion in data shipped to your customers with all the boxes. If problems are found, your mixed media data inspection system can be used to rapidly identify if the cause of the issues is a damaged print plate, an ink shortage or even if a line operator accidentally added the wrong color ink during the last refill. All these benefits also apply to flexo-printing products as well, where solid inspection systems will grade code quality to prevent poor flexo printed codes from being shipped.
- Many inspections systems can integrate with your current manufacturing equipment. For example, with folding carton manufacturing, there are vital folds completed that are not visible to the naked-eye during high-speed operations. Inspection systems are available to verify correct folds, identify faults and help address issues immediately as they develop. These systems can be integrated with your current folding machines and can show fast ROI.
- Help your manufacturing line operators perform better. Mistakes happen in every office and plant, but there is not always a way to find out who made a mistake and help them learn from it. In a folding carton plant, an employee might repeatedly set up machinery incorrectly by switching folding rails to an outside tab when it should be an inside tab. Or, in a corrugated manufacturing operation, what if an operator feeds corrugated boxes backward into machinery and causes asymmetric scores that lead to misaligned flap wings and equipment issues? Monitoring for such problems and catching them quickly is precisely what an inspection system can deliver. But more than that, having data that monitors when problems occur can highlight employee training needs that can save your operations time and money.
Big Data is Changing the Future, Starting Today
The best part of big data from an automated inspection and/or quality assurance system is that you will be grabbing data that is actually useful to your daily and monthly operations. Deriving the benefit of this new data requires only that you have systems that offer data tracking and that you have a plan to analyze the data. The first successes can be found in basics like determining a random failure versus a pattern of failures. Big data may seem like a huge lift, but the truth is when you boil it down properly, it will be better informed to make the same line operation decisions you currently make. Once you get those decisions ironed out, then you have the option to explore new areas you may never have considered before all this data was available. It is entirely up to you.
Take the first step, look at your manufacturing options for quality assurance and vision inspection systems. While asking about your options, be sure to ask for suggestions on how you can use all the big data that will pour into your hands. Now is the time to get into the big data game, before you get left behind. Big data is not just going to boom in the future, it is booming now. And tomorrow, it will start determining which manufacturers will grow and which will fall off into unsalvageable inefficiency.
Ready to make your manufacturing data matter? Check out Valco Melton’s ClearVision Systems:
For any corrugated manufacturer, the top points of concern usually come down to whether all glue joints are being glued properly and whether all boxes produced are accurately square. With those top-two priorities so easy to identify it is no shock that there are a ton of incredibly effective industrial machines designed to deliver exact boxes every time. In fact, it is likely that your manufacturing line rarely produces these types of errors already, but as you know there is almost no acceptance for even a single corrugated box fault. When you work in an industry where a common defect rate target is to have no more than 1 defect for every 3 million boxes produced, there is, in fact, no room for error at all. Just a few issues found in your manufacturer’s gap or a couple failed glue laps found in one of your shipments and your operation is in trouble.
As you know, when you ship a trailer full of 2 or 2.5 million good boxes, it is difficult not to be concerned that any customer that finds 2 faulty boxes could mean that they decide to ship the rest of the pallets back to your plant. Then you will have to hire additional labor to re-inspect those pallets of boxes. Such scenarios, are the type of outcome that cost you money, time and customer trust in an incredibly competitive corrugated manufacturing industry. Even if they only have 1 defective box, it still may create troubles requiring you to reassure an angry customer who had a single faulty box cause an equipment jam that cost them thousands of dollars. Avoiding even small corrugated defect issues is important as every failure costs your operations money and customer trust. That is not counting the time you must spend to reassure valuable customers about the quality of your corrugated manufacturing operations. But when the difference between perfection is 0 defects in 3 million, acceptable but not amazing is 1 defect in 3 million, and totally unacceptable is 2 defective boxes out of 3 million corrugated boxes – what are you supposed to do?
