13 min read

How to Maximize Your Folder-Gluer Productivity

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✋ Attention packaging producers ✋!  

There is a very high chance that you were just thinking of getting a new folder-gluer, but a “hunch” made you think twice and search google for answers before you rang your folder-gluer manufacturer.

And you happened to land on this article.

👉 Are you here because of one or more of the 4 reasons below?

  1. You’ve tried to ramp up your folder-gluer speed but cannot.
  2. You’ve tried to add more people to increase your gluer output but it’s not doing much.
  3. You’ve tried to optimize your palletization to simplify production but you’re pulled by machine limitations.
  4. You’ve tried to create your own box turner but you realized that the doing is harder than the thinking.

No matter which of those reason(s) you fit within, you can probably agree with me that you all share one thing in common: You want to produce more with your folder-gluer, but you’ve been bottlenecked at the gluer, packer or feeder.

It can be a very frustrating reality.

The good news is that despite being a letdown, this is easily solvable. 

With the demand for unconventional boxes rapidly growing, carton box manufacturers are forced to meet the ever-evolving needs of the market. 

This means being capable of adapting easily — and fast.

As flexibility has become the forefront priority for carton box manufacturers, we here at IMPACK have dedicated ourselves to providing solutions around folder-gluer lines for the last 20 years. 

In this article, we will dive deep into how you could maximize the productivity of your folder-gluer. 

Note: We completely understand that not everyone can or is ready to invest in folder-gluer packaging equipment and so this article will show you how you can increase the productivity of your folder-gluer with investing and without investing.

Is Buying a New Folder-Gluer the Solution to Your Problem?

Used Folder-Gluer Photo

Made-in-China. Products. Zhejiang New Luolan Machinery Co., Ltd: Used Cosmetic Box Folder Gluer for Sale (GK-650GS).

👉 Quick question: Have you prepared yourself to adapt and quickly respond to the market's complex needs 🤔?

If you answered “No,” then what do you think is the solution to respond to those needs?

Did you say “a new folder-gluer?”

A lot of our clients believe that buying a new folder-gluer to increase the efficiency of their production is the solution, and if you thought that too, you are not alone.

In some cases, buying a new folder-gluer is a viable solution and we will explore those cases in this section.

The first step to answering this question is to identify why the capacity of your current folder-gluer is limited. 

In other words, where is the bottleneck taking place?

Is it at the gluing, packing or feeding stage(s)?

Once identified, collect data on your production and work methods. 

Analyzing this data will give you an accurate picture of where you are today, where you want to go and how you will get there.

“Okay, so how do I increase the capacity of my folder-gluer?!”

Well, to answer your question more precisely, I first need to define what “capacity” means so that we are on the same page.

Definition: Folder-gluer capacity refers to the existing capabilities of your folder-gluer. The words "productivity" and “output” are often used interchangeably with the word "capacity." To keep things simple, we will measure capacity as the number of boxes produced per day. That is, increased folder-gluer capacity/productivity/output represents more packaged boxes or full cases onto a pallet per day. 

Sometimes we see clients that prefer to have another folder-gluer over adding a night shift on the gluer because of rising labour wages, operator job scarcity (finding a reliable operator and a supervisor to oversee the shift is challenging) or other reasons that are related to productivity and are specific to the client. In those types of situations, adding a new folder-gluer could make sense.

Another very common scenario that we see all the time is when a client wants to produce a unique box that cannot be produced on their existing folder-gluer. Here, adding a new gluer would be a perfect fit.

For example, if your folder-gluer cannot produce 4-corner boxes but you recently acquired big orders for 4-corners, then you could utilize your existing folder-gluer for straight-line boxes and acquire a new gluer for 4-corner boxes. 

The reason this solution is quite common is that a lot of those older folder-gluer machines were so robustly built from heavy metal that won’t break. The electronics might fail but the hardware is very solid. Thus, clients are reluctant to get rid of their older gluers, and rightfully so, they deploy them for more dedicated lines and purchase a newer gluer for more complex box types.

It is also important to acknowledge that getting a new gluer does not mean a simple hands-down investment in a gluer, period:

You need space which is a privilege in this industry.

You need another operator — another privilege.

You need to train those operators which is time-consuming.

You need other workers around the packing stations where job turnovers are very high.

You need the equipment to manage the output/palletization —  which can become expensive, and bulky, fairly quickly.

