Managing Your Packaging Line in the New Year

It’s finally here, 2021! It felt like 2020 took forever to end, but now that it is gone, we need to make 2021 the best and most efficient year yet. Due to the struggles that we all faced last year, company strategies have changed, not because we wanted them to but because they had to. And like most industries, the packaging industry has also seen a lot of changes. We are now allowed less people in the office and on the line. Since workers have to be 6 feet apart, we cannot operate as many packaging lines as we want or need to. That means that we are getting less budget to spend on materials, supplies and equipment. Now, operating managers are finding themselves being more particular about cost and efficiencies. That is where Universal Systems comes into the mix. Our ProBilt line of hot melt equipment is made in the USA and has some of the strongest warranties in the industry. We have been manufacturing since 1981 and know what it means to work hard and take pride in that hard work. As we move out of a pandemic and into a new world, we have a few suggestions to help manage our “new normal” in the packaging world.

Catalog Your Inventory – while this may seem like a tedious task, it is worth it in the long run. Once you know what you have and how much you are using of an item, you will be able to estimate your budget needed for the new year.

Research Your Vendor Options – change is hard, but sometimes the best options are ones you haven’t even known about. Take some time to price out vendors for your packaging needs. There may be options out there that you don’t even know about that can save you a lot of money and be just as efficient and high quality as what you have been buying.

Learn How to Troubleshoot & Maintain – Pre-COVID, when the economy was thriving and budgets were high, packaging facilities had maintenance managers, operations managers, line operators, buyers, etc. Now, you may find yourself doing a little bit of everything. At Universal Systems, we believe that knowledge is power. The more you know about the equipment you are running and how to maintain and fix the issues will save you from overspending in the future. We have technicians that have over 40 years of experience in hot melt, that are here to help you if needed. Just call (561) 272-5442.

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When to Call Your Glue Manufacturer vs. Your Packaging Machinery Technician

With the reopening of many packaging facilities in full swing, here at Universal Systems SE, we are getting a lot of technical calls that pertain to glue and not the packaging machinery itself. Not a lot of technicians realize that some of the problems they are experiencing with their equipment are actually being caused by the glue. By the way, this has always been the case. Since knowledge is power, below are 2 issues that we get a lot of calls about that are glue related and not machine related.

#1 Glue Related Issue – Char

Many line operators and line technicians have experienced char in their hot melt application systems and most of them think that the char is caused by the machine. That is not actually accurate. The hot melt tank will heat the glue, but only to the temperature that is set by the operator. It is very important to understand how recommended temperature ranges effects viscosity which allows the glue to run at its optimal level. Most charring is due to overheating the glue. That char will travel through your application equipment and cause clogs which will require you to replace equipment or its components. However, that will not fix the long-term problem of charring. If the charring is not corrected, when you install the new equipment it will clog again. That is not a machinery issue, that is a glue issue. Our suggestion is to speak with your glue provider and find out all of the specifications on the glue you are using such as ball and ring, optimal temperature and viscosity. That will save you a lot of money in the long run and should reduce any excessive charring.

#2 Glue Related Issue – Coagulation

There is no doubt about it, glue is expensive. In most cases, the glue can be more expensive than the application equipment. The reason is because most facilities use a lot of it. As we all know, the world has been a crazy place this year, and with the re-opening of a lot of packaging plants, comes new, reduced operating budgets. We have heard from a lot of customers that in order to save on costs, they have had to change glue, whether it is moving to a more inexpensive glue, or a system that lays down less glue but with a stronger adhesion. Either way, if you change glue and do not meticulously clean your glue application system, you can have coagulation causing clogs. We recommend cleaning your tank and hoses with Purge Plus or a similar cleaning substance before changing glues.

At Universal Systems SE, we are always happy to help with any issues that you might have. But keep in mind that sometimes, your issue might be something that you need to discuss with your glue manufacturer. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us with any questions at tech@ussefl.com.

