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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When You Should Use a Pattern Controller

Pattern controllers come on the packaging lines themselves and not typically with a hot melt application system. But, while it is not something that many hot melt manufacturers make, it is very important to the glue application process.

Pattern controllers are used for specific glue applications and patterns. The latest pattern controllers have 4 channel controller capability to do both time and distance-based application programming. They can store up to 9 programs and have the capability of operating in “stitch mode” for substantial glue savings. Another unique feature is the low speed cutoff in distance mode to keep the glue off the side guides when the machine is slowed.

So, when do you need to use a pattern controller and which options do you need? Below are the definitions of both constant speed and variable speed controllers to help you figure out which option is best for your application process.

Constant Speed

Constant speed pattern controllers are also known as time-based controllers. The glue is dispensed consistently between .001 – 9.999 seconds, depending on the time that you set. They are designed to trigger a 24VDC Solenoid Valve and have on the fly program adjustments, so nothing is set in stone. Most constant speed pattern controllers have up to 4 programmable glue pattern events available and up to 9 programs can be stored in memory and remain in memory even after the system is shut down.

Variable Speed

Variable speed pattern controllers come with an encoder and are also known as distance-based. This means that the glue can be dispensed in set distances apart from the last application. Variable speed pattern controllers measure in tenths of inches, trigger a 24VDC Solenoid Valve and the encoder offers 1200 pulses per revolution. There is a low speed cut off and easy to use program adjustments. Like the constant speed controller, the variable speed controller has 4 programmable glue pattern events and 9 programs can be stored in memory and remain in memory even after the system is shut down.

There is also a hybrid version pattern controller that allows you to do both constant speed and variable speed.

To learn more about pattern controllers, their benefits and which one is right for you, please call (561) 272-5442 or reach out to a Sales Representative at sales@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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Keep Your Melter Clean

Keeping your hot melt adhesive system clean may seem like an impossible task. Take a look at your melter now, it is probably bronzed and blackened with old melted glue. Well guess what…that is what travels through your application system and onto your boxes. Also, do you see all of the little bits of blackened glue? That is called char, and it is a big problem for your equipment. Even though your melter looks like this now, it is possible to keep it clean “ish”. Now, this melter runs in a packaging line, most likely 8 – 12 hours per day, every day, so there is no way that tit is going to stay pristine or even look clean after its first use. However, there are a few tricks of the trade to keep your melter looking good and running even better for decades to come.

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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Have Spares on the Shelf

As we navigate through this pandemic of 2020, we are noticing more and more packaging partners not getting the budgets to do much of anything with their packaging equipment. Even with the increase in demand for consumer goods like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, many packaging lines have limited shifts due to social distancing guidelines, making sure to keep their employees safe and healthy. As the country starts to slowly re-open, so will packaging lines…and nothing good comes out of a glue pot that has been sitting idle for over 6 weeks. That is why our number one recommendation to all facilities, other than to clean the pots before restart, is to make sure to keep spares on the shelf!

The most common hot melt equipment that should be replaced upon restarting a line are tank filters and in-line filters. Those filters will help with any char that is created once the line starts back up and running again. Another recommendation is to clean the pot with Purge Plus. It is so important to get the old glue out of the pot, before putting the new pellets in. It is also smart to keep spare modules and nozzles on the shelf. Those items can easily clog with char. Luckily, Universal Systems keeps over 10,000 items in stock and on the shelf for easy shipment whenever you need them.

If you are getting ready to restart a line and have any questions on best practices or the steps you should take to ensure a smooth manufacturing process, please call to speak with a technical rep at (561) 272-5442 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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