8 min read

What is a Semi-Automatic Packer and How Can It Improve My Packing Process?

 

If you’re looking for ways to improve your folder-gluer’s productivity, increase your folder-gluer’s output, and reach higher speeds, you’re probably on the market for a packing system.

During your search, you may have noticed that many of your competitors have Collecting Tables, some have Semi-Automatic packers, and others have Automatic or Fully-Automatic packers.

You know you need a folder-gluer packer to help you serve more clients and bring in more business but you’re not sure what packer is right for your production, goals, and budget.

As the Deputy General Manager and Director of Production and Engineering at IMPACK, I have managed hundreds of projects that involve all kinds of packing systems with varying levels of automation.

One of our most popular and top sold packing systems for the last 20 years is the Semi-Automatic packer given that it offers ultimate flexibility for box manufacturers to process any box they run through their folder-gluer.

Plus, it is much cheaper than most Automatic and Fully Automatic packers out there.

So, this article will cover the Semi-Automatic packer: What it is, its pros and cons, and when it makes sense for your company versus when there are better options you should consider.

All Packing Systems Fall into 4 Levels of Automation:

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First, you should know that all packing systems fall into one of the following four levels of automation:

  1. Manual packing

  2. Semi-Automated packing

  3. Automated packing

  4. Fully-Automated packing

In other words, there are Manual packing systems, Semi-Automatic packing systems, Automatic packing systems, and Fully-Automatic packing systems.

And by “packing systems” we are referring to Collecting Tables, Packing Help Stations, Packers, Stackers, and similar machines that pack boxes into cases.

🔍 Recommended: If you’re considering adding a packing system to your folder-gluer but you’re still unsure about what level of automation your company needs, find out by reading What’s the Difference between Manual, Semi-Auto, Auto & Fully-Auto Folder-Gluer Packers?

What is a Folder-Gluer Packer?

Ergosa XL Second photo Webp

IMPACK’S Ergosa: A semi-automatic packer with the performance of an automatic packer. (Note: This specific Ergosa A was custom built as an XL size for one of our clients and is much larger than our standard Ergosa A’s that are designed to be the most compact versions of the Ergosa series).

A folder-gluer packer is a packing system that semi, or fully, automates your case packing process hence allowing you to improve your folder-gluer’s productivity, reduce the number of operators required, cut down on costs, and reach top packing speeds.

As we saw above, folder-gluer packers fall into 4 different levels of automation

A Semi-Automatic folder-gluer packer (or Semi-Automatic packer) offers a Semi-Automated packing process.

A folder-gluer packer is installed behind the folder-gluer and after the pre-packer(s)

That is, a packer is installed at the end of the flow of the gluing line. 

packer placement

A packer is installed behind the folder-gluer and after the pre-packer i.e. after all other packaging equipment.

What is Semi-Automated Packing?

Semi-Automated packing is a packing process that includes at least one automated function

So, a Semi-Automatic packer is a packer that partially automates your case packing process. Hence the name, Semi-Automatic.

This means that the operator of a Semi-Automatic packer or stacker remains the key factor of the case packing process, but with the help of at least one automated feature.

For example, IMPACK’s Semi-Automatic packer is the Ergosa packer.  

IMPACK’s Ergosa C: A high-performance and versatile semi-automatic packer with the performance of an automatic packer that offers 3 packing modes.

What makes the Ergosa packer Semi-Automatic is its automated case management system. 

That is, the Ergosa’s case management system is the automated function of the Ergosa that places it in the Semi-Automatic category.

🔍 Recommended: Interested in learning more about IMPACK’s Ergosa packer? Read the article What is the Ergosa Packer & What Companies Is It Best Suited For?

Advantages of Semi-Automatic Packers:

  • Quick and easy installation and setup: Just like Collecting Tables (such as Bobst’s Handypack GT, KBA Duran's Omega Pack Station, and Tünkers' FAS 480), Semi-Automatic packers like IMPACK’s Ergosa have short setup times (5 minutes).

  • Offers you a high level of versatility and modularity, thus allowing you to custom-configure your machine and increase your level of automation by adding and removing different options and modes.

  • A Semi-Automatic packer’s flexibility and quality control capabilities offer your personnel easy access for adjustments, quality control checks, and corrections without interrupting your production.

  • Offers you the capability of managing a complete row of boxes in one single motion instead of by limited, small batches as with the Collecting Tables which are manual.

  • Offers you automated case management.

  • Can run any box you shoot through your folder-gluer.

  • Offers 3 main packing modes with several optional additional modules. IMPACK’s Ergosa packer offers the “Horizontal Mode” mainly for straight lines and small 4/6 corners, the “Vertical Mode” for large 4/6-corners, “Pick & Place (or Manual) Mode” for crash-lock/auto-bottom boxes, “Tray Holder Mode” for very small boxes, adapted versions of the vertical mode for strapping or banding machines, “Case Splitter” for heavy rows, etc.

  • Possibility to upgrade (add/remove any option or mode) and further expand the scope of your automation.

  • Slows down the shingle of boxes to the minimum possible speed.