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Safety in Switching Out Glue Equipment

The best way to keep your packaging line up and running as efficiently as possible is to do preventative maintenance. Here at Universal Systems SE, we have advocated for regular packaging line maintenance, including all of your glue melter equipment and components. However, it is not only important to know when to do maintenance, it is also important to know how to do that maintenance. There are more mistakes made in the switching out of glue equipment and components than you may think. Whether you are changing out a filter or switching a pump, there are steps to take in order to ensure a smooth transition, with the least amount of downtime. Here are a few tips on switching some of our ProBilt hot melt equipment products.

Tank Filters

First and foremost, it is important to know the model of your tank. Even though that sounds like standard knowledge, there are many tanks that look similar but have different tank capacities, pump types and filters. Once you know the tank model, you can look up if you need to replace the entire tank filter or if you can replace just the screen. On USSE’s ProBilt tanks, for example, you have the option to change only the tank screen. This allows you to save some money long term, while still maintaining your tank. It is recommended that you make the change while the tank is in setback and to wear Kevlar gloves so that you don’t burn yourself. The tank filter is located on the side of the tank. It can be removed with a flat head screw driver. Once the complete filter assembly is removed, there is a long screw that secures the screen to the assembly. Simply remove that screw, switch the screen, and replace the filter assembly. If you are changing out the tank screen, make sure that you do not damage the filter bung or o-rings when making the switch. Also, be careful, the glue inside the filter is HOT.

In-line Gun Filters

These are the easiest of filters on your glue line to change out. In most cases, the filters can be reordered in packs of 5. Locate where the filter is on the filter assembly body and use a wrench to loosen and remove. Kevlar gloves should be worn, as the outside of the filter will be hot and there will be glue on the filter you are removing. Simply put the new filter in place and tighten.

Modules

Usually modules are switched out because they are dripping or leaking. This is typically caused by either char or end of life of seat and piston. Switching out a module is fairly simple. Before taking off the old module and replacing with the new, make sure that the system is not running. Each replacement module comes with 2 o-rings and 2 screws. Place the o-rings on the back of the module and secure it on the gun applicator with the new screws.

If you are running an H200, zero cavity or reduced cavity module, there are rebuild kits available.

Pumps

Switching out a glue pump is the least common practice on a packaging line. However, this is also simpler than you would think. Most technicians think that in order to change out a pump, you need to turn the tank off and let the glue cool. That is not always the case. If you are running a ProBilt tank and have an experience technician, he can switch out the pump while the system is still on. First, make sure you are wearing Kevlar gloves because the system will be hot. Turn off the air running to the system, this will limit any injuries. Remove the 3 bolts holding in the pump, use needle-nose pliers and do this carefully. Put the old pump on a large piece of cardboard where the glue can drain, cool and harden. Carefully put the new pump in, secure it with the 3 bolts and turn back on the air.

For any other questions about tank maintenance, please contact one of Universal Systems’ experienced technicians at (561) 272-5442 or email tech@ussefl.com

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How to Obtain Maximum Adhesion on Your Packaging Line

As we return back to work from the shut down earlier this year, facilities may be experiencing several new situations or issues that they have either never dealt with before, or maybe they are new to the industry and need help with understanding how best to operate a high-speed packaging line. We are hearing from a lot of our customers, both old and new, that good adhesion has become a problem. Even though we are moving into the summer and the weather is no longer a potential cause of adhesion issues, there are a few other checklist items that you can walk through to help correct any lack of adhesion.

The first thing to check is the distance of your application gun and nozzle tip to the container or carton you are trying to glue together. If there is too much distance between the tip and the box, the glue could be cooling mid-air, not allowing the cartoner to get full adhesion when moving the box to the folding stage. This solution could be a simple mounting adjustment to lessen the space between the nozzle tip and the box.

