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Top 7 Ways to Improve Folder-Gluer Productivity With Investing

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👉 You want to easily improve your folder-gluer’s department and at the lowest possible cost.

👉 You want a packing system that will save you money without limiting your production.

👉 You want greater output with fewer packing people.

👉 You want faster output with shorter setup times.

👉 You’re sick and tired of losing bigger contracts to competitors because of price.

👉 You want answers. And now.

I hear you.

My name is Stefan Badertscher and I am the Director of Sales and Marketing at IMPACK. 

Over the last 8 years, I have personally visited over 400 production plants and saw, first hand, what the most and least successful packaging producers do in their day-to-day work.

These experiences have shown me how projects can fail in as little as the first few weeks because certain steps were not taken. More interestingly, those experiences have proved how simple investments can lead clients to realize monstrous success and dominate their market.

Today, I will be sharing with you the 7 most effective ways to maximize your folder-gluer’s productivity and without holding anything back.

I will talk about what steps you should take, how to implement those steps, and in what order.

Tip #1: Add an Accumulation Conveyor after Your Folder-Gluer’s Compression Belt

*If you already have an accumulation conveyor after your folder-gluer, you can skip this step.

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IMPACK’s accumulation conveyor.

Adding an accumulation conveyor will allow your packing personnel the ability to accumulate more boxes per meter of conveyor, hence the name “accumulation conveyor.”

This reduces the speed of your box shingle and allows more boxes within the same time frame.

As a result, your packing personnel will have more time, and peace of mind, which will lead to a naturally quicker packing process. 

This is in contrast to having your personnel pack directly from the folder-gluer’s compression belt where there is no buffer if some boxes need to be checked/adjusted, or if some boxes slip out of their hands.

What I have seen very commonly among clients who do not have an accumulation conveyor is that their packing personnel will attempt to build their own buffer by emptying the compression belt as fast as they can. 

This leads to a very non-ergonomic workstation.

The accumulation conveyor allows your packing personnel to have more boxes per meter of conveyor, thus giving them a more relaxed work experience and the ability to easily resolve any issues with the cartons if, and when, they happen.

Tip #2: Upgrade Your Basic Tables to Actual Tilting Tables

*If you have actual tilting tables, you can skip this step.

The next step would be to upgrade from your basic tables with tilting holders/stands to “actual tilting tables.” 

“But, what‘s the difference between basic tables and actual tilting tables?”

Good question! Basic tables are tables locally made from wood or stainless steel that are used to hold the cases which are to be packed with the boxes. 

Very often, clients would couple those basic tables with a “tilting holder/stand” which is used to tilt the cases in order to prevent the boxes from falling when placed into the case.

Put simply, basic tables are fixed tilt stations.

An example of a fixed tilt station that I saw in one of our client visits is shown in the image below:

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A photo from one of our visits to a client that shows the packing personnel packing cartons into cases on a basic table with a “tilting holder/stand” used to tilt the cases i.e. a fixed tilt station.

Fixed tilt stations require the packing person(s) to push the case upwards onto a conveyor when they’re done packing the case. This represents a pushing movement of 6-12kg each time a case is ejected. 

On top of that, and depending on the material of the case, the friction makes the filled case even heavier.

Actual tilting tables, on the other hand, are tables made of a metal frame where the case is placed on a section of free movable parts such as “gravity conveyor rollers” which is shown in the image below. 

The frame holding the case is fixed on both sides at one specific point to allow the table to pivot when the case is moved. 

Actual tilting tables eliminate the friction between the case and the surface on which it is moving by using modern technologies like the “free moving gravity conveyor rollers.” 

This makes the force needed to eject the case almost zero.

The 3D drawing below depicts an actual tilting table:

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3D graphical representation of an “actual tilting table.”

Once the case has been packed, the personnel closes the flaps of the case and then pushes the case forward. Subsequently, the case gets ejected onto a conveyor or directly into the case sealer machine. 

“But, why do I need an actual tilting table?”

  • It is less strenuous on the packing personnel and requires less manual workload.
  • It is faster and makes a difference over time.

The image below displays IMPACK’s first “Packing Help Station” option “The Packing Help Station 1.0” which consists of an accumulation conveyor and an actual tilting table combination. 

