New products hit store shelves each day, with up to 21,000 new food and beverage products released in a year. That doesn’t account for the new package sizes and packaging designs that brands develop and launch to keep up with ever-evolving consumer demand. As the marketing and development continue to innovate and tailor products to the liking of consumers, the production side quickly is handed a new puzzle to solve. Adding product sizes and formats translates into shorter production runs, and the inevitable result is more frequent changeovers, including secondary packaging. Adding changeovers without losing line efficiency (and money) is easier said than done. While a mainline brand has the product volume to keep changeovers to a minimum, small- to medium-sized brands may be forced to accommodate two, three or even more changeovers in a single shift. Whether the line switches to a smaller bottle for a variety pack or from boxes to pouches, achieving a rapid and accurate changeover is essential. “Compared to 20 years ago, food and beverage manufacturers are under greater pressure to maintain a certain level of speed and agility to hold down their per-unit costs,” says Derek Bolland, Director of Engineering at Douglas. “New products go to market almost monthly for some companies,” Bolland says. “That’s why gaining the ability to adapt to these changeovers in their secondary packaging line is appealing and a must.” Let’s take a look at some of the biggest barriers to recovering efficiencies lost to changeovers on the secondary packaging line, and how to remove them.
It is common for frozen pizza startups to generally start out doing everything by hand. Assembling the pizza pie and then stacking the plastic wrapped products into the shipping container is all manual. Gradually, as business grows with demand and the business has more capital to invest, the startup replaces manual pizza-making processes with automation. Usually, the last segment to automate is the end-of-line packaging. The process to add secondary packaging equipment frequently comes with questions. Based on lessons learned from other steps in their journey to automation, pizza producers want to confirm investing in a case packer that would add efficiency, not unwanted complexity. Here’s a look at how this evolution takes shape, and how a pizza producer can gain efficiency.
The need to update from RSC cases to wraparound casesFrozen pizza is one of the most popular products in the freezer aisle at the grocery store. In 2019, 197.8 million Americans consumed frozen pizzas, with U.S. sales reaching $292 billion, according to data cited by Statista. Projections show robust growth over the next five years, with sales projected to reach $376.95 billion by 2025. In light of all that opportunity, what frozen pizza startup wouldn’t want a space in the frozen foods aisle of a major retailer like Walmart or Aldi? Contracts with major retailers come with specific requirements for secondary packaging. Most require that the products arrive in easy-open, shelf-ready packaging, sometimes with display features. “This shelf-ready packaging saves retailers time and labor stocking shelves, while also reducing accident rates,” says Jon Hoyme, Regional Sales Manager for Douglas. “For example, producers may want a case design that breaks in half, so frozen pizzas can be set upright on a freezer shelf,” he says. For the pizza manufacturer, this means manually packing standard RSC shipping cases will no longer meet their needs. Forecasts indicate this will increasingly be the case. According to a recent industry report quoted in Packaging World, retail ready packaging for frozen foods products will see 8.1% annual growth through 2024, the highest of any retail sector. The answer lies in tray and case packers that have the ability to work those side-loading wraparound cases for the shelf-ready packaging retailers want on their shelves. [Learn more about RSC vs wraparound cases]
Fast, fault-free changeoversInvesting in a case packer is no small investment. For a small-to-medium frozen pizza startup, a machine designed for fast, foolproof changeovers is essential. “Unlike a larger pizza manufacturer, it’s not unheard of for smaller manufacturers to have two to three changeovers in a shift to fill the orders,” Hoyme says. That’s because pizzas come in multiple sizes, from 6” to as large as 16”, they can be round or square, or get packed in traditional plastic wrap or set in a boxed container. When that pizza maker is making pies for a private label, the variables in their production line increase. Larger, mainline brands are cranking out various pizza sizes and shapes non-stop at a very high volume, so it’s not unusual for them to need just one or two changeovers a week. Smaller pizza makers, running at 200 pizzas a minute, every minute wasted on a changeover comes at a high cost. The last thing a growing pizza producer wants is a case packer machine that adds a new set of complications — frequent faults, confusing processes and uneven repeatability. During a changeover, speed is everything, and modern case packers are better designed to switch easily from size to size. For example, Douglas’ most recent model of case packer, the CpONE, has 35% fewer change points and 40% fewer parts. “Those who opt for complete automation, with many change points controlled by a step or servo motor, some changeovers can be completed in as little as 5-7 minutes,” Hoyme says. “That’s where they realize their ROI.” “When they’re making 200 pizzas a minute, that time savings in changeovers adds up over the course of the year pretty quickly,” Hoyme says.
