Case Handling Equipment and Packers
There are many styles of case handling equipment available including drop packers, rotary packers, wraparound packers, mechanical soft placement packers, robotic packers, side load packers, and bottom load packers, uncasers and decasers. The need for these may simply be to replace an aging, high maintenance machine, or it may be driven by new packages, higher line speeds, efficiency initiatives, or new packaging requirements. The following factors provide some basic considerations that can be used in the process of selecting a case packer.
- Type of Case: The starting point for determining the optimal case packer is to identify the type of case for the packaging application. While dozens of case types exists, a few of the more common are: 1) top load RSC (regular slotted container); 2) side load RSC or end load RSC; and 3) wraparound.
- Primary Product: The type of container (or primary product) will often influence the packer type. Expensive beverages such as top shelf spirits require a partitioned case, which will usually dictate a drop packer or soft placement packer. Side load case packers are often used for boxed items like dry pasta or bars of soap because pushing the product from the side is easier then top loading. Larger items, such as #10 metal food cans or wheels of cheese work well in wraparound style packers. For the larger products such as outdoor grills, bottom load packers are most gentle on the primary product, as the case is pushed over the product. Uncasers or decasers are used when the empty container cases are used as the finished goods case. These machines remove the containers from the case, place them on the production line and convey the empty case to the final case packing area of the line.
- Line Speeds: The rate of the line, as dictated by the upstream filling or processing is a key factor when selecting the correct packer. Generally speaking, speeds below 20 cases per minute can be done effectively with side load packers, bottom load or robotic packers. For speeds from 20 to 35 cases per minute, drop packers or intermittent motion wraparound packers are good choices. Soft placement packers, servo drop packers, rotary packers, and continuous motion wraparound packers are able to handle speeds above 35 cases per minute.
- Floor Space: Plant floor space is a premium and some solutions can take up more space than others. Intermittent motion wraparounds are usually space efficient versus alternatives; however continuous motion wraparounds are usually very wide and long. Drop packers and soft placement packers offer narrow profiles with flexible layouts (inline, counter-flow, or right angle). Although robots can be space efficient, consider the guarding requirements in the layout.
- Changeover and Flexibility: In this area, all machines are not created equal. Robotic Packers are best in this category with quick changeovers. Some can even be partially automated. Drop Packers come in second and have the benefit of easy and simple changeover. Rotary packers and soft placement packers fall somewhere in the middle, as there are more change parts to handle. Wraparound packers are usually the least flexible, in particular for new packages that are added in the aftermarket.