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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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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Chillers on Your Manufacturing Line

Now you may be asking yourself, why am I reading about chillers on a hot melt blog? The answer is easy, Universal Systems SE manufactures heated hoses that can be used for transferring many more substances other than glue. And when there are applications that do not include glue, the manufacturing lines may need chillers.

Our heated hoses, while mainly used for high speed packaging glue application, can also be used for heating and transferring a plethora of other materials. Our Teflon lined hoses can transfer anything from candy, make up, wax and much more! Depending on the use and application of different substances, the packaging line can be filling at high rates of speed. Heating and filling formed containers for candle wax, as an example, can be tricky because in this application the wax needs to cool quickly so that it can be formed, packaged and shipped out to end users. One of the most common questions we get in this situation is: How can I keep my forming operation running at a high-speed pace from start to finish? The answer here is chillers. Essentially how a chiller works is it is built into the conveyor line. So, the product would be heated in a melt pot, transferred through the heated hose, dispensed into containers, and then fed along a chiller that is built into the line. The product goes from hot to cool in a matter of seconds.

If you have any other questions on how we can help you keep your production lines running at high-speed capabilities, please reach out to sales@ussefl.com or call to speak with a technician (561) 272-5442.

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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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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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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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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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The Right Melter for Your Packaging Line

The scenario is usually the same, a packaging line melter goes out in the middle of the busiest time of year. Most commonly, maintenance directors and buyers simply replace the current OEM melter with the latest model. That is not always necessary. Universal Systems SE ProBilt™ melters have the same footprint as most all Nordson® systems and can easily fit into where the original tank is positioned. Just because your current packaging line has a Nordson® melter does not mean you have to replace it with another expensive Nordson®. Plus, all of our ProBilt™ melters are in stock and can ship same day!

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

Melt Rate

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

Durability

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

Cost-Effectiveness

The economy has become a roller-coaster in the last year. With that, large CPGs are cutting back not only in personnel but in spending budgets for packaging. These tighter budgets won’t always allow for a buyer to simply purchase the latest Nordson® melter. Here at Universal Systems SE, we have seen more and more companies trying to repair older melters and plug any current issues with band-aids to stretch their fixed budgets as far as they can. Since we manufacture parts that are compatible with old Nordson® tanks, we have been able to help a lot of companies cost effectively navigate the times. In addition to our parts business, all of our ProBilt™ series melters are cost effective replacements for any Nordson®.

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

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Cost-Effective Manufacturing

As we continue through 2019, it is clear that big brand CPG budgets are getting tighter when it comes to packaging. Larger companies are no longer bleeding money on big brands that offer not much more than a brand name and pretty blue logo. We have often asked ourselves how companies like Nordson® can get away with charging so much for the same quality product that Universal Systems SE manufactures. Especially since those big brands are not even manufacturing in the USA. That trend is starting to change.

As the American economy continues to change, it is clear that companies need an alternative to the brand name big price tags. It all comes down to shopping around for quality manufacturing that can be done in a more cost-effective way. And yes…it can be done. Cost-effective manufacturing should be the main focus of all companies when it comes to packaging their products. Americans no longer care about a name, they care about performance, quality and cost. Just because it is the most expensive thing on the market, doesn’t make it the best or most reliable. And that rings true for packaging manufacturers as well.

Many CPGs are losing the battle for shelf space and margin growth, which is increasing the pressure on suppliers such as packaging manufacturers to decrease costs. With more brands on the shelf and less market share, big CPGs need to start thinking smartly about their packaging solutions. It might not be the best idea to bring in a company like Nordson® to customize a hot melt solution that will cost you an exorbitant amount of money and take 6 months to get, when you can go with a company like Universal Systems SE who has engineers with over 40 years of experience that actually understand what you need because they have pretty much seen it all.

Not only is cost-effective manufacturing a pull in the marketplace, but knowledgeable customer service and support. If your packaging line goes down, it could cost you thousands of dollars a minute. A large brand with an untrained rep isn’t going to be able to get you up and running with a phone call. Universal Systems SE will! Think about that the next time you place an order for a new hot melt system or components.

Whatever you might need for your hot melt machines, we manufacture it at our Florida facility. Whether it is heated hoses, applicators, filters, modules, nozzles, etc. We also can walk you through troubleshooting any issues or help you with customized set ups. Call Universal Systems SE today at (561) 272-5442.

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