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Improving Your Multivac Thermoforming Machine OEE

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By Emilie A Lachance - February 28, 2020

Food logistical distances have been increasing for decades and the effective packaging and transportation of food to the ultimate point of consumption relies on protective packaging. With changing consumer habits regarding how and when food is consumed or prepared at home, consumers are demanding more packaging and product flexibility while also demanding longer shelf life. For many food products that can bruise or otherwise be damaged in transit, this means using rigid plastics packaging.

The food industry is moving away from injection molding of some rigid packages and migrating to thermoforming. Why? In part it’s because of package design and manufacturing advantages. Thermoforming allows the opportunity to run multiple products simultaneously in both multiple rows and columns offering massive scale and throughput. Thermoforming enables complex forms to be made which are not possible with injection molding. Thermoformed packages can be both top and bottom filling and utilize different opening systems.  For instance thermoformed packages can have rigid removable, flexible or hinged covers, or sealed covers. A seemingly endless range of automation possibilities and integrations are available for thermoforming machines including Inspection, Printing and Quality / Rejection systems that are difficult to emulate with injection molding.

Thermoformed packages provide marketing advantages as well as offering effective product protection and production advantages. While flexible packaging can be made clear, rigid packaging such as thermoformed packaging can be made clear, while also offering resistance to bruising and puncture. Package clarity (transparency) has become a clear driver of packaging decisions, particularly for items like fruits and vegetables that consumers want to be able to see the condition of 360 degrees around the package. An interesting recent study used statistical eye-tracking to show that “consumers fixated for longer periods of time on products packaged in thermoformed clamshells instead of those packaged in paperboard boxes. The data revealed a strong correlation between fixation duration and the ultimate purchase decision.” Klockner Pentaplastiv (featured in Thermal Quarterly Magazine)

An excellent example of consumer consumption habits that are driving product packaging decision-makers to move to thermoforming is the K-cup. Where in the past, coffee was packaged in metal cans or plastic or paper bags, neither of these deliver the speed and ease of use of K-cups. Consumers have voted and the market has exploded as a direct result of thermoformed package convenience.

Multivac is the world-wide leader in thermoforming machinery, delivering over 1,000 automated thermoform packaging machines a year. With food manufacturers and processors migrating their packaging designs and production toward thermoformed packages, clearly it’s important for the food manufacturing industry to be able to produce the most value from their nearly ubiquitous Multivac thermoforming machines.

So how can Multivac thermoforming machine owners and operators maximize the value of their Multivac thermoforming machines? We know from previous Worximity articles that OEE can drive profitability, and that in fact some manufacturing business CFOs look to OEE to drive important financial results such as EBITDA.

This is all why we see many Worximity implementations in the future being  focused on improving Multivac thermoforming and packaging process and machine OEE.

So where Can You Start Improving Your Multivac Thermoforming Machine OEE?

Step 1 - Establish Your Multivac Thermoforming Machine OEE Baseline

Plastics Today recommends that the first step in any OEE improvement process is to establish a baseline of your OEE performance, so the first step is to implement a Smart Factory Analytics solution like Worximity to begin to gather quality production data. Using an IIoT solution like Worximity to gather manufacturing data such as thermoforming machinery uptime creates unbiased factual data that is comprehensive, can be correlated with other events and provides access to dashboards that provide quick insights.

Once you have baseline data, what’s a good next step for improving your Multivac thermoforming machine OEE?

In a recent article in Machinery Update Magazine, they suggest going back to basics and starting with the 5Ss and in fact found this system of organization to be particularly useful for thermoforming machinery!

OEE is a function of machine Availability, Production and Quality. These can seem like abstract or difficult metrics to improve so breaking down improvement steps with a simplified model like 5s can be helpful. You can find a great chart explaining the 5S system here which is reproduced below:

There are five key practices involved in 5S.

Japanese Term

American Term

Definition

Seiri

Sort

Sort through materials, keeping only the essential items needed to complete tasks. (This action involves going through all the contents of a workspace to determine which are needed and which can be removed. Everything that is not used to complete a work process should leave the work area.)

Seiton

Set in Order

Ensure that all items are organized and each item has a designated place. Organize all the items left in the workplace in a logical way so they make tasks easier for workers to complete. This often involves placing items in ergonomic locations where people will not need to bend or make extra movements to reach them.

Seiso

Shine

Proactive efforts to keep workplace areas clean and orderly to ensure purpose-driven work. This means cleaning and maintaining the newly organized workspace. It can involve routine tasks such as mopping, dusting, etc. or performing maintenance on machinery, tools, and other equipment.

Seiketsu

Standardize

Create a set of standards for both organization and processes. In essence, this is where you take the first three S's and make rules for how and when these tasks will be performed. These standards can involve schedules, charts, lists, etc.