Another item to review is the viscosity and melt rate of the glue you are using. It is imperative to educate your line operators on the glue specifications to make sure they are heating it to the correct temperature. On the flip side of that, make sure they are not over-heating it and making the glue too thin, creating a longer open time for the adhesive. Knowing the specifications of your glue will also help you to regulate the amount of glue you are using on your applications, hopefully keeping your operating budget down.

In addition to the above listed items, we also highly recommend regular maintenance on your hot melt system to limit the amount of char building up in the tank. Performing regular maintenance such as changing out tank filters, in-line filters and cleaning out the tank quarterly, will lessen the effects of char through the line. If you do have a lot of char build up, that can and will transfer through the system and onto the box. Too much char mixed in with your glue can be causing adhesion issues. Once the glue dries and hardens around the char, the char can separate from the box.

If you are experiencing any adhesion issues or have any other troubleshooting questions that you would like to review with a technician, please call Universal Systems SE at (561) 272-5442 or email tech@ussefl.com.

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Starting Back Up After a Pandemic

This is most definitely a new reality that we are all facing. Never before have so many companies had to shut down several, if not all, of their packaging lines because of a global pandemic. However, it was a scary and necessary measure taken to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19. Now, as we slowly start to reopen as a nation, so does our packaging facilities. State by state, Governors are rolling out the reopening phases that each company, both essential and non-essential must follow.

With the reopening happening, that may mean you are going to run into a few speed bumps. As we all know, machines that typically run seven days a week, don’t like being shut down for three months. Especially if they are not shut down and cleaned out properly before they sat around idle. So, when you switch the power button back to “ON”, everything might not turn green.

In an effort to help with troubleshooting, we have put together a quick list of potential fixes.

1. CLEAN YOUR TANK. We cannot stress this enough. Even if your team drained the glue in the tank reservoir before shut down, there will still be old residue that will impact your restart. Cleaning your tank is fairly simple. First, make sure to detach all guns from the hoses before running the cleaner through. Utilizing our Purge Plus cleaner, fill the tank reservoir and heat. Place the end of the hose inside a bucket and flush the cleaner through the tank and out through the hose.
2. CHANGE ALL FILTERS. This includes both the tank filter and in-line gun filter. Starting with new fresh filters is the smart way to go.
3. NOZZLES MIGHT GET CLOGGED UPON INITIAL RESTART. Nozzles have small orifices that dispense the glue onto packages. If there is any left-over char in the tank from restart, the nozzles could get clogged up first. Try switching the nozzle to see if that fixes the issue.
4. REBUILD KITS. There are a few items that can be rebuilt on your adhesive melter system. For example, your pump. If you think that your seals have dried up from sitting idle through the down time, and you have a skilled mechanic trained to work on the equipment, try ordering a rebuild kit. This will save you money on purchasing a new pump.

If you experience any other issues during your restart, please call us directly at (561) 272-5442 and a technician will walk you through troubleshooting any issue. Stay Safe!

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The Importance of Air Quality in Packaging

Air quality is important in all aspects of life, but for some reason usually overlooked in packaging lines. Almost all hot melt application equipment will require air to operate, especially if they are pneumatic. Universal Systems’ line of ProBilt™ hot melt equipment utilizes air in several different points of operation. The pneumatic pumps require air in order to shift the actuator and pump the glue through the system. Also, modules require air to open the piston and, in some cases, even to close the piston. Of the two operations in your hot melt application process that require air, it is most important for the pump to receive clean air.

Universal Systems pneumatic pumps are manufactured with extreme precision and delicacy. The most important part of the pump is the actuator, otherwise known as the shifter. The shifter’s main components are the spool and sleeve, which is how the shifter “shifts”. The spool and sleeve are machined in pairs, hand measured, calibrated, cleaned and assembled. The shifter is attached to the side of the pump. If you have a ProBilt™ tank and pump, take a look at the label on the side of the shifter. It reads: “The air supplied to the pump should be dry, filtered and non-lubricated.” If the air supplied to the pump, that goes through the shifter, is lubricated, your shifter will seize over time. The reason is that the oil in the air will build up in the millimeters of space between the shifter spool and sleeve, not allowing it to smoothly shift. If you do have unfiltered air running to your hot melt pump, we sell a ¼ NPT filter regulator that you can attached to the air lines and filter the air before it goes into the pump. Check it out on our website here.