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IMPACK’s Packing Help Station 1.0: An accumulation conveyor and actual tilting table combination.

Tip #3: Add a Box Turner

Another step forward would be to add a box turning feature.

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IMPACK’s IN2 Box Turner.

The purpose of having a box turning feature is to rotate your boxes 90° to the left, or 90° to the right, and control your box orientation to meet the requested case packing configuration. 

If not turned, your boxes would come out standing up which would require your packing personnel to manually turn them 90° and place them into the case.

So, what a box turner really does is present/orient the boxes in a better way for the packing personnel to facilitate the packing.

This is because standard straight-line boxes are typically packed with the glue flap lying horizontally when they are placed into the case as shown in the diagram below.

The box turner automatically facilitates this arrangement so that your packing personnel does not have to manually turn the boxes before packing them into the case.

Straight line box with glue-line laying horizontal

A box turner allows you to:

  • Avoid repetitive movements which lead to constant wrist injuries. 
  • Simplify the grabbing movement. 
  • Save time during the packing process.

With the implementation of all the previous 3 tips, you would now have the most common packing help/aid machine on the market: A Collecting Table. 

In short, most Collecting Tables are nothing more than an accumulation conveyor combined with a tilting table and a box turner.

🔍 Related: What's the Difference between Collecting Tables and the Ergosa Packer? (& How To Choose?)

The image below displays IMPACK’s second “Packing Help Station” option “The Packing Help Station 2.0” which is similar to the other Collecting Tables on the market. 

The “Packing Help Station 2.0” consists of an accumulation conveyor, an actual tilting table, and a box turner combination. 

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IMPACK’s Packing Help Station 2.0: An accumulation conveyor, an actual tilting table, and a box turner combination.

Tip #4: Integrate a Case Sealer

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IMPACK’s Case Sealer Machine.

Next, integrate a case sealer machine to automate the case taping after you have manually ejected your cases.

During my visits to clients, this is the one tip that always takes them by surprise.

With some easy calculations, clients quickly realize how much time (and money) they have been spending on packing personnel simply taping cases.

Instead of using a hand taper, as you would traditionally do, a case sealer machine allows you to fully automate the taping process so that your packing personnel do not have to manually tape any cases.

Simply push the case through the case sealer machine and the case will come out automatically taped/sealed.

Taking it a step further, you can even pack your cases without taping the bottom of the case. 

The case sealer will tape the top and bottom of the case, at once, fully automatically.

This investment can save you approximately 3-6 seconds per case. 

Here is a very straightforward example to demonstrate how much time and money you can save with a case sealer machine:

Let’s assume that your company works two 8 hour shifts per day over a 5 day work week. If you pack with a speed of only 1 case per minute, then you need 8 hours per week to just tape cases. 

That is, 6 seconds per case x 60 minutes per hour x 8 hours per work shift x 2 shifts per day x 5 days per week = 28,800 seconds or 8 hours.

Think about it for a moment: Each week it takes you one 1 full working day (8 hrs.) to just tape cases.

This is 20% of a standard work schedule. With an average total labour cost of around $60,000 CAD per year on an operator/packing person, this results in $12,000 CAD spent every year on simply asking a packing person to tape your cases.

A one time purchase cost of a case sealer machine can vary from $3000-9,000 CAD. This means that the payback period of an investment in a case sealer is in most cases anywhere from 3-9 months.

Tip #5: Ensure that Your Glued Boxes Do Not Need 100% Inspection

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Equip your folder gluer with a glue inspection system and a box ejection device. This is to make sure that the boxes coming out of the folder-gluer compression belt are well-glued even when your folder-gluer is running at higher speeds.

This is, by far, the most important step you should apply if you’re searching for ways to speed up your packing process.

I repeatedly hear this statement from potential clients:

“We need to inspect 100% of our boxes by our personnel.”

If this rings true to you, and you see no way of sampling some boxes for inspection or having your client accept some percentage of minor imperfections, then you cannot improve your folder-gluer’s productivity.

But — with an inspection system that checks your boxes during the gluing process, you can increase the confidence in the whole process by controlling the quality of the boxes that are being packed into your cases.

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.

You can never be 100% sure that all boxes are 100% perfect, but you will be able to have the confidence that you're producing client-approved box quality and at a percentage level that your client has agreed to with you.

