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Article | May 4, 2012
Seven tips for buying liquid filling equipment
There are several things to keep in mind when selecting liquid fillers to ensure the right fit for your application...
1. Understand how the machine might affect product characteristics. You need to think about the impact of the filler on the product you’re packaging. The state or viscosity of the liquid can be inadvertently changed, based solely on the construction of the equipment. For example, running a liquid through extra elbows, pipes, and pumps can change the viscosity, resulting in a liquid that is much too thin. High speeds can also impact some products negatively; you need to keep the product characteristics front-of-mind when selecting equipment. 2. Look at ease of cleaning. Pay attention to the cleanability of equipment. When filling bottles, keeping the nozzle clean is of primary importance to good manufacturing practices. Simpler design is better: make sure the equipment doesn’t have nooks and crannies that can harbor microorganisms. 3. Think about lightweighting.Plastic bottle lightweighting continues to be a major trend, and with cost and sustainability advantages, this trend isn’t going away anytime soon. So be sure to look for unscrambling and filling technologies that will accommodate progressively thinner bottles — thinner than what you have today, at the very least. With “feather bottles” down to just seven grams of plastic for a half-liter bottle, with a short skirted cap, you need to think about kinder, gentler unscrambling and filling! Some products, most notably personal hygiene items, have done away with bottles completely and are essentially sold in stiff plastic bags. Can your filler go that lightweight? 4. Pay close attention to product giveaway. If a vendor tells you they have an X percent variation in weight, a general average isn't sufficient. You need to know what that percentage is at the actual container sizes you intend to run today and in the future. Giveaway can actually vary slightly at different container sizes. 5. Avoid complexity. Complex fillers equal complex maintenance needs. The simpler the machine, the less maintenance you need to conduct training for, and less parts need to be kept on hand. Watch for parts or components that may have the potential to break off. If you don’t have a screen prior to the fill head or nozzle, you can get pieces of metal or plastic in your product. And despite how good your inspection systems are, they may not be 100% effective in detecting a piece of metal or plastic in a metal can.
6. Ask about changeover times. If you know you’re filling different products, or that you may be someday, you need to know about changeover times. Changeover time reductions are a key factor in creating efficiencies. The goal is quick, repeatable changeovers, so you can get your line up and running again as soon as possible.
7. Know what you need today, but have flexibility for tomorrow. When selecting a machine, the output should be right on this machine with an eye on the future. Don’t use tunnel vision – see into Year Two, and probe on what you might be doing in the future. What is the possibility of other products coming in this area? Look vertically across your products, as well as looking upstream in the supply chain. What happens if a key ingredient in the formula of your product changes? Does this mean your nozzles may become ineffective?
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