Manually packaging small lot and volume products is a common practice within the industry. A lot size of three thousand units may make up a total annual volume of only a hundred thousand units. The turnaround of a mid to high-speed line is inefficient since running the lot requires only a fraction of the time required to set up the line. Because of this, a common practice is for a supervisor to assemble a group of operators in a large open room with tables and components and manually assemble the packaged product. The problems with this method are that it depends heavily on the individual operator and SOPs to define the process. By utilizing automated machines, the process becomes repeatable and measurable, in addition to removing the human error.
How do you remove the human error without breaking your budget? One solution is to use the Flexible Spine Concept to create packaging lines for contract packagers and small-scale, clinical packaging operations. This concept creates a spine of utilities, communications and material conveyance which allow a number of smaller scale machines to be docked into the line. The line has basic “plug & play” features for equipment allowing for fast and easy changeover times. It results in a multi-purpose line within one room that has the advantages of digital communication within the packaging line and facility (i.e. batch record information, metrics and serialization information) and removes human rate variability.
Interconnecting automation with manual techniques may seem like a contrast, but when planned and executed properly, it maximizes the potential of both methods. As products begin to target individuals rather than the masses, lot quantities decrease yet efficiencies need to remain high. A creative look at manufacturing and packaging lines can increase output without wasting capital or sacrificing quality.
To learn more about the Flexible Spine Concept, contact IPS.
This article originally appeared as a supplement to the 2015 IPS Technologies Tours at INTERPHEX.