And, what’s the end result?

We always tell our clients to take a speed test before considering a folder-gluer packer.

In order to check if your folder-gluer is the bottleneck or not, attempt this quick exercise:

Imagine that you were to allocate 4 to 6 people behind your folder-gluer for an hour to push your gluer’s speed to its maximum possible speed.

And, let’s assume that you still receive well-glued boxes. What will the outcome be? 

Will your folder-gluer run faster and produce more output in a shorter period of time?

Or will you face quality problems as soon as you start running at higher speeds on your gluer?

If the latter is true, then your gluer is the bottleneck. 

That is to say, if you see that your gluer cannot go faster with more than 1 to 2 packing person(s) because it will lead to quality problems, then this means you have one (or more) of the following problems:

  • Your boxes cannot be glued faster without damaging them.
    • 👉 Maybe a new folder-gluer could glue them faster but this needs to be analyzed in detail.
  • Your boxes are well folded and glued but the glue is not sticking as it should.
    • 👉 Many clients change the type of glue they use to one that offers a quicker and stronger bonding once they start running faster.
  • Your boxes are well folded but there is not enough glue or the glue is completely missing.
    • 👉You can solve this issue with an upgraded gluing and glue inspection system. This will make sure that your boxes are well-glued even when your folder-gluer is running at higher speeds.

Your folding and gluing process is the core component of your production.

In other words, mastering your folding-gluing process should be your primary concern when thinking of automating your end of line process.

The process of tuning a folder-gluer is more akin to craftsmanship than automation. Increasing the output of your gluer is never as easy as cranking up the speed dial of your gluer.  

For example, when setting a complex box on the folder-gluer, it would take time to tune your gluer until you’ve reached a good production and consistency level. 

The issue, though, is that when you are tuning the gluer, either by setting a new box or making adjustments to increase the speed, you’re inevitably throwing garbage out.

A half-folded carton here, a bunch of badly glued cartons there, cartons glued together, cartons torn apart, etc. 

And, the more you go up the way of automation, the more these folder-gluer inconsistencies will have to be considered in the packing process. 

Why?

If you send badly glued or damaged boxes to the carton packer, they will

  • Either be packed and sent to your client without you knowing it. 
  • Or, in a more automated machine, create a box jam and cause a complete stop to your entire production line.

Two things that you certainly do not want happening.

Tip #6: Incorporate Pneumatic Tilting Tables 

Finally, you can incorporate pneumatic tilting tables that push your cases into the case sealer machine with the press of a button or a push on a peddle. 

This step would arguably position you at the highest level of manual packing and would save you additional time, and money, over what you will save with the implementation of Tip #4.

Tip #7: Explore Options of Folder-Gluer Packaging Equipment 

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Three IMPACK Everio Stackers at a client's production site.

Once you have applied all the previous 6 tips, you would now be in the best position to start exploring the world of folder-gluer packaging equipment and peripherals.

This includes Semi-Automatic, Automatic, and Fully-Automatic folder-gluer packers, stackers, and pre-feeders. 

As well as, peripherals such as box turners, batch inverters, counting and separating devices, and custom solutions that are built to meet the unique and specific needs of your production.

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

The main takeaway is that in order for you to realize Tip #7, you must have carefully implemented Tip #5 and mastered your folding-gluing process. In other words, you should be 100% confident that your cartons are coming out well-glued.

Once you are confident about your folding-gluing process, and you know that you can either

  1. Increase your folder-gluer’s output whilst maintaining your quality,
  2. or maintain your folder-gluer’s output but with less packing personnel

Then, you can now begin considering folder-gluer packaging equipment and peripherals. 

But, knowing that you need to invest in carton packaging equipment is not “the” ultimate answer to push your folder-gluer to its full potential.

A lot of packaging equipment suppliers will attempt to sell their packing systems to potential clients even when they have not mastered their folding-gluing process.

Although it can be an easy sale for us, that’s not what we stand for here at IMPACK.

If a potential client did not master their folding-gluing process, we would not offer packaging equipment as an option even if they wanted it (it has happened before).

There are specific fundamental steps that you need to take before you start considering packaging equipment (the 6 previous tips we discussed) — if you truly want to become the top speed producer in your industry.

