Determining Your Package Handling System Design
- May 10, 2021
Defining the right package handling system design for your plant is quite the undertaking. We've established what questions to bring up and what tools to use when choosing a line layout and evaluating your line design. One question remains: when should you use flexible or direct package handling systems?
This article is part of our ongoing "Flexible or Direct?" series. Articles include:
Being proactive and knowing what the key indicators are for determining this is critical to meeting your needs and addressing cost effectiveness and productivity. That’s why we’ve concluded our white paper series with these points in mind.
We spoke with Brian Antkowiak, Intralox Layout Development Manager, regarding “Part 3: Determining Your Package Handling System Design.”
In the white paper, Brian pinpoints key indicators and concludes that “the most crucial choice a producer can make is selecting an experienced layout development and optimization partner.” We focused this discussion on the signs to determine if a system is right for you, what it means to be an experienced optimization partner and how to look for one, and why time is integral to both the analysis and implementation of your systems.
For a full guide on the key indicators related to your package handling system design, read our complimentary report: “Flexible or Direct? Determining Your Package Handling System Design”
What are some signs a customer can look for to determine if their current system is the best fit for them?
Brian Antkowiak: There are three key signs a customer can easily pinpoint.
The first sign is noticing low palletizer utilization rates and high palletizer idle time while having inhibited time on your packaging lines. This is a serious indicator that your system is poorly designed. At its core, this suggests that you have available capacity downstream, but your packaging lines are still stopping.
The second sign is noticing high frequency, short duration inhibited times, or periods of inhibition on the packaging lines. This indicates that there is an inadequate amount of accumulation in the system.
Finally, if you review your maintenance work order history and notice a great deal of unplanned downtime events, you are likely spending unnecessary labor hours on your conveyance and palletizer systems.
These signs immediately point to system inefficiencies and show that your current system may not be as optimized as you need it to be to achieve your goals.
How does an effective and experienced optimization partner help customers notice these signs and assist customers in achieving their goals?
Brian Antkowiak: A truly effective and experienced optimization partner will use successful design principles and utilize the best technology to meet a customer’s needs. There is a huge difference between addressing customer problems with an engineering mindset as opposed to a commercial mindset. There needs to be a robust optimization process before a quote is even given to the customer.
When Intralox receives a layout from a customer, we don’t simply take the layout as it was prepared and place our belting and products into the layout and give the quote for what it will cost. We look at specific details and optimize the layout to give the customer the best possible result. We ask questions like, “Is this the right distance between machines from a functional, product flow standpoint? Does the customer have the right conveyor style and section lengths for the product being handled? Does the customer have an adequate amount of accumulation? Is there a more effective way to accomplish the customer’s goals?” We use fresh eyes, different engineering calculators, and product testing history to address the problem with an engineering mindset to be the partner our customer needs us to be.
Why is it so important to take the appropriate time to analyze your systems? What are the risks of automating your systems too quickly?
Brian Antkowiak: Overall, the goal is to save money on expenses and increase sales long term. You are more likely to increase profits if you do your research. What we’ve seen is that teams can often get caught in a particular routine of managing their systems. It can be easy to stay in those routines and rationalize that behavior as “it’s what we’ve always done.” Unfortunately, this routine might not be the most cost effective. Take the time to investigate your systems, do your research on the latest technologies your partners offer. This will allow you to be more intelligent about predicting solutions, saving money on solutions, and increasing profit as a result.
Needing appropriate time is equally as important regarding the automation of your systems. Automation is the most effective when taken with a segmented, phased approach. This phased automation allows you to understand the technology and how to support it when there are failures. Feeling comfortable that you are achieving your goals with phased automation is crucial before you can begin implementing the next step in your automation plan.
Brian Antkowiak is a Layout Development Manager at Intralox and the author of our “Flexible or Direct?” white paper series. He helps guide our customers in choosing the right line layout designs based on their unique needs and the technologies available through Intralox and the marketplace.