Eliminating Costly Changeovers

Eliminating Costly Changeovers

As consumers continue to use their buying power to demand customized products, manufacturers should also turn to customization by investing in tailored automated solutions. In doing so, manufacturers have the ability to seamlessly manage product variation without falling prey to costly changeovers. 


Eliminating Costly Changeovers was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

Frozen Food Packaging

Amid economic uncertainty and strained schedules, the demand for food that is both affordable and convenient is mounting. As a result, more and more consumers are turning to frozen food. A report from Transparency Market Research (TMR) estimates that the Global Frozen Food Market will grow at a CAGR of 3.90% from 2013 to 2019. The global frozen food market, reaching US$224.7 billion in 2012, is projected to attain US$293.7 billion by the end of the forecast period.

How do you ensure that your company is capitalizing on the growing popularity of frozen foods? With shelf space at a premium, make sure your frozen food packaging hits the mark.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today’s consumers are conscious of the ingredients in their food. See-through cut-outs and design that focuses on the individual, recognizable ingredients are two ways to meet the consumer demand for ingredient transparency.

To appeal to the call for convenience, look to microwaveable or heat-resistant trays that can be placed in the oven or microwave. Bags that allow consumers to cook the product in their microwaves without perforating the packaging also add convenience appeal and can make a product a more attractive option.

Lastly, take advantage of the flexible packaging trend. Flexible packaging continues to be one of the fastest-growing fields in packaging. According to Smithers Pira data, global consumption is forecast to grow 3.5% annually over the next five years, reaching $231 billion (€203.7 billion) by 2018.


Frozen Food Packaging was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

Ancient Automation

Automation is lauded as the key to moving businesses forward into a successful and profitable future. But have you ever paused to think about the origins of automation?

We tend to think of automation as a fairly modern phenomenon. The word automation, in the manufacturing sense, was coined by Ford Motor Co. Vice President Delmer S. Harder in 1948. However, automation can trace its roots back much further than that.

The word automate is derived from the Greek word αὐτόματον (automaton) meaning, “acting of one’s own will”. Arguably the earliest mention of automation is in Homer’s famed Iliad, written in 762 B.C. (give or take 50 years). At the end of book one, Homer presents the tale of Hephaestus. Hephaestus is the Greek god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. He was responsible for creating, in his workshop, all of the weaponry used by the gods of Mount Olympus. To help him in his workshop he crafted automatons. Automatons were self-operating machines or robots fashioned from metal. They aided Hephaestus in his work and helped make possible the production of the magnificent equipment of the gods as well as legendary tools utilized by ancient mortals such as Agamemnon's staff of office and Achilles' armor.

So the next time you look out onto your factory floor at the many machines that make your manufacturing processes possible, know that you are taking part in advancing an ancient tradition.


Ancient Automation was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

4 Ways to Reduce Downtime

Lost production. Delayed customer orders. Waste. Overtime. These are just some of the negative impacts of manufacturing downtime. It’s no secret that downtime is an impediment to achieving manufacturing efficiency but there are things you can do to reduce downtime occurrences and, in turn, improve efficiency.

1. Preventative Maintenance

The definitive best practice for decreasing down time is Preventative Maintenance. It may seem obvious but in the midst of the daily humming, whirring and flurry of production, routine maintenance can fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, regular use takes a big toll on equipment. Without diligent maintenance, machines will inevitably wear down. Rather than waiting for your machinery to break down, employ preventative maintenance strategies. This can entail small but effective steps such as: replacing parts on a fixed schedule, adding lubricants when necessary and eradicating dust accumulation. Check out PHC’s complete conveyor maintenance checklist here: http://www.phcfirst.com/download/conveyor-maintenance-checklist.

2. Foster an atmosphere of excellence

Machines aren’t the only downtime culprits. Employees can also be a source of unexpected stoppages. Employees who are not operating efficiently as well as those who make frequent mistakes may generate delays. Confirm that employees fully grasp downtime concerns and how it impacts profits. Further, encourage input from employees on ways in which you can boost productivity and better service machines. Including your team in the decision process helps them feel more invested and gives them incentive to work towards the same goals. Additionally, offering tangible incentives for a job well done is another effective means of inspiring your team to do their jobs well. Establishing small goals helps to foster an atmosphere of excellence. Your employees work on the frontlines of production, so it is to your benefit to get them on the same page with you in reducing production stalls.

