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Top 5 Ways to Improve Folder-Gluer Productivity with Zero Investment

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Are you a small-sized business owner with 1 or 2 folder-gluers?

👉 Do you fall under one, or more, of the following 3 categories?

  1. You want to produce more output with fewer people.

  2. You want to produce faster output with shorter setup times.

  3. You want to improve the ergonomics of your workstations at the lowest possible cost.

No matter which of those 3 categories you fall within, you are all here because you have 1 common goal: 

You want to find ways to easily improve your folder-gluer department and at a cost that won’t have your finance manager knocking on your door.

I get it.

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.

Many of the project analysis that our IMPACK experts conducted for those packaging producers have not only revealed where a payback could be interesting, but also how small changes can substantially boost their folder-gluer’s productivity and help them achieve unmatched packing speeds.

We’ve also found over the years that projects can easily fail in as little as the first few weeks, simply because packaging producers were not aware, or kept ignoring, bottlenecks that are taking place and did not take action to eliminate those bottlenecks.

I completely understand that not everyone can, or is ready, to invest in packaging equipmentAnd to be quite frank, you should not invest in any equipment before you’ve mastered your folding-gluing process.

How do you do that?

This article is going to outline to you, step-by-step, the top 5 ways to increase your folder-gluer’s output and maximize your productivity.

All without investing a dime.

Tip #1: Establish SOPs to Document and Standardize Your Internal Processes

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SOPs are “Standard Operating Procedures.” They outline the steps necessary to complete a process in compliance with industry requirements, provincial laws, or your own standards as a business.

Given that there is no generic overarching SOP in the packaging industry, have a way of documenting your internal processes so that you can achieve standardized setups and uniformity in your performance levels.

Any document that is a “how to” falls under the category of SOPs. Some examples of SOPs include,

  • Step-by-step procedure for a production line.

  • Step-by-step procedure for training new employees.

  • Step-by-step procedure for a folder-gluer operation.

Let’s take the third example as a demonstration since it’s particularly relevant to our discussion. 

During a folder-gluer operation, there are certain steps and procedures that are taken: Who is setting up the folder-gluer, who is getting the pallets with the box blanks, who is preparing the case labels, when a job changeover is due, when each step should be done, etc.

To develop and implement a successful SOP, follow the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” (PDCA) quality management model:

  1. Research the steps in a process (plan): During your folder-gluer operation, observe the actions your personnel take and write down the most obvious actions you see in their day-to-day routines.

  2. Create a procedure (do): Once you have those actions written down, create a step-by-step procedure that outlines those actions in order and then put this procedure into action with your team.

  3. Verify the procedure (check): After you’ve tried the procedure, audit your procedure’s execution and get feedback from your team. Ask your team:

    1. Were there any problems that hindered you during this step-by-step procedure or slowed down your progress?

    2. Do you see any opportunities for improvement in any step(s)?

    3. If you were to implement this step-by-step procedure as part of your daily work routine, what pros and cons do you see?

  4. Revise and standardize your procedure (act): Previously, you researched the actions taken in your process, created a step-by-step procedure & tried it, and then you verified your procedure with your team’s feedback. Now, it is time to revise and fine-tune your procedure based on your team’s feedback.

  5. Repeat the PDCA cycle to standardize your SOP.

Developing and implementing SOPs will allow you to define the “best practice” of doing things. 

SOPs give you the power to measure your performance and detect any deviations in results. 

This will ultimately allow you to take corrective actions, when needed, to ensure consistency in your performance and achieve continuous improvement.

Tip #2: Create a Logbook that Details the Setup of Each Machine for Best Practices 

  • Reduce your setup times by defining what setup is the best for each box type.

  • Establish an instructional process for the setup of each box type.

  • Share this know-how and best practices among your team.

  • Facilitate structured training for your new employees.

  • Define and distinguish the roles of your packing person(s) and folder-gluer operator(s).

Think of the last time you needed to change a common, but rarely used, setting on your mobile phone. You know that you have done it several times before. You know it was very simple, but it just does not come to your mind on how you did it.

Or think of the time your WIFI was giving you troubles at home. After calling your internet provider, and being on hold for what seems like an eternity, you learn that resetting your WIFI is extremely straightforward. 

But, the catch is that you need to follow a step-by-step process and in a specified order. 

And you think to yourself “I should remember that for the next time.”

But you don’t.

A logbook is nothing more than a set of instructions, ideally with photos, that details how to go about doing something that is simple, but requires you to follow a specific order of steps.

SOPs and logbooks are similar in many ways. The main difference between an SOP and a logbook is that an SOP is used to break down a large or complex process into a step-by-step procedure and with the purpose of standardizing your process to achieve consistent performance levels.

On the other hand, a logbook provides instructions in a defined order that you must follow to achieve a desired outcome. Some examples of logbooks include,

  1. Instructions to reset your mobile phone.
  2. Instructions to put together your new fan.
  3. Instructions to set up your folder-gluer to produce a specific box type.