Quality inspection and vision inspection systems can change your corrugated manufacturing reality. With the right quality inspection technology, you will never have to worry about your target defect rates being missed. A quality inspection system can identify every single fault in every single corrugated box that runs through your operational line during high-speed operations. You will never have two defective boxes shipped. Even if your equipment struggles during a run and produces five defective boxes, all five boxes can be identified and ejected before being shipped to any of your customers. No return shipments and no phone calls with your customers about jams that cost thousands of dollars.
There is a wide range of inspection equipment possibilities. Here are key capabilities that would likely assist your corrugated manufacturing operations:
- Proper Glue on Manufacturer’s Seam – vision inspection systems are available to check and ensure proper glue placement on every box produced while operating at high speeds.
- Square Box Checking – making sure each box you manufacture is perfectly square can be accomplished with a quality inspection system. Typically, measurements of each box are scanned to validate proper folds and adhesive glue or tape applications. Such inspection systems prevent your customers from experiencing automatic packing machine jams often caused by not accurately squared boxes.
- Manufacturer’s Gap Inspections – will scan each box to verify proper manufacturer’s gaps. Sometimes these systems are combined or coordinated with square box checking systems mentioned above.
- Print & Imagery Inspection Systems – these print inspection and print registration systems serve the important role of making sure the imagery and colors of every box are correct. This includes corrugated checks for hickies, missing prints, color density failures or misaligned imagery on folds.
- Corrugated Box Score Validations – such systems check that box scores are the proper depth and placed accurately to make sure they will all fold properly.
- Board Layer Inspections – are designed to visually inspect various corrugated board layers (face-layer, corrugated middle, bottom layer) and check for any signs of delam.
- Label Scans – similar to print inspection systems, but label scanning is focused solely on verifying UPC, barcodes, or similar labels for integrity. This can include labels printed actively being printed on the line as well as checking preprinted codes.
The product and system improvements available to corrugated box manufacturers through the types of quality inspection and vision inspection systems outlined above are substantial. Individual systems can be purchased for the most pressing concerns of each individual manufacturer and plant. While inspecting proper adhesive placement on each manufacturer’s seam and square box checking would apply to all corrugated operations, print and imagery inspection is more valuable for plants producing the attractive and appealing boxes found at the ends of grocery store aisles filled with products for sale.
The benefits of inspection systems are the total certainty your manufacturing plant can have regarding the quality of every single corrugated box that leaves your factory. The goal is no longer to have no more than 1 defect for every 3 million boxes produced. The reality is that you should not even have a single defective box in 30 million boxes. Think about what worries you most when a new shipment of corrugated boxes is sent to a customer. Which quality or vision inspection system(s) could check to make sure that every 1 in a million defect is removed. Inspection systems will give you total confidence in your product, and they can help your bottom line as well. Stop hiring additional labor to re-inspect returned pallets of boxes. Get the right quality and/or visual inspection systems to take your operations to the next level. It will help with your operations, and will probably help you let go of some stress and concern wondering when your next customer will be calling about two faulty boxes.
Learn about Valco Melton’s industry-leading quality and vision inspections systems:
Valco Melton’s ClearVision® Camera Inspection Systems offer an all-in-one quality assurance program that guarantees zero defect boxes. ClearVision® systems include:
- GlueChek – inspects every glue pattern and ensures quality production.
- FoldChek – inspects each manufacturer’s gap for width and skew defects.
- BundleChek – automatically removes defective boxes.
- BoxChek7 Inspection Software– collects complete information on production line performance.
- ScoreChek – ensures the integrity of corrugator scorelines on your sheets.
- PrintChek – is a full sheet inline print detection system used to inspect spots, registration (color-to-color and color to cut), stripes, scratches, color, missing print, smearing, double print/ghosting, drying, delta-e color density, and skew.
- GapChek – measures the lead gaps, trail gaps, and skew for 100% of all boxes in a bundle.
- RegChek – inspects print / graphic variation and quality.
- InsertChek – inspection system for special labels on boxes.
- CodeChek – inspection system for barcodes.
- MeasurementChek Remote Data Collection System – collect data from your production line to improve operations.
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