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Tips to Enhance Your Packaging Line Efficiency and Improve OEE Calculation

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By Claude Archambault - May 11, 2020

Food processors, as well as other consumer products manufacturers, often find that final packaging is a significant constraint on reaching throughput goals. The interconnected components of a packaging operation must synchronize perfectly to achieve maximum output. Also, packaging materials are often difficult to work with, subject to damage, and affected by environmental factors such as humidity and temperature.

Because of packaging line problems, OEE calculations for packaging operations often produce erratic values as well as lower-than-desired scores. For the packaging supervisor, this means careful monitoring, close supervision, and well-trained operators. Worximity Technology's suite of production monitoring tools allows managers to see up-to-the-minute OEE results and line performance.

Following is a list of tips for overcoming some of packaging operations' major problems.  

1. Maintain a Good Supply of Consumables

The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted a surge in sales for many food items. In response, processors are increasing throughput to meet this demand and, as a result, are using higher volumes of packaging consumables. Running out of materials supplied by outside vendors, such as glue, tape, ink, films, paper, inserts, cartons, and labels, will bring the line to a halt. This stops production and lowers your OEE.

Before ramping up production and consumable usage, involve your suppliers. Together, develop a plan that ensures they can adequately supply the required volumes of quality consumables. 

2. Watch for Parts and Component Wear

Packaging lines typically involve several integrated and synchronized operations that require perfect timing, feeds, and speeds. As parts wear, operators tend to adjust other components in the system to compensate for small problems. Ultimately, however, the entire system fails. Using valid OEE analysis and in-depth predictive maintenance, monitor parts wear and routinely change out worn and out-of-spec components. 

3. Ensure Proper Maintenance Procedures Are in Place and Followed

Along with failure to lubricate equipment properly, the lack of routine cleaning and preventative maintenance can reduce operating efficiencies along with values from OEE calculations. Ensure operators are well trained in equipment set-up and take-down, operations, lubrications, and maintenance procedures.

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4. Check to See That Equipment Is Properly Integrated and Synchronized

A well-balanced and successful packaging operation requires a large number of complex steps for handling packaging materials, such as folding, bending, handoffs, and printing. Any out-of-sync operations can stop the entire line. Careful attention to machine settings, material feeds, speeds, and parts wear can help improve line performance.

Creeping deterioration in performance can be seen in values from the OEE calculation. For example, drive chains may stretch and gradually cause synchronization failures, resulting in jams, off-center labeling, or other problems. Frequent monitoring of OEE can help identify a developing issue, allowing time to take corrective action. 

5. Implement Process Redundancy

The costs of a packaging line going down can be high. In many situations, it makes sense to have the flexibility to switch to alternative packaging processes and bypass broken equipment. While this may seem expensive, the costs should be compared with the costs of lost production. Often, standby equipment can pay for itself. Production can continue while maintenance is being performed on the out-of-service equipment.

6. Ensure Operators Are Well Trained and Follow Procedures

Machine settings and product specifications are designed so packaging equipment performs at peak efficiency and functionality. Going “off-spec” can interfere with packaging equipment integration and slow production. Set-ups and adjustments should be carefully controlled through pre-established written documentation and carried out by fully trained operators. 

7. Reduce or Eliminate Micro-Stops

Because product and packaging materials move through many steps in the packaging process, there are many handoffs at equipment junctions. Incorrect timing and machine integration can lead to frequent micro-stops along the line. Operators typically clear these. Though small, when micro-stops frequently occur, the impact on OEE calculations will be negative and can be significant. Carefully tracking OEE values can provide the information a manager needs to identify and correct these types of problems before production is significantly reduced.

Monitoring OEE is a key component of managing packaging lines as well as overall plant effectiveness. Using trends in OEE values, process adjustments be made at the equipment level. Also, plant-wide values can indicate improving company ROI and increasing profits. Consequently, including OEE as a key management tool is essential in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

Paper-based data collection and performance tracking systems for packaging lines fail to provide the amount or accuracy of data needed to make real-time operating decisions. To gain sufficient insight into line performance, high-tech devices such as Worximity's TileConnect sensors are required. These sensors are fastened to equipment and record operating data in real time, including micro-stops, creeping performance deterioration, and major stops. This data is stored in the cloud and used by Worximity's Smart Factory analytics software to monitor OEE and other important KPIs. For questions or a full demo, connect with Worximity via our request-a-demo page or at 844-303-8453.

Smart Factory Analytics Ebook

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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