Lowering Downtime on Your Packaging Line

As CPGs continue to change their packaging lines to try and cut costs but stabilize runtime, there are a few things to consider when analyzing the cause of machine downtime and how to prevent it.

The below statistics were taken from the Fall 2021 issue of OEM Magazine:

Causes reports by respondents at CPG companies as the most common cause of packaging machine downtime: 26.3% general wear and tear, 21.1% operator error, & 22.1% product changeover.

General wear and tear is pretty self-explanatory. This would depend on how many hours and days per week a facility runs their packaging lines. If they are running 24/7, then the percentage of general replacement parts purchased will be higher than a plant that is only open 8 hours per day, 5 days a week. To lower downtime, each facility should stock at least 1 -3 replacements, at all times, of the following items: Heated Hoses, Glue Applicators, Modules, Nozzles, Tank filters, and In-Line filters. Another way to lower downtime is preventative maintenance. If CPGs were to prioritize preventative maintenance, then their packaging machinery would last longer and lead to less overall downtime. We recommend PM practices that include changing tank and gun filters, as well as maintaining an even level of heated glue in the glue reservoir of the tank. If done on the regular, general wear and tear percentages would go down.

Operator error is also another large concern for CPGs and the cause of most packaging line downtime. That is because Nordson® and other large corporate OEMs are making their melters more technologically advanced.  Unfortunately, this increased technology does not come with increased training. While technology can create less human interaction, if the line operators are not trained on how to work the equipment, it can lead to more errors. Also, several of the new systems need to run on a network in order to work, so if there is any network downtime, that will now impact the packaging machinery and shut down the line. Universal Systems has maintained our simple to use systems and provides YouTube videos on how to work our machines, along with error codes and how to navigate the control board.

The final most common cause of packaging line downtime is product changeover. To lower overall costs, many CPGs use the same machines to package multiple types of items, which requires a changeover of parts. This downtime might be harder to avoid, however if the line operators are well versed in the machinery and understand the usage need of the machine in all areas, this can be lowered.

For more information on our Universal Systems line of hot melt products, please contact a sales rep at sales@ussefl.com.

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Cold Weather Impacts to Your Hot Glue Melter

As we move into the holiday season, we also experience a change in the weather. In most places in the US, the winter months mean that the climate inside most packaging plants change. With that, line operators need to take that temperature change into consideration when working with hot glue machines on their packaging lines.

Hot melt consistency, heated hose and gun temperature consistency and glue stringing are all potential problems that maintenance managers can deal with during the winter months. One of the most important things to look at is where your packaging line is located within your facility. Most melters are located at the end of the line, which leaves them close to an exterior wall, door or window. The cold temperature outside could be impacting, not only the viscosity of your glue, but the heating time of your glue and its adhesion ability. Every time your line operator opens the fill door on the hot melt tank, the external air hits the existing glue and cools it off. Even if the lid on your tank is only open for a few minutes, that could impact not only the current glue in the tank reservoir, but the glue you are adding to the tank. If your glue pellets are colder than normal, it will take a longer amount of time to heat them.

Another important task would be to inspect your system setup for any cold joints. A cold joint would be any unnecessary extensions that you have added throughout the adhesive application process. Most cold joints are found on older machines that use larger sized extensions and filter housings. The more cold joints on the system, the more inconsistent the glue will heat and stay heated throughout the entire application process.

If your main problem is glue stringing in the colder months, an easy solution would be to shorten the distance from the nozzle tip to the top of the box. Limiting the amount of time the glue has to travel in the air will help to lessen the problem of stringing, which can cause a weakened seal on the box.

If you have any questions about how to reduce the impact of winter weather on your hot melt system, please reach out to a technical rep at sales@ussefl.com.

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Remote Buying & Troubleshooting is the New Reality

After the world shut down in 2020, then slowly started to reopen, it became clear that certain job roles no longer needed to be in an office and could work from home. For the packaged goods industry, that impacted purchasing agents. Now, as maintenance managers run the floor and manage the inventory, purchasing agents are at home trying best to communicate the company needs to suppliers. Realizing the potential that purchasing departments might rely on supplier websites, here at Universal Systems, we focused on updating our website and making sure that there are competitor OEM cross reference numbers easily searchable throughout the site. We also have sales reps that can handle almost any product question and return quotes within 24 hours.

