Tech Advances in Package Manufacturing – Visual Inspection Systems Spotlight
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% to 10% of the cases produce 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 vision 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.
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