If you have any questions regarding your pneumatic pump or modules, please call us at (561) 272-5442 and one of Universal Systems’ technicians will be happy to help. You can also email sales@ussefl.com.

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When Consumers Can’t Open their Boxes

Have you ever purchased a case of soda or carton of coffee cups and can’t get the box open? Of course, we all have. In the packaging industry, especially for hot melt machine manufacturers, that is a red flag. Whenever we get a box that has too much hot glue on it means that the packaging line is not set up properly or not being cleaned regularly.

If you are wondering why too much glue means that the line is not set up properly or not being cleaned regularly it is because one of two issues is occurring (or sometimes even both). The first issue is most likely that the line operators and/or maintenance managers are not cleaning the tank regularly and the lines are clogging up with char, which will subsequently clog nozzles. Instead of cleaning the tanks and hoses, and replacing the tank filter and in-line gun filters, most operations just buy bigger nozzles. If the diameter of the nozzle orifice is larger, then it will allow through more bits of char and not clog up as easily. Unfortunately, this is not a long-term solution. Putting down more hot glue will drive up the amount that facilities spend on adhesive pellets, and ultimately the annoyance will trickle down to the consumer when they can’t get their box open. The solution is simple…utilize Purge Plus to clean your tank every 1,000 hours. For some facilities that could mean cleaning every quarter and for others that could be twice a year, it all depends on the facility. In addition to cleaning the tank and hoses with Purge Plus, make sure that the tank filters are changed every 500 hours. The in-line gun filters should be changed every 150 hours to ensure that no char travels into the gun applicator, through the module and nozzle and onto the box.

The second issue that could cause too much glue on boxes, is that the line was not set up correctly from initial purchase. A lot of cartoners have standard hoses, guns, modules and nozzles that will work for most case packers, but not for all. Make sure to take into consideration the temperature of your packaging facility (which can impact the adhesion and viscosity of the glue as it travels through the application process), the distance that the guns are to the box upon application, and the surface area of the box you are covering. The longer the bead of glue you place, the less likely you are to need a larger diameter nozzle. The shorter the range you are covering, you might need more glue to make sure that maximum adhesion occurs, which means you need a larger diameter nozzle.

If you think you are putting down too much glue on your packaging line and need help, call one of Universal Systems’ technicians at (561) 272-5442. We have the most knowledgeable technicians in the business that can help you with almost any question.

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Correct Hose Length

Case packing and sealing in packaging lines depends on several components to run steadily and reliably. In order for a system to run continuously at all times, each piece of equipment needs to be concisely installed. The usual suspects of precision engineering on your case sealer adhesive systems are the pump, applicators and nozzles. Most line operators undervalue the importance of heated hose length in the overall operation and efficiency of the line.

Heated adhesive hoses get attached to the hot melt tank and run from the tank to the application gun, which is mounted on the packaging line itself. Heated hoses are typically attached to the tank with a straight connector, but can have both a 45 degree or 90 degree connection option, depending on where the tank is placed on the line. The applicator plug at the end of the hose is also sent out as a straight connection, but can be switched to a 90 degree plug if needed. There are typically two – four hoses used on each packaging line. With a two hose line, one hose will run up the line, across the top and down to the applicators. This hose transfers the adhesive that will seal the top of the carton and is mounted using straps. The second hose will typically run straight along the side of the packaging line to seal the bottom of the case.  No matter how many hoses you run or how you mount them, it is very important to have the correct length hose.