Another impact the pandemic has had on the packaging industry is workforce. There might not be as many skilled and experienced engineers on the floor to troubleshoot issues as they arise. As a manufacturer, we have also experienced setbacks with sending technical reps out to facilities to help them troubleshoot. In an effort to virtually help our customers, we provided YouTube videos on how to set up our ProBilt line of tanks, how to program our control boards and how to set temperatures. We also have several very skilled engineers in house that can walk customers through any issue they may be experiencing. We’ve found ourselves utilizing technology more and more for troubleshooting. Since less techs are allowed in facilities, we have started doing virtual meeting via Facetime or through texting photos. Both have shown to be pretty effective.

Hopefully, one day soon, we get back to workers being allowed to be in the office to physically check inventory and see what they need to order. But until then, we will continue to help our customers as much as we can remotely. If you have any hot melt questions, please feel free to reach out to sales@ussefl.com.

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The Importance of IN STOCK

Over the last two years, as both manufacturers and consumers, we have learned a lot about the importance of having our most vital items in stock. As we head into the end of 2021 and move into 2022, we have to believe that getting products for both our business and personal lives is going to get increasingly difficult. As large US CPGs have relied more and more on packaging machinery made in China, like Nordson®, they are finding it increasingly difficult to get products. Large corporations have been incentivized for years to move their manufacturing facilities overseas, not only because labor is cheaper, but raw material is cheaper and more readily available. With that, however, the cost of their products has increased due to tariffs and greed, and they are now unable to ship to the US, putting some large CPG facilities in a bad situation.

Here at Universal Systems, we have prided ourselves on being Made in the USA and stocking thousands of items. We still do and will remain sourcing all of our raw material within the USA, as well as keep our most popular products built and on the shelf for our valued customers that need them in order to keep their production and packaging lines up and running. If there are any CPG companies out there that are having issues getting Nordson® products, please reach out to us. We will quote pricing and lead time within 24 hours.

The importance of “in stock” has never been more valuable. We realize that and are dedicated to continue to invest in stocking products so that our customers can get their most vital items in a timely and cost-effective manner.

For pricing on our most popular products, please reach out to sales@ussefl.com.

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The Right Melter for Your Packaging Line

Finding the right melter for your packaging line can impact not only your productivity, but also your bottom line. Most commonly, maintenance managers and buyers simply replace the current OEM melter with the latest model. That is not always necessary. Universal Systems SE ProBilt™ melters have the same footprint as most all Nordson® systems and can easily fit into where the original tank is positioned. Just because your current packaging line has a Nordson® melter does not mean you have to replace it with another expensive Nordson®. Plus, all of our ProBilt™ melters are in stock and can ship same day!

There are several key points to take into consideration when choosing a hot melt system for your packaging line. The most important are: Melt Rate, Durability, & Cost-Effectiveness.

Melt Rate

The melt rate is the rate at which the tank melts the adhesive pellets as they are filled into the reservoir. This is where the tank capacity comes into play. Before moving forward with any hot melt adhesive system, first you need to understand how many pounds you need to melt per hour. The melt rate is dependent on how many hoses and gun applicators you are running and how many boxes are being sealed per minute on your packaging line. The most common tank capacity is the 20 lb. (10 Liter) ProBilt™ 20, with a melt rate of 23 lbs. per hour. If you are only running one line with one hose and gun applicator, then you may only need the 15 lb. (7 Liter) ProBilt™ 15 which melts 18 lbs. per hour or the 12 lb. (6 Liter) unit which melts 15 lbs. per hour.

Durability

Depending on how many shifts you are running, you need a melter that will work consistently and effectively. All ProBilt™ melters come with a 10-year heater warranty, which is the highest in the industry. In addition, all melters come standard with 4 hose / 4 gun capability and a set-back functionality that allows for easy start up and shut down. ProBilt™ melters are constructed out of 316 stainless steel, not only for its sleek look that will seamlessly blend with your packaging line, but also for its durability and sustainability on your production line floor.

