True packaging pros are aware of common issues that can wreak havoc on their packaging line and know what corrective actions to take when challenges arise. As they study to become experts in their fields, our Mission: Packaging students took on the task of discovering some of the real world issues that manufacturers and packaging pros face every day. Follow along to find out what Caroline and Tristen learned:

Caroline: Maintaining Seal Security

The process behind packaging a product is a multi-step process where the final product is handled and packaged using both automated and manually controlled machinery. Products are subject to different machines, all with different capabilities, during the manufacturing and packaging process. These multiple points of contact mean there’s a greater chance for problems to occur on the packaging line. It’s important for students and professionals entering the packaging industry to be aware of the issues manufacturers commonly face in their packaging lines so that they can help prevent them.

One common problem in the packaging process is ensuring proper case sealing. Case packing and sealing is in the latter end of the packaging line and is essential to get a packaged product distributed to its final destination. Knocked down cases are erected automatically and filled with product using case packers, and are then subject to settling techniques to get the cases to close properly. During the case folding process, packed cases are moved along a conveyor belt equipped with parts that open/close flaps and then glue or tape them shut. Issues such as bottle-necking or misaligned cases can jam the line, which compromises these sealing functions. Additionally, closed flaps can have varying flap gap sizes depending on the quality of the cases or case specifications, which may not be compatible with gluing or taping capabilities. This results in open areas which can lead to increased foreign material, another common issue in the packaging industry. Manufacturers can reduce occurrence of this problem by periodically calibrating machinery to ensure proper case alignment and confirming case specifications with suppliers to avoid unwanted flap gaps.

Another problem seen on packaging lines are involved with material refills and change over. Packaging lines are often running multiple hours every day of the week at high speeds, which means packaging materials need to be refilled multiple times. In the flexible packaging industry, print on polymer film and how film is wound in rolls are all dependent on their integration with packaging machinery. Miscommunication regarding machine capability can result in incorrect film rolls, which in turn can lead to packages with misaligned graphics. Additionally, connecting a new film to a continuously running machine often results in a break in the material which compromises line speeds and package quality. Manufacturers can reduce the disruption of refills by ensuring the material quantity is best equipped for the speeds and demand of the packaging line.

Lastly, packaging manufacturers face problems with seal integrity when packaging product in primary packages. This problem is more prevalent in the flexible packaging sector with weaknesses in polymer and paper seals. Vertical form filling machines, often used for manufacturing polymer bags, can be compromised in multiple areas due to incorrect settings, overuse, or lack of maintenance. Issues with poor seal integrity can result from incorrect temperature settings, which can lead to deformed plastic and improper seals. Baggers and fillers can be subject to overuse, and if left not maintained, their sealing ability is compromised. For example, sealing surfaces on the sealing jaws can warp due to temperature abuse or become  misaligned over time, resulting in improper seals. It’s important for manufacturers to make sure their packaging machinery is periodically maintained and the proper temperature profiles are used to maintain machine and seal integrity.

Tristen: How to Avoid 3 Top Mistakes in the Packaging Industry

Tristen mission packaging challenge 8Considering the goal of any business is to minimizes losses and maximize profit, it’s clear that pinpointing where common mistakes occur in the supply chain and preventing them are critical to the success of a business. I’ve looked at 3 common mistakes that manufacturers commonly face in their packaging lines.Considering the goal of any business is to minimizes losses and maximize profit, it’s clear that pinpointing where common mistakes occur in the supply chain and preventing them are critical to the success of a business. I’ve looked at 3 common mistakes that manufacturers commonly face in their packaging lines.

1. Too many or too few packaging materials

Using too many or too little packaging materials can cause small scale problems for companies that manifest in to large losses. Too much material and the company is wasting money on unnecessary expenses, but too little can risk the safety of products being packaged. Often, these types of mistakes can be traced back to poor planning by management. Without performing proper cost analysis of material usage and setting up SOP’s to reduce human error, a company won’t have an effective plan. By incorporating these steps, as well as researching material alternatives, companies can package more effectively.

2. Insufficient Labeling

Insufficient or improper labeling is another mistake that can cost companies revenue and result in customer complaints due to late, damaged, or missing goods. Like many common mistakes, this can be traced back to poor planning of SOP’s that result in human error’s, as well as poor physical organization that can result in mixed up labeling. Outside of the effects it has on the customer, labeling issues also reverberate back on the packaging line by increasing work demand due to increase package returns.

3. Excessive Marketing Inserts

Unlike many mistakes commonly caused by human error, the use of excessive marketing inserts is often a cause of poor management decisions and possibly a confused marketing strategy. Additional marketing inserts can put unnecessary strain on packers in the manufacturing line, cost the company additional expenses in print materials, and annoy customers with an overload of information. In these cases, management should decide on a minimal set of inserts to reduce material usage, and establish proper SOP’s to make sure marketing inserts are not mixed up or forgotten.

References

” Brooke Chaplan in Business Ecommerce Miscellaneous. “Five Common Packaging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” SiteProNews. N.p., 12 Nov. 2015. Web.”Top 5 Reasons for Label & Packaging Errors in Food Manufacturing.” OAL Food Processing Automation, Materials Handling & Steam Infusion Solutions. N.p., 17 Aug. 2017. Web.