Multifunctional Equipment: Challenges and Solutions Faced by CPGs Today

Finding a standardized process to manage changeover, and balancing flexibility, reliability and cost are some of the major pain points for Vision 2025 participants.

Multifunctional Equipment: Challenges and Solutions
Multifunctional Equipment: Challenges and Solutions

Consumer demands and the operational requirements to fulfill them create uncertainty for future equipment needs, driving CPGs to seek out multifunctional equipment. But one reoccurring theme regarding multifunctional equipment and changeovers is balancing flexibility, reliability and cost. CPGs who participated in Vision 2025 pointed out challenges to this balance, such as the loss of reliability and speed when there is an increased need for flexibility, balancing start-up runs with overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) targets, the inevitable reduction of OEE on lines after changeovers, and the cost of upgradeability where more flexibility equals more cost.

This year at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, 127 participants gathered from CPGs and other organizations such as PMMI and the Contract Packaging Association, to discuss key manufacturing challenges with a broad array of stakeholders – from C-suite to mid-level management with various areas of functionality such as operations, engineering, etc.

Finding a repeatable baseline process for managing changeover and set up is perhaps the most significant concern for Vision 2025 participants. Much of their activity focuses on finding solutions to it.


• For most participants, the lack of repeatability in changeovers is their greatest challenge due in large part to the sheer number of them, the complexity they entail and the accuracy they require for completion.

• One particular concern for most participants is the growing number of human touches that complex changeovers require, increasing the potential to introduce human error into the process.

• For many, scheduling presents a challenge both in terms of matching the production schedule to the sales lead times and balancing the schedules of shorter and longer runs, especially when space constraints are a factor.

• Additionally, for most participants, footprint availability, usage, storage and cost are a challenge when it comes to changeovers and new equipment/line configurations.

• Likewise, for most participants, determining how new materials and new ingredients will react in production is a challenge when running so many new products and/or running multiple products at the same time.

• Cleaning and sanitation challenges are also of utmost importance for most participants as both processes accompany most changeovers and carry a considerable risk if not managed properly. Additionally, some legacy equipment is not designed for easy cleaning, which slows start-up times between products.


• Most participants agree that effective changeovers must be done correctly and precisely at the start, so having a changeover process checklist verifying proper start-up conditions is key.

• Several participants note that they are focusing on a “no time, no tools, no talent” approach to equipment design to improve changeovers. Likewise, these participants are focusing on simultaneous changeovers and well- designed equipment that does not require changeovers.

Several CPGs report that they are having operations and engineering provide the sales and marketing associates with better, more understandable descriptions of their production capabilities to improve some of the disconnects between the functions.

• Some CPGs report that they are relying more on co-manufacturers to address some of their customer/consumer demands, especially as it relates to late-stage activities, e.g., late-stage differentiation – pushing customization downstream.

• Some CPGs note that they are focusing on flexible packaging designs that can eliminate the need for changeovers.

• Several participants note that they are focusing on low-cost automation options to automate changeovers where possible via instructions and verification, e.g., some using bar code verification as part of the changeover process while others using automated recipe-based changeovers.

• Some CPGs note that they are not stopping the lines as often with software that puts machines in slow/safe mode, thus reducing unplanned downtime.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence “Vision 2025 PACK EXPO Las Vegas

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Make plans to visit PACK EXPO East in Philadelphia, March 3-5, to see on-trend food processing and packaging machinery and materials.

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