Cost-Effectiveness

The economy is a huge question mark lately, being impacted by the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that, large CPGs are cutting back not only in personnel but in spending budgets for packaging. These tighter budgets won’t always allow for a buyer to simply purchase the latest Nordson® melter. Here at Universal Systems SE, we have seen more and more companies trying to repair older melters and plug any current issues with band-aids to stretch their fixed budgets as far as they can. Since we manufacture parts that are compatible with old Nordson® tanks, we have been able to help a lot of companies cost effectively navigate the times. In addition to our parts business, all of our ProBilt™ series melters are cost effective replacements for any Nordson®. We are currently running a 15% off and free shipping in the USA promotion to help out CPGs and support US based companies.

To learn more about Universal Systems SE’s ProBilt™ series of melters and components, please reach out to a customer service representative at sales@ussefl.com or call (561) 272-5442.

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How to Choose the Best Applicator for your Packaging Line

Oftentimes, a packaging line comes with standard, one module applicator guns. While that is the most common applicator on the market, there are several other application options available.

When figuring out your packaging line configuration, it may become apparent that a standard one module applicator will not work for you. It really depends on what you are closing up with hot melt. Are you running a case sealer? What size and style boxes are you sealing? How many edges do you need to hit with the glue and how do they fold together in the line?  All of these questions need to be addressed before purchasing an applicator.

To help out, below is a list of some other common case sealer applicators. All of these items are in stock and ready to ship!

Low Profile

Low profile guns are one of the most commonly used guns on cartoners. Here at Universal Systems SE, we manufacture two module and four module versions to allow for easy glue distribution on small to large box sizes. Their name comes from their unique gun body design which is angled on each side. The angled design sides allow for the box flaps to flawlessly close while the gun is applying the adhesive on to the boxes.

Multi-Module Applicators

If you are running a high-speed line creating cartons that have multiple folds, such as a Douglas case erector, you may want to consider installing multiple module applicators. Universal Systems SE manufacture 2 module, 3 module, 4 module and 5 module applicators. There are various lengths between centers for each model. We recommend that you review all gun specs on our website.

 

For any other questions you may have regarding purchasing a new gun for your application, please give us a call at (561) 272-5442. We are happy to help create the best and most efficient hot melt application system possible.

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Top 5 Tips to Hot Melt Machine Maintenance

Packaging lines are complicated pieces of machinery and knowing the ins and outs of each component is important. When you install a new hot melt system onto your packaging line, there are 5 helpful tips to take into consideration to ensure smooth operation and getting the most out of your equipment.

Read and Keep the Manual

The best practice for maintaining your hot melt tank is to read the manual and keep it handy. So many times, maintenance managers will install the tank, but not read the instructions on how to wire it or program it. That can lead to so many issues. In other instances, a tank may be running for some time, but someone hits a button accidentally and changes a setting, then doesn’t know how to change it back. If only they had read the manual or kept it on hand. It sounds like such a common-sense thing, but oftentimes manuals are discarded with the shipping crate. For this reason, we keep a digital manual on our website for anyone to reference.

Replace the Filters

Preventative maintenance is one of the most important tasks to keep your machine running efficiently and reduce down time for your packaging line. When your tank filters are clogged, that is good, it means that they are doing their job and filtering out char. Changing them on a regular basis and spending a small amount on a tank filter will save you thousands in the future.

Monitor Your Hot Melt System

Line operators are tasked with monitoring tanks on a daily basis. It is important to make sure that the pump is pumping smoothly, the solenoid is not lagging and the guns and hoses are heating to temperature and staying there consistently. Even a minor change in any of those tasks can mean that it is time to proactively replace a component, or at least make sure there is a back up on the shelf.

Know Your Options

Knowing your options ties all three previous tips together. If you have read the manual, you will know what your options are when something goes down. If you are doing preventative maintenance, then you know it is not the tank filters. And if you are monitoring your system, you know what components you replace most often and what inventory you have on the shelf. In addition, you should also know what options you have should you need to replace your current system. Is the current technology working for you or do you want to upgrade to an auto-fill system? It is always good to be prepared and know your options.

Listen to Your Workers

Line operators are on the front lines, literally. They watch particular lines and machines on each line all day, every day. They know what parts are running effectively and where the problems may lie. It is important that you listen to them. They might not be the maintenance manager by job title, but they are the most knowledgeable about the equipment they are in charge of and their opinion should be the first requested.