  • Dispose of/place boxes already turned at 90° (when needed).

  • Possible to have a box turner that allows you to choose on which side to turn the boxes (left or right).

  • Offers a “Straight through mode” option when turning 90° to the left or right is not needed.

  • Customizable according to your production realities and constraints.

  • Most Semi-Automatic packers are on wheels and hence easily moveable.

  • Offers substantial ergonomic gains.

  • Offers substantial productivity gains of 5 to 100%.

Disadvantages of Semi-Automatic Packers: 

  • Generally more expensive than Collecting Tables (which are manual).

  • Requires more training and takes longer to learn than Collecting Tables.

  • Setup time is longer when changing from one packing mode to the other.

  • Not the top speed: With Semi-Automatic packers, the default tradeoff is performance for versatility. The power of easy access and the ability to perform adjustments/quality control checks makes Semi-Automatic packers not as fast as Automatic or Fully-Automatic packers.

  • Still requires 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.

  • Productivity can vary based on your product mix, type of production, box configuration, work methods, and the existing workflows around your machine. This is in contrast to Automatic and Fully-Automatic packers that offer very consistent productivity (considering you have a consistent product mix and well organized work stations).

  • Usually requires a larger footprint than Collecting Tables (manual packing).

So, What Folder-Gluer Packer Is Right For Me?

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Now that you have a better understanding of what a Semi-Automatic packer is, the benefits it can provide to your packing process, and its advantages and disadvantages, you’re probably asking yourself:

“Is a Semi-Automatic packer the right choice for my company?!”

The answer to this question is different for each and every company. 

In some situations, a Semi-Automatic packer is the right choice. 

In others, an Automatic or Fully-Automatic packer is the better choice. 

And sometimes, a Collecting Table is the best starting point.

It all depends on your product mix, box configuration, needs, goals, and budget.

But I won’t leave you at just that. 

Here is the answer you’ve been looking for in 60 seconds ⏱️:

A Collecting Table is Right For You IF 👇:

  • You never had a packer or any packing help/aid before

  • You want to take your first step towards improving your folder-gluer’s productivity

  • You’re not sure of your production and have a very tight budget

  • You have complex boxes that require constant adjustments/quality control checks

  • You have very limited floor space

If your production meets several of the characteristics described above, and you’ve never had any “packing help” or “packing aid,” then a Collecting Table could be an excellent start.

Examples of the most popular Collecting Tables in the Western market include: IMPACK’s Packing Help Stations, Bobst’s Handypack GT, KBA Duran's Omega Pack Station, and Tünkers' FAS 480.

A Semi-Automatic Packer is Right For You IF 👇:

  • You have variable production runs

  • You have small to medium-sized boxes

  • You have a wide and diverse variety of box formats

  • You have complex boxes that require constant adjustments/quality control checks

Here, a Semi-Automatic packer could be the perfect solution for your company.

IMPACK’s Ergosa packer is our top sold machine and one of the only Semi-Automatic packers that exists, to date, on the market.

An Automatic Packer is Right For You IF 👇:

  • You have long production runs

  • You have medium to very large-sized boxes

  • You have a limited variety and similar box formats

  • You have simpler boxes that do not need constant adjustments/quality control checks

Here, an Automatic packer would be the ideal option.

Examples of the most popular Automatic packers in the Western market include: IMPACK’s Virtuo packer, Bobst’s CartonPack 4, Heidelberg’s Diana Packer, WSI Global’s Express Pack, and Graphic West Packaging’s J-Pack.

A Fully-Automatic Packer is Right For You IF 👇:

  • You have all the automatic packer requirements listed above

  • You want to fully automate your packing process

  • You want to reach a zero-human operation (no humans involved)

  • You're interested in advanced monitoring and industry 4.0 functionalities

Here, a Fully-Automatic packer would be the best fit.

Examples of the most popular Fully-Automatic packers in the Western market include: 

IMPACK’s Virtuo + ACF, Bobst’s Carton Pack 4 + optional case erector, WSI’s ExpressPack + optional case erector, and CSI Packaging’s I-Pack.

I understand that looking for the right folder-gluer packer is far from a simple task and so I hope this article helps you make a smarter and more informed decision.

Your Next Steps | Recommended Resources:

  1. Compare Manual, Semi-Auto, Auto, and Fully-Auto Folder-Gluer Packers and evaluate their pros and cons to find out what level of automation is best for your company.

  2. Next, if you're conflicted about whether you should go for a Collecting Table like Bobst’s Handypack GT or a Semi-Automatic Packer, check out the article "What's the Difference between Collecting Tables and the Ergosa Packer?

  3. Then, to discover whether a Semi-Automatic packer or a Fully-Automatic packer is better for your company, compare them both against each other by reading “Semi-Automatic Vs. Fully-Automatic Packers: Which Is Better

  4. And finally, find out what folder-gluer packer is right for your company & budget by reading" How to Choose the Right Folder-Gluer Packer"

Got Questions?

If you’ve got questions that you want answers for, contact us today! 

IMPACK’s experts would love to help and maybe even show you some of our machines LIVE in action 😉.