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7 Ways to Boost Folder Gluer Productivity & Speed by Investing in Automation

7 Ways to Boost Folder Gluer Productivity & Speed by Investing in Automation

In this industry, where profits are pennies per package, staying competitive comes down to eliminating inefficiencies and ramping up speed. In the past increasing folder-gluer speed resulted in stress and strain on the packing personnel, but with ergonomics and automation you can increase productivity and retain your staff. Automated folder-gluer peripherals are the best way to address industry wide labor shortages.

Hello, I'm Maxime Jacques and I'm excited to tell you how you can increase the output on your finishing line.

Part one of this series: "Boost Productivity by Optimizing your Folder-Gluer Process Before Investing" outlined five ways to boost folder-gluer productivity before investing in additional machinery: 

  1. Improve supply and demand planning, have a disaster recovery plan
  2. Analyze the workflow and make processes and walk patterns as efficient as possible
  3. Make manual tasks ergonomic to improve efficiency and staff retention

  4. Develop and Implement SOPs, Recipe Books, QA Protocols and Maintenance Logs
  5. Take care of your team through regular training and fostering a positive company culture

While these tips may seem basic they will serve as a good foundation for further optimization.


As your team works toward optimizing the process, you will notice certain limitations and even some bottlenecks. Ramping up the speed of your folder-gluer is one of the few way to increase profits and stay competitive. Automation can eliminate bottlenecks that limit folder-gluer speed.

We'll show you where automation will give you the fastest results in terms of ROI, and then show you how you can create the perfect solution for your folder-gluer operation. Often the ideal solution involves integrating more than one of the following automated machines:

Where should you start? Well, what manual tasks are taking the most time? By the way, determining how much time each of these manual actions takes will help you to see the potential return on investment. For example, how much time does it take your packing personnel to erect a case and tape it? Five to seven seconds? How many cases do you pack per year? How many hours of labor does that equate to? Could that person be better utilized elsewhere in your converting process?

Tip 1: Integrate an Automatic Case Sealer

Integrating a case sealing machine is an obvious and relatively inexpensive first step to boosting productivity. This investment can easily save you $8000 USD per year.

A case sealer save you approximately 3-6 seconds per case which on average equals 8 hours per week for a line that runs 2 shifts per day. In the long run it will also save you money. 

This is 20% of a standard work schedule. With an average total labour cost of around $40,000 USD per year on an operator/packing person, this results in $8,000 USD spent every year on taping cases. 

A one time purchase cost of a case sealer machine can vary from $2250 - $6,750 USD. This means that the payback period of an investment in a case sealer is around 3-9 months.


The biggest bottleneck in folder-gluer lines is the box packing station.

Without automation, even three people at the packing station can not match the maximum speed of the folder-gluer.

In addition to the physical speed limitations, the work is physically demanding. Using a simple packing table, packers can easily lift 4.3 tons of boxes per eight hour shift. Increasing the folder-gluer speed would just result in unsustainable strain on the people manually packing. Automation is the best way to save your human resources for other value added positions in the company and increase the speed of the folder-gluer.

Tip #2: Integrate an Accumulation Conveyor

If you haven't already done so, integrating accumulation conveyors at the packing and palletization stations will make the process more efficient and improve overall finishing line speed. Without this key module your packing staff will be racing to gather boxes as they exit the folder-gluer. True to it's name, the accumulation conveyor, allows more boxes per meter to accumulate on the belt.  It also results in a buffer so they have time to erect cases, perform quality checks and resolve issues in the previous batch. Once the optimum number of boxes accumulates the packing personnel is able to gather the most possible boxes per movement. Despite the increase in folder-gluer speed, quality improves and workers are less rushed.

The image below shows an accumulation conveyor integrated between the compression section of the folder-gluer and the tilted table.


