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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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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How to Change Out a Melter Pump

There are several reasons why a melter’s pump might stop working. The most common reasons are clogging of the ball and seat from foreign matter such as carton dust, and the actuator clogging due to dirty or oily air. No matter what the reason, if your pump stops pumping it needs to be replaced. Obviously, it much more cost effective to change out a pump then to replace the entire unit. However, it is not always easy to switch out a pump, especially if you are new to the line. Below are a few tips to help ease you through the process.

  • Make sure the circuit breaker on the front of the unit is set to OFF once the applicator has reached normal application temperature.
  • Shut OFF the input air to the pump.
  • Set the pump regulator to zero and trigger all guns to relieve system pressure.
  • When removing the old pump, rotate it slightly to break the suction and then pull it straight up and out.
  • When installing the new pump, make sure to torque the screws 15-16 ft-lbs.
  • Connect the pump electrical plug to tank receptacle and turn tank back on.
  • Once the tank board reads that the tank has reached set temperature, wait 15 minutes. This will allow the glue around the pump hydraulics to get to temperature.
  • After waiting 15 minutes, reinstall the air regulator and connect the airline and activate air.

 

If you have any further technical questions and want to speak with a technical sales rep, please call (561) 272-5442 or email sales@ussefl.com.

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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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