 

For more tips on keeping your hot melt systems running to the best of their ability, please give us a call at (561) 272-5442 or email tech@ussefl.com.

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When to Use Micro-Adjust Modules

Hot melt system modules are located on the front of your applicator guns. There are several different types of modules and in most cases, they can be easily replaced on the manifold versus replacing the entire gun assembly. Changing out a module is a more cost-effective way to increase productivity and lower glue costs. Typically, modules need to be replaced when they are having glue dripping issues or major leaking from the nozzle. This is caused by normal wear or char getting stuck in the piston chamber, not allowing it to seat securely.

When replacing a module, you have the option of buying a standard case sealer module or a micro-adjust module. This refers to the module’s adjustment cap on the module body. A standard case sealer module comes pre-set and typically needs no adjustment. This is our most popular style module. A micro-adjust module cap is typically sold on Zero Cavity or ProBead Reduced Cavity modules. These modules have a user-friendly adjustable screw top that changes the pressure of the glue through the nozzle. This allows the operator to dial in a precise glue bead. Typically, zero cavity and ProBead reduced cavity modules have micro-adjustable caps for this reason. For example, they are used on medication boxes or beauty supplies. Another advantage to a zero cavity or ProBead reduced cavity micro-adjust module is the self-cleaning functionality, limiting charring and clogging.

For more information about micro-adjust modules please reach out to a technical sales rep at sales@ussefl.com or call (561) 272-5442.

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How to Effectively Clean Your Melter

Keeping your hot melt adhesive system clean may not be on the top of your priority list. However, take a look at your melter now, it is probably bronzed and blackened with old melted glue and char in the glue reservoir. That is what travels through your application system and onto your boxes. That is also what is potentially causing clogging issues and why you are replacing so many nozzles. Even though your melter looks like this now, it is possible to clean it and positively impact the longevity of your system. We recommend that you clean your system at least once every quarter. If you are running 24-hour shifts, 7 days a week, then you might want to schedule cleaning once a month.

Universal Systems SE sells a product called Purge Plus™ that, when used properly, will clean almost any melter. The directions for use are simple:

  • Drain all hot melt from tank reservoir
  • Fill reservoir with Purge Plus™
  • Heat Purge Plus to 350°F – 375°F for approximately 45 minutes
  • Open tank drain valve and remove tank filter assembly
  • Slowly start pump and run Purge Plus™ through the tank manifold and into a meal container until reservoir is empty
  • Stop pump, replace filter assembly and close drain valve
  • Carefully wipe any remaining contaminants from tank reservoir
  • Add new hot melt and recirculate through system
  • Drain one cup from each hose

In addition to cleaning the tank reservoir and heated hot melt hoses, if you are running a ProBilt™ series melter, the exterior is manufactured out of 316 grade stainless steel. So, any stainless steel cleaner will shine the exterior of the tank.

For any additional questions about Purge Plus or how to properly clean your tank and hoses, please call a Universal Systems service technician at (561) 272-5442 or email tech@ussefl.com.

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When to Replace a Module

One of the most commonly replaced items on any hot melt packaging line is the module. Typically confused with an applicator gun head, the module attaches to the front of the applicator gun and dispenses the glue through the nozzle and onto the applicable surface. If you are experiencing clogging issues with your hot melt line or dripping from the tip of the nozzle, most likely the module has reached it’s end of life and needs to be replaced.

Replacing a module is fairly simple. First make sure the air is disconnected from the applicator. Always wear Kevlar gloves and eye protection when replacing any parts on your active hot melt system. The parts get hot and extending downtime might not be an option, so operator safety is very important. Then, remove the front two screws from the module and pull the module off the surface of the gun manifold. Make sure that you use the new o-rings and screws that come in your new module replacement kit. This will ensure that the new seal is tight and will not leak once operations restart. Also, make sure you are replacing the existing module with the correct replacement module. Below is a list of module options:

Finally, we also recommend to put a new nozzle on every new module. This will ensure that no clogging will occur. If you have a zero cavity or ProBead module, then the nozzle will already be attached.

If you need any more information about modules for your packaging line, please email sales@ussefl.com or call (561) 272-5442.

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