If you’re thinking of getting a packing aid, semi-automating your packing or thrusting into full-automation, then you might be asking yourself: What folder-gluer packer is right for my production?
You can probably agree with me that having many options is great, but — just like shopping for a car — having to choose from all those options can be overwhelming and annoyingly time-consuming.
I hear you.
🤔 Quick question: Do you fall under one of those 3 categories?
No matter which of the 3 questions answered “yes” to, you all are here because you have one critical goal in common: You want to know how to increase the output capacity of your folder-gluer, but you hit a brick wall. BANG!
I get it.
But wait! I have good news for you: This article is going to outline to you, step-by-step, what gluer packer is right for you. And I promise — I will keep this as direct as possible and make sure you walk away with plenty of information to make a more educated decision on your packer.
Of all the packers on the market, which one is right for what production?
Packing help, semi-automation and full-automation are all valid options to maximizing the capacity of your folder-gluer line, but each has distinct advantages, disadvantages and characteristics that many companies shy away from explaining.
As manufacturers and installers of packing help stations, semi-auto packers and full-auto packers, we’ve helped hundreds of business owners push their folder-gluer to its maximum capacity and realize their full potential.
We believe it is important to give an honest comparison between the different kinds of packers on the market. So, to help you make a more informed decision, we will share with you everything you need to know about different types of packers.
What’s the difference between the three types of packers?
Here’s the truth — whether automated fully, partially or not at all — no machine on the market is immune to problems; however, getting the right equipment for the right production will help you save a ton of money … and your sanity!
When it comes to packing help vs. semi-automation vs. full-automation, full-automation is easily the more tempting option that customers want.
However, it is also the more complex option requiring digital knowledge, a larger footprint, more money, and much stricter emergency shutdown protocols. That being said, for some companies, full-automation is the only realistic option.
So, how do you choose?
Let us take a deeper look into the good, the bad, and the ugly of each.
Quickest and Easiest Setup: There is no doubt that packing help stations are the quickest and easiest to set up because the setup time is virtually zero. Semi-auto packers also have practically nil setup times. That said, you still have to adjust the case height, case ejection, case taping unit, configure the box turner, etc.
The setup time between semi-auto packers and full-auto packers is unmatched. Taking that into account, semi-auto packers still require more setup than packing help stations that require nearly no setup.
High Physical Strain: The main disadvantage of packing help stations is that your packing person(s) still has to lift everything. There is no way where they can avoid lifting boxes because they need to lift them up in the air and place them into the case.
Because they can only lift so much with their own hands, they would be lifting small batches of 4-5 tons per shift. With the repetitive overuse of their hands for Spin rotation and their shoulders for specific movements, they become subject to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).
Very Slow Speed: Given that packing help stations involve no automation and no case management, your packing personnel need to do the case pushing, case ejecting, case taping and case management manually. This means that you can physically move fewer boxes thereby limiting your capabilities and making you inevitably much slower.
Quick and Easy Installation & Setup: Moving from non-automation to semi-automation brings along many benefits. One of the major advantages is that it is quicker and easier to install & setup relative to a fully-automated folder-gluer packer.
Because there are numerous gluer-packers on the market, I will use our semi-automated packer “Ergosa,” depicted below, as an example.
IMPACK’S Ergosa A: A semi-automatic packer with the performance of an automatic packer.
When it comes to semi-automation, our Ergosa packer is the universal folder-gluer packer that combines the flexibility of a semi-automatic packer with the performance of an automatic one.
The Ergosa is the first step towards semi-automation from traditional “packing help stations/tables” with a setup time as short as 5 minutes. Being economical, simple and highly versatile, the Ergosa can help double your packing speed with only 1 person (instead of 2 packing people) thus making the packing speed per person more than 4 times faster.
More Flexibility & Quality Control: Perhaps one of the biggest selling points for semi-automation is its level of flexibility. By installing a semi-auto packer on your folder-gluing line, you give your personnel the power of easy access.
Going back to the example of our Ergosa, easy access to the boxes allows your personnel to make adjustments, quality checks and corrections without ever needing to interrupt the production. In direct contrast to packing help stations, the Ergosa includes case management.
Because of its high level of flexibility and easy access, an Ergosa can run quite-literally anything you produce on your folder-gluer.
In addition, you can configure the Ergosa according to your needs. There are 3 distinct possible packing modes: Horizontal, vertical and pick and place.
IMPACK’S Ergosa: The 3 Modes.
With those 3 modes, you can run anything from small to medium boxes, straight lines, 4/6 corners, carton and corrugated boards and multi-format boxes.
The best part? It is compatible with all folder-gluer models – regardless of its type.
Let’s move on to the disadvantages.
Not the top speed: No machine is perfect; that’s just the reality. In some specific scenarios, semi-automation is just not the best choice.
Yes, ease-of-access and the ability to perform quality-control checks are great — if that’s something you need. However, with the power of access and the ability to make adjustments, comes the drawback of slower speed.
Another important point to consider is that you still need human supervision. If you operate in an area where there are labor shortages or rising wages then this option may not be worth the payback.
Varying productivity: With demand soaring for unconventional boxes that come in all weird sizes, shapes and their own inconveniences, adapting to the complex needs of the market has become more important than ever.
Depending on the types of boxes you produce and what ways you implement to maximize the capacity of your folder-gluer, productivity can vary drastically.
“Why can’t I pack this faster?!”
That sentence above constitutes 95% of the questions we get from our customers here at IMPACK.
It is not a question of how reliable the gluer packer is but rather a question of how you use it.