In the image below, an automatic tape sealer is followed by an accumulation conveyor with gravity rollers. The accumulation conveyor should be long enough to accumulate 5-7 boxes, creating a buffer to allow the worker to switch out pallets. Integration of a pallet lift creates the ideal manual palletization station. 


Tip #3: Upgrade Your Basic Tables to Automatic Tilting Tables 

Pick and place packing stations with basic tilt tables keep boxes from tipping over in the box while the packing personnel goes for another bundle.  Fixed tilt stations have their benefits, but they require the packing person(s) to push the filled case upwards onto a conveyor. This represents a manual pushing force of 6-12kg for each case. 

Mechanical or pneumatic tilting tables reduce physical strain and speeds up pick and place packing. With the tap of a button or pedal, the table tilts down and eject the case onto a conveyor with free moving gravity rollers so that the packed case can continue its journey toward the sealing and palletization stations. This eliminates the friction and makes the force needed to eject the case almost zero. 


Tip #4: Integrate a Box Turner

Box turners are one of the best ways to reduce movements that can cause repetitive strain wrist injuries. Box turners re-orient the boxes as they exit the folder-gluer so that they can be slid into the case in one movement without lifting and turning. 

  IN3 Box Turner edited picture

After implementing the first 4 tips you should already have increased the speed of your folder gluer by at least 10-20 seconds per box for certain box types! In fact, IMPACK's semi-automated Ergosa packing solution seamlessly integrate these and other features that actually allow packaging producers to double production speeds - more on that later.

The belt speed has increased and your packing personnel are producing more, but now your operator is hustling to feed the folder-gluer.

Tip #5: Install a Folder-Gluer Pre-Feeder

A pre-feeder would speed up this process and allow your people to focus on other value added tasks for your carton converting facility.

In the image below ergonomic aides and automation work together to create the ideal pre-feed station. Left to right: folder-gluer, pre-feeder, platform with guardrails, pallet lift


Tip #6: Quality Control Inspection System

Traditionally, quality control was done by the packing personnel at the manual packing station. Therefore, packaging producers often feel that quality control is the biggest barrier to introducing automation to their folder-gluer line. You can confidently ensure quality with an inline inspection system that checks and ejects defective boxes during the folding and gluing process. 

I really like the article “Quality Control Systems Key to Folder-Gluer Production Success” from PostPress Magazine as it covers the importance of glue inspection and box ejection systems, the features and benefits they provide, and things to look out for when considering those quality control systems. 

Implimenting in-line quality control will ensure that your boxes are well-glued even at higher speeds and allow you to implement Tip #7.

Tip #7: Fully Automate the Packing of Long Runs

If you produce long runs of a few different box types, a fully-automated packing solution will allow you to operate your folder-gluer at the highest possible speed. 

Should you fully-automate or semi-automate the packing process?

This will depend on how much flexibility you need. Because a fully-automated solution takes some time to set up, it may not make sense if you produce short runs of many box types. A semi-automatic solution automates the most physically demanding tasks and makes other tasks more efficient and ergonomic.

Do you have two folder-gluers? With planning, you could dedicate one of your folder-gluers to long runs and fully automate the pre-feed, packing, sealing, and palletizing processes. 

For the past 20 years, we at IMPACK have been studying the finishing line and building machine solutions to address inefficiencies and eliminate bottlenecks. Rather than building machines to compete with other OEMs, we focused on designing innovative solutions that revolutionize key steps in the carton converting process.


Automated peripherals are the best way to get the most productivity out of your current folder-gluer. Pictured left to right are the IMPACK Virtuo Automatic Packer, GenieCut Window Patcher and the Prefio Prefeeder on a folder-gluer;


Automating monotonous or physically demanding tasks not only increases speed and productivity but also increases worker satisfaction and improves retention. Return on investment can be quickly ascertained based on the increase in productivity, the life of the machine, and the cost of wages for the re-deployed worker. 

Interested in seeing folder-gluer peripherals from IMPACK? Check out this article and learn about our ergonomic and automated solutions.



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