Automated packaging lines essential for modern manufacturers increase productivity, quality control measures while reducing risk of worker injuries and labor costs, says Comexi Group's Slitting Unit Business Director Raul ElFakdi

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August 7, 2023 (press release) –


(This article appeared in part in the July issue of FlexoTech magazine)

By Raul ElFakdi - Slitting Unit Business Director

Invariably, there comes a moment during the life cycle of a company when the workload becomes excessively high and cannot be managed solely with labour. Nowadays, companies need to decide on the best methods of workload management. Labor costs are constantly increasing, and companies also need to use their employees for tasks that require maximum critical thinking, as creativity cannot yet be automated.

The manual processes performed in each reel generation cycle in a slitter are crucial. A two-shafts machine, under normal conditions, may only be operational 30% of the time. This percentage increases to 70% when high-productivity solutions are used, such as turret slitters, automatic blade positioning, automatic mandrel positioning, or automatic taping/gluing.

Automate All the Manual Processes

After achieving such a high level of automation in slitting, and when combined with the current state-of-the-art slitters available in the market, which are capable of running at production speeds up to 1.000 m/min, another constraint appears in the field of operations: the impossibility of manually processing the high number of reels that the slitter is capable of processing.

To overcome these new constraints, we must automate all the manual processes that take place after slitting, such as weighting, labelling, bagging or palletizing, by using reel management and handling systems connected to the slitters. By integrating and linking all these processes, we eliminate all the current limitations that prevent slitters from working at maximum performance, eliminate idle times between processes, and optimize overall production.

Five Advantages of Automated Flexible Packaging Lines

The investment costs associated with new equipment may make several companies reluctant to adopt automated solutions. However, automation can bring enormous benefits as these new technologies increasingly facilitate the automation of process steps. Below are five advantages of automated flexible packaging lines:

  1. Improved production speed. With the right automation solution in place, companies can significantly enhance production speed and product performance. As a result, these technologies not only increase speed but also enable employees to perform tasks that exclusively require human input due to the unique and exclusive critical thinking.
  2. Quality control and traceability. With the development of new technologies, especially those related to computer vision/inspection, quality control systems can detect 100% of errors. Additionally, automated quality assurance systems do not cease or falter, ensuring consistent error detection capability.
  3. Reduction of labour costs. Due to the continuous growth of flexible packaging, the scarcity of skilled labour is already topping the list of unresolved issues. Workers have more employment options, and as a consequence, hiring, retention, and training become increasingly challenging and costly. By automating as much of the packaging line as possible, companies can ensure that workers are hired only when needed.
  1. Improved ergonomics. In manufacturing and packaging sectors, it is common for employees to perform highly repetitive tasks during long shifts, making them prone to ergonomic injuries. Process automation systems are well-suited for repetitive or tedious tasks as these tasks often benefit from consistency. Replacing workers with machines for process steps that require extremely repetitive movements can increase productivity and reduce the risk of worker injuries.
  1. Greater access to information. If system designers focus less on individual machines and primarily on the overall perspective, such as turnkey integrated solutions or end-of-line automation, it would be the best tool to improve access to information. Consequently, integration enhances the quality and speed of decision-making. Moreover, standardized HMIs make these machines more user-friendly, thus reducing the learning curve required by employees to achieve higher performance. Larger and more centralized facilities have been favoured, and customers are beginning to realize that the cost of ownership is more important than the acquisition cost.

Goal: Zero Defects in Delivery

However, although the most striking data in ROI calculations is the savings in wage costs, there is another significant benefit that is more difficult to measure. When a manual operation is repeated, there is always a possibility of errors due to fatigue or distractions. It is not difficult to find a mislabelled or misplaced coil in a manufacturing batch. Although companies have made efforts to design fail-safe systems, it is highly likely that defective coils are delivered to each customer concerning manual handling. The demands of major brands regarding quality parameters are increasing every day. For this reason, it will become increasingly challenging to meet these requirements without the help of automated systems or a more suitable and innovative slitting area. Automation is the optimal approach to achieve zero defects in delivery.

In conclusion, automated packaging lines can be highly beneficial for product manufacturers. By taking on the burden of repetitive and tedious tasks, these systems reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries and enable workers to be allocated to higher-value tasks where they are most needed. Additionally, these systems can boost productivity and improve quality control measures, all of which ultimately translate into higher profitability. A simple maxim encapsulates the essence of this approach: a system that controls flexible packaging must, therefore, be flexible.

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