Follow these 3 steps to correctly specify your next dry powder auger or cup filling machine

12. Mar, 2015

You have a powdery beverage mix, and it needs to get inside a pouch. That’s easy enough right? Sounds like all you need is a filling machine; load it up with the mix and start packaging away.

Well, not exactly.

The manner in which you go about getting that beverage mix inside the pouch can be an extremely difficult task to accomplish, but it doesn’t have to be. Researching vendors and establishing communication with them early on; learning as much about your application; and asking the right questions in the initial stages of the specifying process can ensure you receive the right filling machine for your needs…and ultimately fill the powdery mix inside the pouch as efficiently as possible.

Do your research

When it comes to specifying your free-flowing and non free-flowing dry powder filling machine, there definitely is a right way…and a not-so right way to go about things. If you’re interested in saving time, money and a lot of headaches, of course you’ll want to follow the right path to success. The first step is to research vendors.

An online search shows there are several companies that manufacture dry filling machines – vendors ranging from major industry players with recognizable name recognition down to small shops that may only build a few models a year. Do your homework and research these companies. Have they been around a while and built up a reputation of quality workmanship? What kind of technical expertise, experience and knowledge do they bring to the industry and your application? What kind of testing do they perform on their fillers to ensure the fill rates they quoted hit the mark? Do they have customer testimonials you can review? How well do they stand by their work and customer service after the filler has been installed?

It’s also important to select a vendor that will design a filling machine around your application, and not the other way around. Some vendors shy away from customizing their fillers and try to modify your application to make it fit. This strategy ultimately fails because you won’t achieve the desired performance for your application. No two fills are exactly alike, which is why fillers need to be built to your exact specifications relating to your application.

Know your application and ask questions

Filling a product successfully depends on several factors, all of which need to be considered during the early stages of the design process. The key is to communicate as much information about your application as possible to the filling machine vendor or the OEM that’s designing your system. A vendor will want to know:

  • What’s the product being filled?
  • What’s the density of the product?
  • What is the weight or volume of the product?
  • What’s the package the product is going in?
  • What’s the size of the opening of the package?
  • Are the packages being fed into the filling system automatically or manually?
  • Are the packages being formed on a vertical or horizontal form fill seal machine?
  • Are the packages pre-made?
  • What’s the speed the packages are traveling at?

Having accurate answers to these types of questions helps streamline the specifying process. Missing answers to even one question can delay development and cost a food manufacturer thousands of dollars. For example, if the machine is being positioned on a floor stand and placed under something, how much clearance is available from the top of the machine to the obstruction above it? If the clearance is tight and a low profile machine stand is required, that costs more to manufacture. Seemingly innocuous questions on something about two inches of clearance can cost a few thousand dollars. That’s why it’s important for vendors to ask questions and receive accurate answers early in order to specify a filling machine right the first time.

Of course even during the early stages of the specifying process, specific information about the application may still be unknown. For example, package sizes can change at the last minute depending on the retailer’s shelf size. Additionally, alterations to the application can be dictated by the OEM, which could affect fill rate and other performances. There are many downstream marketing and end-of-line decisions that may not yet be made, even while the specification process is occurring, which will eventually dictate the type of filler and its performance. Things can change very quickly in the packaging world, so it’s best to keep the vendor, or the OEM if you’re working through one, updated of any changes to the application to minimize disruptions.

Follow the path to successful fills

It’s critical to your application that you select the right filling machine. The last thing you need is a filler that doesn’t meet performance specifications, or doesn’t interact well with the product being filled. Several factors need to be taken into account and calculated in designing a filling machine. Researching vendors, knowing your application well and establishing a line of open communication early in the specifying process will go a long way toward securing the right filler for your machine…and ensuring the powdery beverage mix or any other dry product finds its way efficiently into the bag.

Timm Johnson is the vice president sales/marketing at Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery (www.spee-dee.com). He can be reached at 262-321-6103; tjohnson@spee-dee.com.

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