3. Replace outdated equipment to improve performance

Replacing your system software, without replacing the whole system, can help you extend the life of your system and save money. This enables you to preserve your investment in application design and embedded process knowledge while extending the life of your existing control system. PHC works with our partners to offer software/control upgrades, as needed.

4. Prioritize Process Efficiency

Process inefficiencies become bottlenecks and production speed and product quality suffer. It is worth investing time and effort into streamlining processes, particularly across different departments. When you have multiple departments with many process but none of them are working together, inefficiency is an inevitable consequence. A specific part of the production process may be delayed if another department is experiencing issues or if excessive paperwork is required. Streamlining your processes and identifying any administrative obstacles to efficiency will go a long way in reducing downtime and getting you back up and running quickly.


4 Ways to Reduce Downtime was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

How to Help Your Equipment Motors Beat the Heat

Servo motors on the infeed of a Laner.

Keeping our conveyor motors cool is usually not a problem. They can get warm but the ambient air and their onboard fan or is enough to cool them off. These types of motors are called ‘totally enclosed fan cooled’, or TEFC. Counterintuitively, heat can become an issue when we are not running our motors fast enough, as the fan connected to the drive shaft is not moving a large enough amount of air.

Even in tight compartments, such as our Laners, where we can have 8 or more motors in close proximity, we don’t need a lot of cooling. We have equipment installed all over the world, such as Mexico, and even there its not making anyone sweat.

Say you do have a heat concerns with your motors. Bill Bertram, writing on Engineering Live, has a good rundown of various ways for motors to beat the heat.

The simplest form of heat dispersal is through conduction into the surrounding air or structure of the driven machinery. To assist with this, a heat sink – usually a finned block of aluminium with a large surface area – can be affixed to the motor to absorb the heat and dissipate it quickly to atmosphere. A variation of this is found on many industrial motors, which have a finned cover over much of their body length.


How to Help Your Equipment Motors Beat the Heat was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

Robots Dancing with Conveyors

Pick and place delta robots on a conveyor line.

On BBC.com, Veronique Greenwood has written a great article on her Taste of Tomorrow column about delta robots. These high speed pick and place robots are use throughout the food production industry. They are highly versatile, able to handle jobs only humans could do not long ago. PHC’s food grade conveyor systems are often integrated with delta robots.

Automation in the food industry has moved far beyond the simple labelling machines and conveyor belts you may be familiar with. Now intelligent robotic arms perform dazzling movements and expert feats of coordination, getting everything from frozen fish chunks to cookies swiftly into their packaging. It's not a side of processed foods you see that much, but it is everywhere.


Robots Dancing with Conveyors was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

Where Do the Controls Go?

Controls in a food grade stainless steel cabinet.

There are several things to consider when deciding to either machine mount controls or take a more traditional cabinet controls approach. At Product Handling Concepts we treat look at each production situation independently. For instance, our VantageCaser Case Packer uses on machine controls, while many of our food grade conveyor systes and laners use control cabinets due to wash down requirements.

Hank Hogan, writing for Control Design, points out some of the most important things to consider when determining where to put controls.

They include:

  1. Cost
  2. Wiring and Cabinet Space
  3. Modularity
  4. The Manufacturing Environment

Machine mount — the placing of everything from I/O to PCs directly on factory floor equipment instead of in a cabinet — is increasingly being used. The benefits are less cabinet space and wiring, as well as reduced commissioning time and expense. Other advantages are easier maintenance, greater modularity and more flexibility.


Where Do the Controls Go? was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

Designing Packaging for Baby Boomers

Packaging for an aging generation

Nancy Brown of CBX writing on Packaging World about designing packaging for baby boomers.

