Pouch Converting Discussion: Defining Reliability
When it comes to total cost of ownership and profitability, all pouch equipment is not created equal
Reliability is the number one desired machine attribute for pouch converters, but this deceptively simple statement can sometimes be misunderstood.
“Reliability isn’t only about the sturdiness of the machine,” says Scott Fuller, Pouch Equipment Product Line Manager for CMD. “It means that production will be reliable; that pouches will be of consistent quality; that downtime, especially unexpected stoppages, are minimized. It’s about product going out the door, on time, at the expected cost.”
Similar to how we expect our automobiles to be reliable; to consistently run and give us as little grief as possible, converters expect reliability in their equipment.
What are some gauges for reliability?
- The machine should be well-made – designed to provide process stability for many years – and to do so without frequent operator intervention.
Obviously, to achieve optimal pay-back the equipment should last for years, even decades. But in that time, the stability of the process should not degrade. Some of this comes from the overall build quality of the machine, the raw materials and the workmanship. Some of this comes from the design of the machine.
- Some converters have the good fortune of having in-house experts that keep lesser quality machinery running. They fix and tinker, adjusting springs and settings, sometimes even rebuilding sections of machines to get them to operate to the converter’s needs and expectations. This is a vanishing skill set, and more often than not, converters are faced with a shrinking labor pool of skilled workers. Entry-level operators and frequent turnover require a reliable machine that runs efficiently and effectively, day in and day out, without the need for frequent maintenance or monitoring.
“The long-term stability and sustained operation of the machine needs to be considered at the design stage, says Fuller. “Our machine includes a simplified mechanical design, with fewer moving parts resulting in fewer opportunities for wear.”
- Fewer maintenance touchpoints mean that you spend less time with preventive maintenance tasks.
- Those maintenance touchpoints that do remain have been completely re-designed to make the tasks much easier and faster to complete. (i.e., guillotine knife blade replacements in 20-minutes, simplified nip-roll changes, fewer lubrication points, easier access to the various workspaces on the machine, etc.)
2. The machine should offer low total cost of ownership.
A reliable pouch machine benefits your bottom line by offering truly shorter changeovers and a meaningful reduction in downtime associated with both preventive maintenance tasks, as well as unplanned downtime. The end result is that your machine will be producing sellable product for more of the time, resulting in a quicker payback and lower cost of ownership.
“Being in tune with our
customers’ goals, which most often included optimizing machine uptime – (that time when the machine is producing sellable product) – allowed CMD to offer a machine with the best payback and lowest total cost of ownership in the industry,” says Fuller.
3. The machine performs to expectations, which includes keeping scrap rates to a specified threshold. It must reliably produce consistently high-quality pouches.
The machine is an asset, a tool, that needs to deliver a specific amount of product in a specified amount of time (throughput.) It must have speed capabilities that will maximize productivity. Meaning, speed is important as long as quality is assured, and waste is minimized (efficiency.) It is expected to make a quality pouch, and is relied upon to play its part in getting orders out the door on time.
“CMD pouch machines have been designed with one goal in mind; to provide the most stable process available in the market today, requiring fewer operator interventions during a production run,” says Fuller, explaining that this results in less scrap during the run.
“Our proprietary registration averaging system means that fewer tooling adjustments are needed as the roll is consumed, and CMD’s patented Intelligent Sealing Technology provides the most consistent and repeatable sealing process available in the industry,” he adds. “In addition, our 3-D laser alignment step delivers the most consistent web-control available, while our proprietary web-tension management system allows the user to balance web tension from the roll to the cut-off, providing fewer instances of ‘feature-drift’,” says Fuller. All of these features contribute to a robust and reliable process that can be repeated from roll-to-roll and lot-to-lot.
4. The machine is reliably simple to operate and maintain.
Keeping operation and maintenance simple is a sure way to cut costs and save money.
Easy to operate touch screen controls and machine adjustments contribute to product quality, minimize downtime and support a reliable process control. Pouch equipment has come a long way, and quick-change features, like CMD’s easily accessible seal dies for under-2-minute changes, significantly reduced start-up and changeover time.
“Challenges with recruiting and retaining operators makes simple set-up and operation imperative,” says Fuller. “Machinery that is straightforward to operate, with recipes and adjustments that are easily repeated, help mitigate the challenges converters face with operator turnover.”
Affordable/accessible spare parts and reliable, responsive service are also an important component to simplified, reliable operation. Converters look for low cost and accessibility for common wear parts. The OEM that provides reliable, consultative service, including providing the tools for preventive maintenance to avoid unscheduled downtime, is a valuable partner.
“Our customers have been pleasantly surprised by our spare parts pricing, choosing to purchase easily sourced parts through us, rather than a third-party supplier. This strategy of pricing spare parts competitively was deliberately developed as we defined our identity as a true supplier partner; that partnership means that our customers can rely on CMD as their ‘one-stop-shop’. Maintenance managers tell us they appreciate that they don’t need to manage so many different suppliers.”
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