Adequate trainingIn manufacturing, maintaining adequate staffing is a challenge. One worry that comes with adding a new automation unit is whether the business will be able to find and keep staff to operate the new case packer. Switching from hand packing to automation is a big transition for the workforce, and in a tight labor market, it’s not always an easy transition. That’s why Douglas designs its case packers so it’s simple enough for a non-machinist to operate, and provides plenty of on-site, hands-on training, rather than focusing solely on classroom training. Hoyme says that hands-on instruction means employees retain more of the training, they become more familiar with the machine, and have the ability to “make smart decisions and ask smart questions.” Once the case packer is ready to join the line, the benefits start showing up right away. “There’s savings for the producer, less changeover time and higher production line efficiencies,” Hoyme says.
Getting to OEEWhen it’s time to automate end of the line processes, whether you’re in pizza production or another food specialty, Douglas makes it fast and seamless for you to start realizing the overall equipment efficiency (OEE) you expect from your investment. Get in touch with a Douglas team member now to learn more about how our line of innovative secondary packaging solutions can be completely customized to your unique needs.
This year has proven to be remarkable in many ways. March 2020 was memorable in how it gave the world a glimpse into the workings of the supply chain. As the coronavirus began spreading and taking hold in the U.S., consumers flocked to their favorite big-box retailers and grocery stores to stock up on food and necessities. That led to the much-talked-about toilet paper shortage of 2020. Yes, there were empty shelves. But as any maker of consumer packaged goods (CPG) knows, it wasn’t a true shortage. Year after year, toilet paper sales have fallen into some easy-to-predict buying patterns that hadn’t changed much, and it was not anticipated that 2020 would be any different. When toilet paper sales surged to 71% higher year-over-year from March 1 to May 2, 2020, according to Nielsen, it created an unprecedented situation. Truly, it was a shock to the system. Without a doubt, consumers found this frustrating (and understandably so), but to watchers of business trends, the shortage brought to light just how efficiently our supply chain system works, as it moves consumer packaged goods from a manufacturing facility to market. As you well know, there are no stockpiles of toilet paper waiting in the warehouse, just in case people might want to buy more. Inventory costs money. Once the roll comes off the manufacturing line, it stays moving until it hits the retail shelves. This super-lean system throws up a multitude of challenges to makers of consumer packaged goods. Not only are CPG manufacturers constantly looking for solutions to make their line more efficient, they’re also meeting the ever-evolving standards of retailers. Retailers are also looking for ways to boost efficiency, and sometimes, that has ramifications for the CPG manufacturers. In light of the TP situation, let’s take a look at a few.
Just-in-time inventoryJust-in-time (JIT) inventory is a concept that applies to retailers and manufacturers. Though their approaches may differ, the shared goal is minimizing storage to reduce costs of inventory. Just keep it flowing. What this means is retailers are stocking just enough product to meet forecasted demands, and on the manufacturing side, CPG makers are keeping just enough raw materials on hand to meet the immediate needs of production. If your CPG manufacturing line isn’t optimized, a retailer’s JIT inventory system can create a new set of inefficiencies to solve, and here’s how … When retailers pursue JIT inventory, an Achilles heel can quickly emerge on the manufacturing side in the form of changeovers. Prior to JIT inventory, CPG manufacturers could juggle a multitude of products by maximizing the volume of each run, so a production week would have as few line-stopping changeovers as possible. When retailers were willing to accommodate a bit of extra inventory, this gave manufacturers a workaround with time-wasting changeovers. With JIT inventory systems, retailers are focusing more on leaner shipments so they’re receiving only the volume of product that meets the current, forecasted needs. This puts the responsibility on the manufacturer to adapt. One solution is to find space to store excess product until the retailer wants it. When faced with the expenses of land, facilities and labor, finding a solution to make changeovers work emerges as the better long-term solution. Another second solution for CPG manufacturers is turning to innovations and upgrades to manufacturing equipment. The result is faster changeovers, machines with more intuitive controls and fewer touchpoints resulting in fewer parts that can break.