The implementation of those top 7 folder-gluer productivity tips will place you in the best position to add packaging equipment to your folding-gluing process, and more importantly, get the highest payback off of your investment in packaging equipment and peripherals.

Do I Really Need to Invest In Packaging Equipment?

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It all comes down to what your needs are.

But, I won’t leave you at just that. 

Here is the honest answer:

If you can no longer increase the capacity of your folder-gluer because you have pushed your gluer to its limit, then ask yourself: Where exactly is the bottleneck taking place?

👉 1. If your bottleneck is at the gluing and you have 1 packing person:

If your bottleneck is at the gluing and you have 1 packing person, then adding another packing person won’t help you as your folder-gluer has reached its maximum speed. 

Neither will a simple packing help/aid like the popular Collecting Tables on the market.

For example: Let's say you are producing 50,000 boxes per hour with 1 packing person and you've reached the maximum speed of your gluer. This means that you cannot run faster with the gluer no matter what you do. Adding another packing person does not affect your speed because the gluer has already reached its maximum speed.

Therefore, you probably do not "need" a packer for small production volumes. That said, a carton packer could help for ergonomic reasons and you have to evaluate what ergonomics is worth for your company.

On the other hand, if you have large production volumes of 150,000 boxes or more, a fully automatic packer, such as IMPACK's Virtuo + ACF, could be a lucrative solution as it could remove that 1 packing person and place them into higher-value activities (if the production volumes are fitting).

👉 2. If your bottleneck is at the gluing and you have 2 packing persons:

If your bottleneck is at the gluing, and you have 2 people packing, then adding more packing personnel won’t help you as your folder-gluer has reached its maximum speed. 

For example: If your gluer is running at a speed of 50,000 boxes per hour with 2 people working hard to pack at that speed, and you already know that your folder-gluer has hit its maximum speed, then you might want to consider adding a carton packer. 

A packer would help you reduce 1 or 2 packing person(s) and continue producing at the same speed. 

This means that you either need no packing persons remaining or that the remaining person is packing twice as fast as before.

👉 3. If your bottleneck is at the packing:

If your bottleneck is at the packing then whatever you do with a packer, it would be worth the investment.

If your folder-gluer is running at a speed X with 1 packing person, and you know that your gluer can run faster, then the next step would be to add a second packing person to push your gluer to a higher speed.

One step further, you can reduce 1 of the 2 packing persons with the help of a semi-automatic or an automatic folder-gluer packer, such as IMPACK’s semi-automatic Ergosa packer or automatic Virtuo packer.

Alternatively, you can move both packing persons to higher value-added activities with a fully-automatic packer, such as IMPACK’s Virtuo + ACF.

For simplicity, let’s take the same example: Your gluer is running at a speed of 50,000 boxes per hour with 2 people working hard to pack at that speed. This time though, you know that your folder-gluer can run at a speed of 80,000 boxes per hour. 

In this specific situation, you would want to find a packer that helps you achieve your folder-gluer’s maximum speed of 80,000 boxes per hour either fully automatically or with 1 packing person only.

On the other hand, if you’re always in the small-volume ranges of 20,000-40,000 boxes per setup, then you typically won’t reach your folder-gluer’s maximum speed and this is where IMPACK’s “Packing Help Stations,” or the other Collecting Tables on the market, would be a better choice than a packer. And this would be for ergonomic reasons or organizational efforts.

If you’re one of those people who skip straight to the end, here’s the answer in 60 seconds ⏱️:

The real tipping point between deciding whether you should add a folder-gluer packer or not is the setup time i.e. if your gluer could run faster and the packing people can follow, then this is where tuning your gluer would be a better first option than adding a carton packer to your gluer.

👉 If your gluer could go faster, but you’re not sure how to make it run faster, learn about the Top 5 Ways to Maximize Your Folder-Gluer’s Productivity With Zero Investment.

👉 If your gluer is far from reaching its maximum speed, but your 2 packing persons are struggling to keep up, explore the different types of folder-gluer packaging equipment and how they can help you unleash your folder-gluer’s full potential.

If you have questions that are specific to your company, 📲 get in touch! We’d love to help you find the best solution tailored to you, for you.