How to Solve Common Packaging Automation Problems

Automatic packaging machines are a huge help to your operation. They allow you to work faster and more effectively while creating durable packages that protect your products and withstand the most turbulent shipping routes. All kinds of automatic packaging devices, from case sealers and carton erectors to stretch wrappers and void fillers, must be properly integrated into your line to work at their best and get the job done as expected. As a whole, this is incredibly beneficial, but just one small problem can seriously throw off your business and its workflow. To continue operating effectively and efficiently, you need to know how to solve the most common packaging automation problems. Quick troubleshooting allows you to minimize backlogs, prevent jams, and get your product out the door in a timely manner. Here are some easy tips for solving your most common packaging automation problems. 

Stay in Touch with Your Distributor 

Did you run out of stretch wrap? Forget to check your tape inventory? The fastest way to bring your packaging line to a halt is to deplete your inventory of consumables without reordering. During your average day-to-day operations, this may not be a problem since you know about how much material you go through. However, what happens when you launch a new product line or experience an unexpected boost in sales? Can your supplier handle these kinds of events or will they stick you on backorder for who knows how long?  

Thankfully, this is an easy-to-solve problem. Staying in regular communication with your packaging supply distributor and keeping them in the loop about your anticipated needs helps everyone avoid surprises and backlogs. This means that the materials required to get your products out the door and to your customers are much more likely to be readily available when you need them most. 

Inspect All Deliveries 

You have a lot going on and a seemingly endless list of tasks to manage. When a shipment of packaging supplies shows up at your loading dock, you don’t always have the time to carefully inspect it and make sure everything is in correct working condition with the right information printed on it. If you don’t notice these problems right away, you may not realize until you’ve used it all and it’s already on the pallet, meaning you have to waste time and money to disassemble every unit and repackage them with the right material.  

A simple method to minimizing this problem is to inspect every delivery that arrives at your door. While you may have to send a defective shipment back, you won’t waste any time or energy using the problematic supplies and you can get a replacement sent out to you ASAP. To make this inspection process more efficient, standardize a protocol and make sure the same employees perform every inspection.  

Reduce Your Refills 

Managing low inventory can be a headache, especially when you must do so frequently. Constantly replenishing your stock of labels, tape, glue, and more means that you have to slow your line down or bring it to a complete stop, and then take a team member away from their regular duties to refill the machine.  

So what should you do? Simply enough, try to find automated packaging equipment with the largest magazines and reservoirs available in order to minimize the amount of time needed to refill them. While this may increase your initial cost, it will eventually save you labor hours and keep more money in your wallet. Additionally, packaging equipment that can automatically detect when it needs to be refilled, rather than an operator needing to notice, can also prevent packaging line pauses and breaks, which increases your production output.  

Consider Redundancy 

If something like a case sealer goes down, your team can handle its operations by hand, even if they can’t work nearly as quickly. However, if something like a label printer malfunctions and won’t work, your packaging line may come to a complete stop. In this situation, you're stuck without shipping labels, marketing information for your products, and more, meaning you can’t send your goods to your paying customers.  

Initially, keeping spare equipment on hand may seem like a waste of space and money, but extra automated packaging devices can save you in a pinch. Backup packaging equipment can easily prevent production line pauses while your primary device is under repair, saving you money and reducing labor hours.  

Stay Simple 

Sometimes it’s just human nature to overly complicate things, including our packaging processes. You may be inclined to use complex corrugated boxes in a variety of sizes with multiple types of void fill. While convoluted setups like this might result in an aesthetically pleasing design, they’ll more likely end up costing you. 

You can save time and money by simplifying your automated packaging process, and you don’t have to sacrifice a visually appealing presentation. Consider using a customized void fill like an automatic foam-in-place machine instead. This allows you to create the ideal void fill for each individual package – even those with different products and a wide range of sizes – while also providing outstanding protection and operating efficiently.  

Speed and Pacing 

Each automatic packaging machine and every individual operator will work at a different pace, especially when you utilize a semi-automatic packaging line. It can be pretty impossible to avoid different work speeds, but this can sometimes lead to bottlenecks in certain areas of your line. 

To prevent bottlenecks and slowdowns, move your slower automated packaging devices to the end of the line if you're able. If your team members have different jobs on the line that take varying amounts of time, try the same in order to minimize product buildups and jams. 

Integrate Your Systems 

A key factor in the success of your automatic packaging line is the integration of your equipment, software, and control systems. When these functions aren’t harmonized with one another, your product will have a difficult time making its way down the line, especially when it needs to be handed off from one step to the next. Incorrect hand offs that are too quick or not quick enough can lead to machine pauses and line stops. 

To ensure that your systems are adequately integrated, make sure that you do so each time you add a new component to the line. Further, it’s always good to double check that your separate aspects are all in correct working order on a regular basis. 

Plan for Everything 

One of the major advantages to automating your packaging line is that errors will rarely occur. These systems move smoothly, package efficiently, and reduce your labor time, but just like anything else in life, mistakes will occasionally happen. If you aren’t prepared for these errors in advance, even the smallest problems will slow you down.  

A simple and effective method to troubleshooting any errors that may pop up is to communicate with your equipment distributor or manufacturer. Knowing what might occur and how to solve those problems correctly and in the least amount of time allows you to have readily available solutions that get your packaging line back in action as soon as possible. 

Flexibility is Key 

Every industry experiences changes and upgrades from time to time. Without the ability to be agile and make adjustments when needed, your automated packaging equipment and lines will slow down any time a change takes place.  

To stay flexible, look for automatic packaging equipment that can handle adjustments in labeling, box sizes, tape widths, and more. You’ll also want to stay in-the-know about any kind of product upgrades, manufacturer promotions, or new developments in the automated packaging equipment industry as a whole.