Raindrip a leading maker of drip irrigation products used to package its small fittings valves sprinklers and misters in 50- to 100-count pre-made bags having little if any printing. This was perfectly suitable for the professional landscapers and irrigation installers to whom Raindrop’s products have always been sold.
But in Spring of 2004 the firm which is based in Fresno CA saw an opportunity to begin selling its products through a completely new channel: high-volume retailers. In these stores do-it-yourselfers require a wider variety of kit assemblies and the number of components has to be in the five to ten range rather than 50 to 100. Moreover bar codes part identifications and number of items in a bag have to be imprinted on the packages that show up in Home Depot Lowes and other major home improvement stores across the country.
All of this led to the recent installation of two Autobag 180™ baggers from Automated Packaging Systems. Each came with a high-speed PI 412C thermal transfer printer that permits imprinting of accurate bar code information and graphics directly onto the bag in a continuous operation. Newly available from APS a Target Registration Control feature ensures accurate positioning of graphics on the bag and improved print quality overall. Printing information for each individual SKU is stored in a networked computer and is available instantly at the bagger control panel for changeovers on the fly.
Capable of speeds to 80 bags/min the Autobag systems can be fed manually or by an automated system. In manual mode an operator drops in the desired number of parts and presses a foot pedal. The machine then heat seals the filled bag tears it off and indexes a new bag into position. In automated mode twin lanes feed side-by-side load cells that weigh out the desired amount of parts and drop loads alternately—first left then right—into a waiting bag.
Bag size changeovers from 4” to 11” and printing changes are typically performed in less than 2 min.
Production planner Eric Gutzmann estimates a 98% uptime for the two new units. “Setup is easier with the touch-screen control” he explains. “All of the printing queues are stored in memory.” As for field service and technical support Gutzmann had used APS before so he knew he could count on its team of field service engineers.
Raindrip also switched its line of bags to Autobag Bags-on-a-Roll products and noticed an immediate improvement in quality and reduced scrap. “We’ve tried other bags-on-a-roll systems but the Autobag products deliver quality technical support and increased uptime” says Gutzmann.
As a result of its nimble adjustment to changes in marketplace opportunities Raindrip was able to successfully complete its busiest quarter ever in Spring of last year. “Our two new Autobag systems allowed us to increase productivity by 20 percent without adding additional staff” says Gutzmann.