Shelf-ready packagingIn the ongoing competition for the pocketbook of the American consumer, another cost-saving solution retailers are using is shelf-ready packaging. This solution is all about optimizing either the packaging, or how it is packed, with the aim of reducing the labor needed to get products on the shelf. Shelf-ready packaging can mean positioning products on containers so they can be easily stacked in aisle pallets at warehouse supermarkets, or it can mean easy open cases that are ready to stack on the shelf. When different segments of the market — grocery, warehouse and convenience stores — each have their own requirements for shelf-ready packaging, it adds a new dimension to your changeovers. Not only are you working with retailer-specific packaging, you’re also working with retailer-specific secondary packaging.
Fragmented marketNo two retailers have the same needs when it comes to sizes and types of products they want to sell. When it comes to bottled drinks, convenience stores, dollar stores and warehouses each have their own specifications for sizes, packaging and flavors for the CPG makers who want a piece of the shelving territory. As these realities of working with retailers illustrate, optimizing your manufacturing line is a complex process. When you can meet their needs, it will keep your products stocked on the shelf. Ready to optimize your production line with secondary packaging machines that support your team’s ability to keep things running? Get in touch with a Douglas team member now to learn more about how our line of innovative secondary packaging solutions can be completely customized to your unique needs.
The realities of today’s market for consumer packaged goods (CPGs) are all about meeting the needs of a diverse and fragmented public. It’s not enough to box up your core product and ship identically packed boxes to retailers. Wholesalers, big box stores, dollar stores and convenience stores all have specific requirements, from the size of the product itself all the way down to specifications in secondary packaging. For a Production Manager, this means there’s an ongoing challenge of optimizing efficiency while jumping between shorter runs. With that in mind, here are four inefficiencies CPG manufacturers commonly face:
- A shortage of qualified machine operators, and keeping them on the payroll, is a battle just about everyone is fighting.
- Thanks to the wide variety of sizes and flavors CPG manufactures have to meet the needs of their customers, changeovers are unavoidable. Machines that are ill-suited for rapid changes, with lengthy cleaning and maintenance procedures, add time to the process.
- Unexpected downtime caused by faults creates delays, disrupting tight schedules and generating waste. While some of these faults can be traced back to human error during changeovers, introducing new configurations the machine wasn’t built for can also be a root cause.
- As a CPG manufacturer adds products and packaging configurations, it’s not uncommon to discover new bottlenecks that need to be solved. That’s where a Production Manager will be looking to human and technical solutions to optimize line utilization.
Improved diagnosticsWith machine diagnostics built in to the equipment through the HMI, Production Managers and machine operators have the ability to review what went wrong and why. Eliminating the guesswork instantly reduces the time spent on recovering from faults and failures on the line.
Bridge the knowledge gapShortening the learning curve with simple, clear processes and instructions will bring trainees up to speed quickly. How easy is it for equipment operators to solve problems? Are you leaning on their aptitude for retaining seldom-used procedures from a one-time training session, or can they access solutions at their fingertips?
Speed and ease of changeoversToo many change-points and parts subtract precious minutes from available production time and create variability in configurations that makes scheduling runs less predictable. How easily can your team execute an accurate, precise and repeatable changeover?
Focused purchasing processesWhen it comes time to invest in new equipment, is your team focused on price as the final deciding factor, or does your purchasing process take into account what will run well day-to-day and provide the most return on investment?
Access to supportAnother important consideration when purchasing equipment is the location of the original equipment manufacturer, and their availability to help. If the OEM is located overseas, ask plenty of questions on what that means for your access to service and engineering support.
Stronger alliancesNew products are a must to surviving in today’s competitive CPG environment. But if marketing and production aren’t connected, the product launch can quickly turn into a battle between managing expenses and minimizing delays. Working together can ensure good product design and adequate lead time to procure the needed equipment. Ready to optimize your production line with secondary packaging machines that support your team’s ability to meet the demands of today’s complex market? Get in touch with a Douglas team member now to learn more about how our line of innovative secondary packaging solutions can be completely customized to your unique needs.
Reducing downtime during changeover is a goal that any cost-conscious manufacturer would pursue. The reality of today’s market is there’s a great variety of products and sizes to meet consumer demands. It’s becoming more common for retailers to set specific requirements about the material and packing methods used, such as shelf-ready packaging. That means the responsibility is on manufacturers to accommodate these requirements with shorter runs and an increased number of changeovers. With changeovers, circumstances can arise that cause downtime. When mechanical failure or human error add even more minutes to downtime, it can cause problems like missed deadlines, increased waste and profit losses. Changeovers can’t be avoided, but their effects on downtime can be minimized through workforce training and mechanical solutions.