Our technicians visit several packaging facilities each year, and their biggest take away is that most purchasing agents are ordering the wrong length hose. Typically, the hoses that we see are too long. They are either running extra length on the ground, which is a safety hazard, or there is excess hanging before the applicator connection, which can cause heating inconsistency issues. It is important to measure from the tank through the entire hose travel process, including mounting straps, before ordering. Universal Systems SE manufactures our ClearFlow™ line of heated hoses in 2 ft increments. So, if you measure 6 ft, order a 6 ft hose and if you measure 7 ft, order an 8ft hose. Make sure that you measure precisely! If need a hose longer than 24 ft, we can custom make you any length up to 50 ft.

To speak with a USSE representative about our ClearFlow™ hoses or to consult with a technician about the hose length you need, please call (800) 848-5018 or email sales@ussefl.com.

 

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Hunting Down Old Adhesive Melter Parts

An interesting fact about the packaging industry that most people don’t realize, is that purchasing agents become avid internet hunters when it comes to finding parts for their old equipment. There are several resources out there, the largest being eBay, for purchasing agents to find and buy parts for their old adhesive melters. The problem is, when buying from a bid platform, you never know what you are going to get. If you are looking for an old part, for a melter that is more than 20 years old, the part you find online could either be used or the wrong part. Also, with most online bid platforms, you get what you get. There are no returns or exchanges for your actual part. And in most cases, you get what you pay for.

Universal Systems SE realizes how important it is to be an online resource of purchasing agents, which is why we have invested in becoming “searchable”. In the last couple of years, we have launched a new website, added more products, and increased the number of cross-reference IDs on our website. We have added pictures, spec sheets and custom contact forms to help purchasing agents get exactly what they need. We are also working on making sure that we show up in the search results when purchasing agents Google old part numbers or manufacturers.

The benefit of buying from USSE is that all of our equipment is new, in stock and you can talk with a technician to make sure it will fit with your current equipment. Another key aspect of working with USSE is our staff of knowledgeable engineers that have been around adhesive melters and packaging line equipment for over 40 years. If you have a question about your old melter, we are most likely the only company in the industry that can answer it.

To test out the knowledge of our technicians, give us a call at (800) 848-5018. We are certain we can get your old equipment back up and running in record time.

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New Year, New Melter

A trend that we were seeing in 2019 in the packaging industry was repair, repurpose, repeat. No one seemed to want to spend the money on new equipment. It did not really come as much of a surprise since the political atmosphere of the United States was so polarizing. With inconsistency in government and leadership, comes inconsistency in the business world. Large CPGs were not interested in allocating budget to new equipment, but trying to repair old equipment.

What large CPGs fail to realize is that band-aiding an issue with a packaging system, only delays the inevitable. Having to invest in new equipment. This process can be a long and tedious one. Getting multiple quotes from different manufacturers and lead times. Also, needing to know availability and compatibility with your current packaging line. The new tank buying process could take months, and if your old equipment fails while in the middle of that process, your lines could be down and production at a standstill. That is a very big risk to take.

At Universal Systems SE, we offer six different hot melt tanks and application systems that could fit almost any packaging line. All of our ProBilt™ tanks are the same physical footprint as most Nordson® tanks and compatible with most Nordson® equipment, both old and new. Universal Systems SE also offers a Trade In Trade Up Program, where you can send us back your old melter, no matter who manufactured it, and we will give you a credit towards your new ProBilt™ tank.

All Universal Systems SE standard ProBilt™ systems are in stock and can ship within one business day of ordering. So, if you are ever in a bind, or your current systems goes down and is unrepairable, we can have you up and running with a brand-new system the next day. The only system that requires a lead time is the Phoenix Auto-fill System, which is usually customized per order.

Another unbeatable aspect of investing in a ProBilt™ systems is the 10-year heater warranty that Universal Systems SE offers. It is the longest warranty in the industry.

For more information on Universal Systems SE’s line of ProBilt™ equipment or how you can get a new melter in 2020, call us at (800) 848-5018 or email sales@ussefl.com.

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