Adding a new folder-gluer is not an overnight decision where you call your folder-gluer manufacturers and excitedly welcome the arrival of your new gluer to only then realize that you have limited space, unproductive operations or a wrong fit.

No one enjoys regretting a purchase, especially with high-ticket items that require a substantial investment from your hard earned money.

How To Maximize Your Folder-Gluer’s Productivity:

    1. Without Investing

“I can actually increase the productivity of my gluer with zero investment?!”

I know...it sounds too good to be true. But, it is possible if understood and capitalized on wisely.

How?

Let’s take an example: You are currently producing 10 pallets per day and you want to produce more of the same boxes per day (hence increase folder-gluer capacity or productivity). Let’s also assume that your purpose is to bring down the cost per box or to acquire more orders. 

If you know that your folder-gluer can produce more than what it’s currently producing, then you can add a packing person to push your folder-gluer to its maximum potential.

If, however, you see that you are already at maximum potential — and the packing person(s) can no longer follow — then adding another packing person won’t help you as the gluer has reached top speed. 

If you are running at a speed X on a gluer but you know that you could run faster, and the production run — as a whole — should be shorter, then this is where minimizing your setup times should be your next step to maximizing your folder-gluer’s productivity.

To truly be able to capitalize on increasing the productivity of your folder-gluer with zero investment, you must master your folding-gluing process.

To achieve this, focus on tuning your gluer until you have a steady production outflow at a consistent level with a packing person(s) that can follow. 

This means that they are able to re-adjust the guides and belts on the gluer, the glue application system and transfer of boxes to the compression so that all boxes are well-glued even at a higher speed.

You should know that the higher the speed is, the greater the likelihood a small misalignment could happen and the greater the speed at which they happen — if they happen. 

This increases the possibility of a jam and eventually a folder-gluer stop: 

Something you, and your operator, do not want happening.

5 ways to increase your folder-gluer productivity with $0 investment:

Without Investing

1. Establish SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to document your internal processes

  • Given that there is no overarching SOP, have a way of documenting your internal processes. This will allow you to achieve repetitive, standardized setups and uniformity in your performance levels.
2. Have a logbook that details the setup of each machine for best practices
  • Share the know-how and best practices among team members.
  • Simplify the process and facilitate a structured training of new team members.
  • Reduce setup-times by defining what setup is the best for each box.
  • Establish a step-by-step process for the setup of each box.
  • Define and distinguish the roles of the packing person(s) and the folder-gluer operator.
3. Analyze your work methods on each working station
  • Equip people with the resources that they need to work efficiently
    1. Integrate shelves for samples and breakers.
    2. Install tables to form the cases.
    3. Minimize movements as much as possible and reduce rotations.
4. Assess walking patterns during setup and production
  • Think about what actions need to be frequently taken and organize a sequence so that your people know what to do, when and with what tool (if needed). This is important to avoid people crossing each others’ paths during operations mainly around the packing station.
5. Organize the same types of boxes after one another to reduce setup time
  • Place the same types of boxes one right after the other. For example, if you are producing 4 boxes of which 2 are auto-bottoms and are 2 straight-lines, do not do straight-lines, auto-bottoms, straight-lines, auto-bottoms.

    2. With Investing

Hey, hey, hey! Slow down; We are not following anymore!!!”

Did you hear that?

That is the loud shouts of your packing personnel suddenly yelling because they cannot keep up with the speed.

At some point, you became good at tuning your gluer with $0 investment and you ramped up your speed but the personnel just cannot keep up.  

So now, you have to deliberately slow down your folder-gluer and purposefully reduce your productivity.

After all, every single machine has its limitations and those limitations will eventually happen. 

There will come a point where your folder-gluer will hit maximum potential and there is nothing you can do to make the gluer run faster (or better) without additional solutions.

This is the real tipping point where you know that it’s time to explore options that require investing. 

Here is where complementary solutions and automation solutions come into play.

What is the difference between “complementary solutions” and “automation solutions?”

Mainly semantics. 

But we define complementary solutions as the peripheral devices that you can add to your folder-gluers, such as conveyors, tilting tables and box turners. 

Automation solutions, on the other hand, are folder-gluer packers that are partially or fully automated. 

For example, the “Ergosa,” is our semi-automatic packer with the performance of an automatic packer and the “Virtuo + ACF” is our fully-automatic packer, and the only 100% fully auto packer that exists on the market for both corrugated and carton boards.

