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Leveraging conveyor systems to increase productivity

These packaging flow management 'audit' questions will help uncover new ways to increase packaging line efficiency.

• Packaging process attributes. What are process speeds, infeed/outfeed characteristics, and mechanical dynamics between interconnecting packaging machines? How frequent are planned or unplanned disturbances with such machines? What is the mean time between failures? Should a buffering conveyor system be used to ensure constant product flow during stoppages and line speed changes?

• Product mix and packaging formats. What are current and possible future product and packaging variants? What unique and common handling properties are presented by those variants? What impact, for example, do retailer requests for different bulk packaging formats have on productivity? How can conveyor systems be used strategically to harmonize marketing and production priorities, providing cost-effective flexibility to minimize time-to-market cycles?

• Process and product quality requirements. Consider areas on the line where product tipping, jamming, and degradation of value-added packaging content could occur, and the resulting product waste. Where is packaging process waste the most common? Does the conveyor system arrangement minimize distance between machines for ergonomic advantage and less wasted movement?

• Production environment. What space constraints are inherent in the production environment? How accessible are packaging areas to operators? How should the conveyor system be configured to minimize operator movement, improve ergonomic qualities, and increase productivity?

• Trends. What shifts are likely in process requirements, regulatory standards, or marketing priorities? How should the conveyor system be structured to facilitate adaptation to such shifts?How will RFID mandates, for example, affect labeling standards and labeling process strategies? Will new inspection systems be adopted to comply with evolving safety and security standards? How will they interface with the conveyor system, and what is their method of changeover? Next: What to look for in an "ideal" conveyor system. [HCP]

By Tony Barr

Tony Barr is product marketing manager for modular chain conveyor systems with Bosch Rexroth Corp.' s Linear Motion and Assembly Technologies Group.
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