Another area of contract packaging that might be worth a further look for semiautomation is case erection and sealing. Automating portions of the process could reduce errors and waste that are byproducts of repetitive hand-taping and carton-carrying with conventional casing operations.
After experimenting with multiple prototypes, InNovaCo LLC (www.innovacollc.com) believes it has the solution with its PackPod stainless-steel case erector/case sealer. The machine requires a single operator and eliminates the need for several case-assemblers.
“This machine is not meant to replace a human, it’s meant to enhance a human,” says Dave Wood, a partner at InNovaCo.
The PackPod functions as both a case-forming and case-sealing workstation; tests have shown that a line worker can process 10 cases/min through the machine.
Two factors could make the machine appealing to fulfillment and repacking operations, Wood adds. First, the workstation is only 42” x 24” x 34”, compared with conventional casing lines that require about 25 feet.
Second, the patented taping system requires neither the taping mechanism nor the carton to be moved about the production line. The operator pulls from stacked carton flats on an adjacent stand (eliminating the need for a holding area for preassembled cartons), forms the carton and places it on the PackPod, manually inserts the product into the carton, closes the three top-panel carton flaps facing farthest from the machine, then pushes the carton into the machine, forcing the fourth top-panel flap closed. A jaw positions over the case, grabs the carton, tapes it, and expels it. The operator removes completed cases and stacks them on a pallet next to the machine.
This approach eliminates both the extra steps and idle time required when operators move between stations on a conventional casing line.