Because semi-automation is highly versatile and flexible, there are so many things you can do to push your folder-gluer to its maximum capacity. That said, there are so many ways where you could be losing productivity and causing bottlenecks to your own folding-gluing lines. This is why making the most out of your semi-auto packer training is so important.
High production speed: Semi-automated packers are everywhere and there is absolutely no doubt that they are more common when compared to full-automation or packing help stations, but it is important for you to factor in the reality of your own company.
Full-automation can be a perfect fit if extreme productivity is required either because your demand is quickly increasing or because you are short of personnel.
Taking that into account, it is just as important to not overestimate your needs and end up with a packer that is too complex, too expensive and completely not tailored to you, for you.
A big advantage that full-automation offers is a high production speed. Let’s take our fully-automated packer “Virtuo” as an example to make things easier. Here is a snapshot of the Virtuo:
IMPACK’S Virtuo with full-automatic case feeder system.
The Virtuo is the only 100% fully automatic folder-gluer packer for both corrugated and carton board on the market. It is the most compact and economical auto-packer in 2020.
If your typical production is one-row, one-layer — medium to large boxes — with an extreme focus on speed, then full-automation with the Virtuo might be just the right fit.
The Virtuo has a speed of up to 8 cases per minute, with a high-precision laser counter, and on a pretty small footprint.
However, if your typical production is multi-row, multi-layer case packing, then the Virtuo is not the right fit for you.
Constant productivity: Fully-automated machines take no breaks and no vacations. Operating 24/7, the capabilities of those machines are unparalleled.
If you’re doing large volumes such as 100,000-150,000 boxes (folding carton) or 40,000 – 60,000 boxes (laminated board) per setup with standardized boxes, then constant productivity is key for your company. In situations where there is a high emphasis on consistency and speed then you probably have no choice but full automation.
IMPACK’S Virtuo Vs. Ergosa: A Comparison.
More Costly & Complex: Full-automation is a precise installation process that requires much more preparation, technical knowledge and complexity than semi-automation. Expectedly, it is more expensive, as a one-time cost, and more limited in terms of what you can do.
Focused on dedicated tasks, needs a larger footprint strict safety measures: This is where the concept of “limitation” comes into play. On a semi-automated machine such as the Ergosa, you can shoot whatever box you want through the folder-gluer machine as you have easy access and the flexibility to take it out with your hands at any time and put it into the case.
On the other hand, when it comes to a fully-automated machine like the Virtuo with case feeder, you need bigger spaces. Your fully automated machine has to be 100% safe. Hence, if there is ever a problem, you have to shut it down to zero with an emergency stop, otherwise it is too dangerous for a human.
If you’re looking to produce crash-lock boxes like a Happy Meal or a Timbit box 24/7 then you’re happy-go-lucky. However, if you produce other types of boxes, then you need to put your fully-automated monster away as it is dedicated to doing that specific task and is not forgiving enough to be flexible.
On the other hand, with an MFA Ergosa combination, you can run at good speeds with crash-lock boxes and 1 human supervisor. If they see that the box is not perfect, they can take it out and keep the speed or lower the speed to control everything then pick up speed.
You never have to go down to zero with semi-automated machines.
So, Packing Help Stations, Semi-Auto Packers or Full-Auto Packers?
There are definitely situations where a packing help station is the right choice and other situations where semi-automation or full-automation is a better choice. It all depends on your individual needs and specific circumstances
Before you commit to a decision, there are some important things you need to factor into your decision-making process.
What I mean is do you have data on the percentage of boxes you are producing?
Do you know how many hours of those boxes you run?
How about how long you operate for?
Start by knowing what you’re really doing and collect data on your work methods.
With some analysis, you can directly pinpoint exactly where you are, but more importantly, what potential you have yet to realize.
The next step is to ask yourself: Are you in a position to dedicate some production?
Collecting data is a great first step, but it is really what you do with the data that matters.
Take initiative in reorganizing your processes so that you can ensure that if, and when, you do use a packer, you can use it up to its maximum potential.
You do not really have to hit full potential but at least taking steps towards hitting your best possible potential in reorganizing the sequences of your production.
The second & last point!
Besides Budweiser or McDonalds…thoughts?
You now know what you are really doing, you collected your data and reorganized your process to optimize for productivity. The next question is do you know where you want to go?
Do you want more output?
Lower setup times or lower lengths per box?
What is your vision?
Knowing where you are now and where you want to go is vital to recognizing what machine is right for you. You must have a crystal clear vision of your future goal.
Begin by identifying which areas you want to become better and faster at because when you do, you establish a direction for yourself.
For example, if you identify your goal is to hunt the big contracts for crash-lock boxes then you know you need to produce a specific volume at a certain speed and under XYZ circumstances.
Knowing this will allow you to choose the right machine and the configurations required to tackle that goal. Once you know you are going in that direction, and you have established the technology for a fast setup and stable production, you will become the top speed producer in that market.
Being top speed makes you have control over lowering your price per box over a competitor who cannot match your technology or speed. You have now become the master of your own machines with just some quick analysis and a realization of direction.
MFA Automatic Batch Inverter.
As a result of this, many of our clients end up paying off the MFA Ergosa – in full – after a year and then it becomes a money-making machine.
They were once producing a specific number of boxes in 2 days, but now they produce, and ship out to their client, the same amount of boxes in 1 day.
The potential is limitless.
We know we aren’t right for every customer out there and so we hope this article will help you make a smarter, more informed decision.
To learn more or ask questions about selecting your new machine, contact us today and for a free, no-strings-attached productivity analysis.
Marketing Content Manager