Shitsuke

Sustain

Sustain new practices and conduct audits to maintain discipline. This means the previous four S's must be continued over time. This is achieved by developing a sense of self-discipline in employees who will participate in 5S.

 

Why is the 5S system so powerful when applied to thermoforming machinery like Multivacs? Let’s review each ‘S’ and see why machines, and in particular those like Multivac thermoforming machines can see dramatic OEE improvement through the implementation of 5S methods.

1 - Seiri - Sort - Remove everything that’s not needed from the work area.

As we noted in a recent Worximity article about thermoforming efficiency:

“Food manufacturing remains a highly competitive business and it’s only going to be more so. Consumers expect a broader proliferation of food products that meet demanding market segment needs, from plant-based meat analogs to food products and packages designed with senior citizens in mind. Food manufacturing operations are learning to be agile and to be able to quickly bring to market new products for market tests, while simultaneously meeting demanding quality requirements and keeping a lid on production costs.”

What this means in practice is that in order to compete, many food manufacturers, particularly the larger ones, will need to continuously innovate new products, bring products to market and measure consumer adoption and scale with successful products, or end failed products. For manufacturers running Multivac thermoforming machines, this can easily mean that items such as legacy tooling, fittings, clamps, leftover packaging inventory and labels can be left taking up space and impeding productivity and product changeovers when in reality these items will not be used anymore. Thermoforming area managers will need to be forceful in getting approval to properly dispose of legacy items.

2 - Seiton - Set in Order - Organize items left in the work area in a logical way.

Since thermoforming machines often are called upon to produce a range of products, organizing tooling that is used for currently produced products can have a significant effect on OEE. And in fact a study that we recently highlighted pointed to just this conclusion.

When food manufacturers are producing a range of products with their Multivac thermoforming machines, minimizing changeover times is essential and in fact changeover times can be the number one factor reducing equipment and line OEE. In the study referenced above, the team utilized video to record product changeover steps and time stamped each step. They then went through each step in meticulous detail to reduce changeover time and spent significant energy organizing every item in the work area to achieve their changeover goals.

While this approach can be useful, it’s important to recognize, as the team here did, that observation alone can influence production efficiency. That is, workers may be more or less efficient when being observed (video taped) than on a normal day. That’s a reason why using a behind-the-scenes data gathering tool like Worximity to get baseline data first can be so effective and that using a behind-the-scenes method to gather data ongoing can be so powerful.  Then you can compare your optimized changeover arrangement against actual historical production data using exactly the same system which improves accuracy and reliability.

3 - Seiso - Shine - Keep the workplace clean to ensure purpose driven work.

In most manufacturing facilities today, some effort is made to keep production areas clean. In food manufacturing in particular however, with the awareness of managing processes to GMPs ensuring proper cleanliness is essential. However, while cleanliness of the machinery in food manufacturing is essential, the 5S methodology teaches us that cleanliness of the machinery is vital for operational performance as well. 

Beyond parts of the machinery where food is directly handled, cleanliness can improve equipment uptime and therefore OEE. Food packaging machinery such as Multivac thermoforming machines are incredibly complex systems. These systems can include multiple fluid and gas handling systems for lubrication, heating and cooling, part handling, pneumatics and more. Each of these systems presents a potential leak and failure point. 

In Plastics News Trend Report, Bill Gerlach, Sales Manager of Brabazon Pump, Compressor and Vacuum notes that:

“Individual vacuum pumps, and fixing them when they break down, is a major expense, especially for larger companies with a large number of thermoforming machines. You have all these individual pumps that require maintenance of changing oil, filters and labor costs to maintain them,”

So for your Multivac thermoforming systems, maintain cleanliness not just of the areas and equipment that touch food, but think about keeping every hose, connection, interface and clamp clean across your entire thermoforming system so that operators can spot leaks and address problems before they arise. 

4 - Seiketsu - Standardize - Create a set of operational standards to govern machine area operations

Our recent article How Worximity Improves Thermoforming Efficiency in Food Packaging Process is worth reviewing here. There’s a great model for the testing and optimization of food manufacturing processes like thermoforming. Once the optimization process is done, effective documentation and training is essential to ensure that all employees and shifts are taking advantage of the optimum process steps to maximize your Multivac thermoforming OEE.

5 - Shitsuke - Sustain - Sustain new practices and conduct audits to maintain discipline.

Keeping your Worximity instance connected to your Multivac thermoforming machinery and comparing actual to intended KPIs will help you to keep things humming as they should be and your OEE and financial gains locked in!

To learn more about how your Multivac thermoforming machines can reach and maintain optimum OEE, reach out to Worximity today!

Worximity Smart Factory Analytics - Request a discovery call

Top image courtesy Multivac.

 

 

The Worximity Smart Food Factory solution is a low-cost hardware system that can be up and running in a few hours combined with an easy and intuitive yet powerful analytics dashboard that provides fast ROI to start and a roadmap to full-on IIoT success.

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