🔎 Related: What’s the Difference between Manual, Semi-Auto, Auto and Fully-Auto Folder-Gluer Packers?

Automation solutions are exciting and tempting but the truth is that they are not cost-effective if you have not yet implemented the “zero investment” tips outlined above or integrated complementary solutions to your folder-gluer.

Those complementary solutions are the prerequisite steps that you can and should implement prior to considering automating your end of line process with a folder-gluer packer. 

I compiled below the 5 fundamental steps recommended by our top engineers and production specialists from their observations of over 1000 companies around the world.

5 ways to increase your folder-gluer productivity with investing:

LATEST GIVING money

1. Ensure that the glued boxes don't need 100% inspection
  • Implement gluer inspection and ejection systems to make sure that your boxes are well-glued even at higher speeds.
2. Add tilting tables to place the boxes on and to allow easy ejection by pushing
  • Tables that are tilted at an angle help prevent the boxes from falling down when placed into the case. Most clients we see have a tilting table where when the case is full, they can push it so that it tilts and then they can eject it straight. 
3. Add a simple conveyor and(or) a box turner to slow things down and better orient/present the boxes for the packing person(s)
  • One step further is having additional packing aid by adding a conveyor and a box turner. The conveyer would allow you to give the packing person more time if an issue arises. The turner would better orient the shingle to make the packing easier.
4. Add a case sealer to automate the case sealing after a manual ejection
  • If you have multiple folder-gluers converging to the palletization station, then you might want to consider a single and more advanced case sealing technology down the line. 
5. If packing with 2 people, bring all the cases to a central place for palletizing
  • Also, 2 folder-gluers can have 1 central station for palletizing with 1 person (serving several gluing lines).

The implementation of those 5 top tips will offer you a productivity boost to get the greatest payback out of your investment in complementary solutions and in any further automation solutions you may install in the future such as a folder-gluer packer.

How to Decide: A New Folder-Gluer or Alternative Solutions?

Source: SBL Machinery's website. Choosing and Safely using a folder-gluer - Blog.

This decision is not one to be taken lightly, but I will not leave you with the ever-elusive statement: “it depends.”

To help you make the right decision, follow these 8 steps: 

Step 1: Identify exactly where the bottleneck is taking place in your company: Is it at the gluing, packing or feeding stage(s)?

Step 2: Conduct an in-depth internal analysis of your production to have a better understanding of what your production looks like today in the folding and gluing department.

Step 3: Break down the percentage of different box types produced and their average changeover times. This will allow you to pinpoint exactly where inefficiencies are taking place for you to be able to select solutions with the capability requirements that you need.

Step 4: Analyze your current machines and ask yourself those 3 critical questions:

  • What machines do I already have? 
  • Are my machines working as they should and capable of quickly adapting to different box types and mixes?
  • How easy/difficult is it to set up my current machines?

Step 5: Keep a close eye on the data and your work methods. Ask yourself:

  • How much time am I spending on job changeovers versus running my production?
  • Are all workers fully equipped with the resources they need to run efficiently?

Step 6: Focus on tuning your gluer consistently until you have pushed it to its maximum possible potential.  If you’re not sure how to do this, find out here how to maximize your folder-gluer’s productivity.

  • Once done, ask yourself: How important is it to minimize setup times for my production at this stage?
  • Is there anything else I could do to push my folder-gluer further?
  • Do all the operators have the proper training to operate the folder-gluer?

Step 7: Make sure that you’ve implemented the “top 5 ways to increase your folder-gluer output with $0 investment.”

Step 8: Once you’ve reached the tipping point where your folder-gluer hit its maximum capacity, start exploring folder gluer packaging equipment and peripherals.

  • Remember to factor into your investment decision, where you want to go. i.e. your vision and future product mix/box types that you plan to produce to ensure the highest payback possible not just in the short-term, but also, in the long-run.
  • Let your forecasted ROI and product mix (both existing and predicted future mix) lead your investment decisions when choosing what folder-gluer packer is right for you.

At IMPACK, we specialize in analyzing packaging producers' work methods and designing pre-feeders, pre-packers, packers and stackers around folder-gluers of varying degrees, levels and scopes of automation, versatility and performance. 

Are you considering getting a folder-gluer packer but feeling unsure on where or how to start? You can learn more by reading the two articles I carefully hand-picked below: 

What is a Folder-Gluer Packer and Do You Really Need One?

What Folder-Gluer Packer is Right For You?