Packaging is a strategic tool that brands can use to connect with this audience. After all, this demographic still likes to touch actual products (as opposed to younger generations, who are more comfortable with online shopping), and the right visuals and copy can nab these consumers right there in the aisle. Whether a brand is trying to appear more youthful, reinventing a product commonly associated with aging, or subtly conveying that they just happen to tackle the issues that are relevant to this age group, there are a variety of ways to go about reaching this growing audience of older consumers.

Ms. Brown has some good points on packaging and what brands can do to reach this growing demographic.

Her main suggestions include:

  1. Updating up an old brand to make it feel younger.
  2. Making something easier to open or a label easier to read. I think this can apply to more than just baby boomers. Have you tried opening toy packaging?
  3. Making elderly feel like a kid again For instance selling vitamins similar to the ones we give kids. My children love their gummy bear vitamin D. (Living in Wisconsin we don’t get a lot of sun in the winter).

Photo Credit


Designing Packaging for Baby Boomers was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

Even With Automation, Food Production Still Needs Skilled Workers

A stainless steel food production table top conveyor line.

More robots doing manual labor means less humans doing manual labor. However, there is still a need for skilled workers. One industry that is looking for the right help is food production.

Jason Smathers of the Sheboygan Press Media, posted to the Post Crescent:

The industry is still growing — albeit slower than metal fabrication — and the skills required for the jobs have changed. Increased automation and robotics in the processing and packaging of food materials means new hires in production are expected to be more attuned to maintenance of the machines and a focus on a more supervisory role — especially with looming retirements in some companies. A labor shortage in the industry may make it harder to fill those roles.

The article talks about one of Wisconsin’s largest food producers, Sargento. They are using automation to increase production instead of reduce workers. That increased production means they need more skilled workers, particularly those with knowledge of sanitation, safety, and quality control.

Automation can both kill and create jobs.


Even With Automation, Food Production Still Needs Skilled Workers was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

What to do With Your Old Automation Equipment

Spare Modular Belt Conveyor Chain

Enthusiasm for tech on an individual level leaves a trail of old circuit boards and cracked screens in its wake.

The same thing probably happens at your plant. As new equipment comes in you have a pile up of old parts and supplies filling your maintenance departments or warehouses. Here are a few ideas on what to do with those old parts.

1. Spare parts for maintenance

2. Get more life from obsolete automation

3. Consider secondary function

4. Get concessions from the equipment supplier

5. Sell to a specialist dealer

6. Donate to education


What to do With Your Old Automation Equipment was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

How to Pick Between Regional vs. Centralized Distribution Centers

Amazon has a reputation for efficient and economic shipping. Amazon achieves this with their large regional distribution centers.

Knowing how to organize distribution centers is a competitive advantage. Toby Gooley asked some of the best logistics experts for their insights on centralized vs decentralized distribution centers.

For some companies, a single centralized returns processing center is the right way to go. But, as is the case with any business decision, each option has its upsides and downsides.

The article is a good examination of the pros and cons of central vs regional distribution centers.


How to Pick Between Regional vs. Centralized Distribution Centers was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

Thankful for Automation

Thankful for Automation

As we, in America, sit down to our annual Thanksgiving feasts, we give thanks for the parts of our lives that are truly important. Family. Community. Love. The things that will stay with us through the years. The things that we would truly miss

One thing that is never on the top of peoples minds when giving thanks is automation. Why should it be? While it is present in almost everyone's lives in one form or another, it is not in the spotlight. In fact, if it is good at what it does, automation is invisible. It should be lurking in the background, doing its tasks with no interaction from the outside.

So, PHC would like to give thanks to automation and all those who keep it running!


Thankful for Automation was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.

5 Ways to Improve Your Factory for Safety

Jim Hathaway of Wildeck writing on Modern Materials Handling:

The bad news is that every year, thousands of people working in industrial plants and facilities are injured on the job. Here are five things industrial plant operators could do today to create a safer work environment

  1. Ditch the tape
  2. Secure the dock
  3. Use a ladder
  4. Barricade the ladder
  5. Park the forklift

Safety is always a priority, and these are some good steps any plant floor manager can use to improve it.


5 Ways to Improve Your Factory for Safety was posted to Words in Motion - A blog created by Product Handling Concepts, your source for conveyor, conveyor equipment, and automation solutions.