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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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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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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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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How Winter Weather Impacts Your Packaging Line

As we head into the New Year and the weather gets colder, you may be experiencing inconsistencies with the adhesives on your packaging lines. What most line operators and maintenance managers do not realize is that the location of your packaging line in the plant can play a large role in the dependability of your adhesive.

This time of year, we receive several troubleshooting calls regarding hot melt consistency, heated hose and gun temperature consistency and glue stringing. It is important to take the external environment into consideration when attempting the first step in troubleshooting some of these problems. One of the first questions to ask is: where is your packaging line located? For example, if it is at the end of the packaging process, which it most likely is, then it might be on the exterior wall of your plant. Or it might be near an external door or window. If it is on the outskirts of the plant facility, and you are located in a part of the United States that is cold in the winter, then the outside temperature 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. Especially if you are adding in cold glue. If your glue pellets are colder than normal, it will take a longer amount of time to heat them. A solution to this issue would be to invest in an auto-fill hot melt application system. Universal Systems SE manufactures the ProBilt™ Phoenix Auto-Fill Application System. Not only will this system help in the winter months, it helps all year long by drastically reducing the number of times your line operator needs to add glue pellets.

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 used larger sized extensions and filter housings. For example, the older gun filter assemblies had larger filter housings and longer extension joints, that are unnecessary and can inhibit the consistency of hot melt flow. 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.

For any further information on the ProBilt™ Phoenix Auto-Fill Application System, or to speak to a technician about any troubleshooting of your adhesive application system, please call Universal Systems SE at (800) 848-5018 or email sales@ussefl.com.

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Utilizing Key Features of the ProBilt™ Hot Glue System

There are a few brands to consider when shopping for a hot melt system for your packaging line. Universal Systems SE’s ProBilt™ product line has been around for over 40 years and has several key features that can help influence purchasing agents, as well as line operators, on why it is the best in the industry.

4 Hose / 4 Gun Standard Capability

Unlike any other hot melt tank option on the market, the ProBilt™ line of melters all come equipped with 4 hose and 4 gun capability. This is a standard option that is usually an add on from other manufacturers, like Nordson®. Nordson® has both the 2 hose/ 2 gun and 4 hose/ 4 gun melters, each differing in price. The ProBilt™ melters all come with 4 hose/ 4 gun capability at a lower price point than any Nordson®. This allows our customers versatility and the option to grow.

Easy to Program Control Board

One of the many benefits to owning a ProBilt™ system is the easy to operate, AccuScan™ Control Board. If you are plugging in a brand new tank, the board will be programmed to our factory settings. The line operator, can scan through the hose, gun and tank settings and set them to the temperatures needed. There are also a few fail safes installed in the machine. For example, if it is a cold start set up, the hoses and tank will heat first, then the guns will start to heat once the hose and tank are within 35 degrees of the set point. The reason for this is so that the gun doesn’t char, since the gun heats up faster than the hose and tank. Once temperature is reached, the “Heat On” light will blink and you are ready to use. The control board also comes equipped with alarm settings and a set back functionality, our next two key features.

Set Back Functionality

The set back functionality is one of the most important features that comes standard on all ProBilt™ tanks. Essentially, when the shift is over and you no longer need to run your packaging line, you push the set back button. This will “set back” the temperature of the tank, hoses and guns to 165 degrees. Allowing the glue already in the system to sit overnight without charring. When the morning comes, or the next shift starts, simply hit the set back button again, and all previous temperature settings will re-engage. This will decrease the start up time on the hot melt system significantly and allow your lines to be fully operational within minutes.

Alarm Options

Another key feature to the AccuScan™ Control Board are the alarm options it provides. The first alarm option allows for the panel to tie to an alarm light in your facility. In case anything happens that stops the system from running effectively, an alarm light can go off, alerting the line operator immediately. Another feature is the ability to tie it to the packaging line itself, called PMI or Parent Machine Interface. Parent Machine Interface will signal the packaging line when the glue is at full temperature thus preventing the line to start up until it receives the signal.

Please watch our video on how to set the ProBilt™ melter temperatures. For more information on our ProBilt™ systems please call today (561) 272-5442 or email sales@ussefl.com

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