Make those instructions concise, as easy to follow as possible (using big font size is recommended), and in the style/format/language that will be best understood by your team. 

Support those instructions with clear and visually appealing photos. Then, print those instructions and store a laminated version in a place that is easily accessible by your team.

Tip #3: Analyze Your Work Methods on Each Workstation

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  • Equip your team with the resources that they need to work efficiently.

  • Integrate shelves for samples and breakers.

  • Install tilting tables/devices to erect empty cases.

  • Minimize movements/actions required by your personnel and reduce rotations.

Talk to your operators and packing personnel about what actions they repeatedly perform and where movements are hindered or are tiring.

If you clearly lay out all the steps they take and understand why they are doing it, you will likely realize opportunities to shorten and reduce repeated actions.

I’d also recommend that you stand back and observe their work methods during a production run. 

People work in particular ways because they may have been trained this way or that it was just the easiest way to work, but is it the most efficient way?

💡 An important tip: When observing your operators and packing personnel, explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing. I say this because a lot of times when managers are observing their staff carrying out daily activities, the staff can feel intimidated by their managers. They feel intimidated as a result of the perception that their managers are trying to find ways to make them do more work within the same time frame.

Therefore, it is critical that you explain to your staff that the purpose of those observations is to make their life easier, the workload less stressful and show them how it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Tip #4: Assess Walking Patterns During Setup and Production

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  • Think about what movements need to be frequently taken and organize a sequence so that your team knows what to do, when, and with what tool (if needed). This is important to avoid people crossing each others’ paths during operations, especially around the packing station(s).

Just like in Tip #3, take a step back, but this time observe the walking patterns (instead of the work methods) of all your personnel during repeated production runs and setups. 

This exercise, even when done only a few times, can be very revealing in terms of unnecessary movements which is — in the end — a free-productivity gain.

It could be something as straightforward as inefficient placement of tools during a folder-gluer setup.

Why are the tools stored at a certain point A when you use it 8 out of 10 times at a point B?

A simple example that I’ve seen too many times is that everyone on the team would store all their tools at a point A just because someone at some point said “here’s the place where we could put all the tools.”

But is that the most efficient place for storing your tools?

Another example that I always see happening is that operators/packing persons often find themselves looking for taping material when the tape has run out because they do not have readily accessible taping material.

Assessing these walking patterns will give you further insight into simple, but important, inefficiencies taking place in your production that you should integrate as part of your SOP.

Tip #5: Organize the Same Types of Boxes After One Another to Reduce Setup Times

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  • Place the same types of boxes one right after the other. For example, if you are producing 4 boxes of which 2 are crash-lock/auto-bottoms and 2 are straight lines, do not do straight lines, auto-bottoms, straight lines, auto-bottoms.

This is probably one of the most obvious points, yet the least applied. 

There is a lot more work involved when it comes to changing from a straight line box to a crash-lock/auto-bottom box than when changing from a straight line to a straight line. 

The same goes for semi-automatic packers. Switching from one type of box to another involves a lot more work, longer setup times, and significant productivity losses in the long term.

The shorter your production runs, the more important it is to keep your setup time as short as possible. You certainly want to avoid a one-hour setup for a ten-minute production run.

So, whenever you can, plan as many cartons of the same type one after the other to avoid unnecessary and complicated setup actions.

In addition, if your production is as such that you frequently have big setup changes, I’d strongly suggest that you write out a simple-to-follow SOP for your personnel. 

This will make a significant difference in your efficiency and will help you dramatically boost your folder-gluer’s productivity.

Ready to Take Your Folder-Gluer’s Productivity to the Next Step?

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As we have seen, there are several ways to increase your folder-gluer’s output, produce faster output, and lower your price per box with $0 investment.

You should know though that there will come a point where you’ve become good at tuning your folder-gluer and you’ve ramped up your speed through the implementation of those top 5 tips but your personnel can no longer keep up. 

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

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

It is inevitable. Your folder-gluer will hit its maximum potential and there is nothing you can do to make the gluer produce more (or at a faster rate) without investing in additional solutions.

Here's where folder-gluer packaging equipment comes into play.

But “folder-gluer packaging equipment” is an overarching term for a wide range of packing solutions and peripherals that can be added on, and around, a folder-gluer. 

And each of those solutions varies in scope, degree, and levels of automation.

Hence, knowing that you need to invest in packaging equipment is not “the” ultimate answer to take your folder-gluer to the next level.

It is a great first step, but there’s a whole world to folder-gluer packaging equipment.

If you’ve implemented those top 5 zero-investment tips and feel ready to take the next step, I have good news for you:

I put together the Top 7 Ways to Maximize Your Folder-Gluer's Productivity With Investing that is recommended by our most experienced engineers and production specialists from their observations of over 1000 companies around the world.

Those 7 ways will guide you through the exact steps you need to implement to unleash your folder-gluer’s full potential.

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