Leading Pet Food Company Freshpet Cuts Downtime and Increases Output with Automatic Splicing

By Chip Johns, President and Chief Operating Officer, Butler Automatic Inc

The engineering team at Freshpet, a leading US pet food manufacturer, specializing in fresh, natural pet foods, wanted to improve production efficiency on one of their pet food manufacturing and packaging lines. They came across a solution at PackExpo that led to cost savings ranging from $60,000 to $130,000 per year. What was this incredible solution? Automatic splicing.

Let’s rewind for a moment. The Freshpet engineering team audited their process and realized that one of the greatest sources of downtime and therefore lost efficiency in their ‘chub’ production line was the time it took to change the chub packaging film rolls when they expired. In this particular line, it took operators at least 6-8 minutes to replace the roll of film, something that needed to be done every 35 to 60 minutes. The hand-spliced film also led to alignment issues, bottlenecks, and even greater downtime.

During PackExpo 2014, Freshpet’s Engineering Manager Sam Torres saw a demonstration of the Butler Automatic auto-splicing technology, and recognized that it was the solution he had been searching for to reduce downtime and improve profitability on the company’s chub packaging line.

Freshpet reached out to the experts at Butler for an automatic splicing solution customized to their specific manufacturing process. The splicer, installed by Butler in April 2015, has cut downtime to less than one minute per roll change. Not only that, but Freshpet has ordered a second splicer for their facility expansion, and has used the feedback about upstream bottlenecks that the Butler splicer revealed in the current line to design a more overall-efficient line for the expansion project. This lead to greater efficiency, more product, and more profits!

Read the full story in Packaging Strategies.

Splicers Revolutionize Productivity for Food Processing Plant

By Chip Johns, President and Chief Operating Officer, Butler Automatic Inc.

Cincinnati-based JTM Food Group is still thanking its luck for stumbling upon a zero-speed automatic film splicer by Butler Automatic at PACK EXPO International several years ago. JTM vice president Joe Maas says they are still benefiting from the productivity wave three years later. JTM is a food processing plant with more than 700 food products, about 70 percent meat and 30 percent non-meat, which has grown from a neighborhood meat store in 1960 to today’s sales of $170 million, with 430 employees.

Until it purchased the Butler Automatic splicer, JTM was switching rolls of film manually on its Vertical Form Fill and Seal (VFFS) machines used for its grind and form and kettle cooking packaging operations. The time it takes to change rolls of packaging film is frequently the single greatest cause of downtime in packaging lines; Maas estimates that it was taking about 10 minutes for each packaging roll changeover, which mounts up considerably over the course of the day.

JTM had accepted this downtime as a cost of doing business until a few years ago, when while walking the PACK EXPO floors, Maas spotted a zero-speed automatic splicer exhibited by Butler Automatic. The splicing technology joins a new roll to an expiring one without stopping the production line. When the splice is complete the accumulator is re-filled and the expired roll can be changed while the new roll is running, eliminating roll change downtime in production.

Maas found the Butler splicer to be a straightforward machine that is routine to operate. He shared with Butler that the true cost benefit for a particular process depends upon how many hours one runs a VFFS machine. If lines are busier, the cost benefits became more obvious. Mass says he goes through 50 rolls a week, which translates into about 500 minutes or just over 8 hours of production time gained by adding the Butler splicer.

Maas said, “The bottom line is that the automatic splicers give us more uptime on our VFFS machines and we produce more product. I have made a lot of money as a result of stopping by their booth.”

Read more in the April issue of Packaging World.

 

Streamlining processes yields savings and efficiency gains

By Chip Johns, President and Chief Operating Officer, Butler Automatic Inc.

Why would a relatively small business choose to make the significant investment needed to implement an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system? There are many answers to that question, including streamlining engineering processes, improved inventory management, and better costing knowledge, and more efficient financial reporting.  This information is often extremely difficult to extract from legacy manual systems that rarely talk to each other.

Selecting the right ERP system is just the first step. Management commitment is needed for the software, training and implementation time required. Here’s an example of how implementing an ERP system allowed Butler Automatic to reduce its lead times for building machines, as well as improve its financial reporting.

Read the full article in Manufacturing & Logistics IT

One Point Lesson Plans – An Effective Learning Tool In a Manufacturing Environment

By William Brum, P.E., Manager, Aftermarket Parts & Service at Butler Automatic, Inc.

Today’s manufacturing equipment can be complicated in nature with many integrated components all controlled by computerized technology. The responsibility of running and monitoring the equipment and process can be an intimidating task to an equipment operator on the production floor. Manufacturers have learned a simplified design combined with operator engagement is the best recipe to deliver a highly reliable process and quality product. One of the leading tools to accomplish this engagement is the use of the OPL or One Point Lesson Plan.

The One Point Lesson Plans are the cornerstone of any good technology transfer and training plan. As the term states, a One Point Lesson Plan is intended to transfer knowledge on one specific feature or function of a larger process. The format incorporates pictures to aide in the visualization of the task. As the tool is also used as a training aide, a training date and signature record is included. A Butler Automatic Splicer OPL can be seen in Figure 1. The OPL in figure 1 teaches an operator how to inspect film role core adaptors. Although simple in nature, a quality core adaptor contributes to the precise application of the film splicer when integrated with the larger production process.

Read more about One Point Lesson Plans in Manufacturing Global.

 

Achieving Operational Efficiency and Vertical Start-up Through Technology Transfer and Training Plans

By William Brum, P.E., Manager, Aftermarket Parts & Service, Butler Automatic

Incorporating a new piece of equipment into a packaging line can be extremely difficult if proper technology transfer and training information is not provided by the OEM. World class OEMs’ work with customers in the early phases of sales and design processes, discussing existing equipment, process needs, and how new equipment will integrate into the existing operation. This integration is especially important, with consideration paid to physical incorporation into the facility, integration with other equipment in the line, operator needs, and more.

Experts from OEMs that provide top-quality technology transfer and training take a wide look at the process specifications and goals of incorporating the new equipment in order to properly plan for equipment startup. When OEMs do not take this careful approach to technology transfer and startup, issues are sure to arise that drastically hinder efficiency and performance.

Read the full article in Refrigerated and Frozen Foods.

Shrink Sleeve Packaging on the Rise

By Michael Mucci, Vice President of Engineering, Butler Automatic

Shrink sleeve packaging is on the rise, largely in the beverage industry, because it allows the product manufacturer to make use of the entire surface of the package for artwork and information. This type of packaging enables rapid, cost-effective packaging design changes, providing product marketing groups the ability to make sure that the product stands out from competitive products on the shelf. As with all packaging applications, finding ways to increase efficiency is critical in shrink sleeve packaging operations, as increased efficiency directly translates into higher throughput and greater profit margins.

Like all other packaging film, shrink sleeve film must be spliced together. The typical challenge to creating a hand splice in these applications lies in operators’ ability to achieve a consistent splice joint for smooth operation over the mandrel. In many cases, an overlap joint is created with the expiring tube of material being “tucked” inside the new tube, thus allowing the new material to be guided over the mandrel.  This can create issues if the combination of the tape and double-thickness of shrink sleeve does not move smoothly over the forming mandrel.

Automatic splicing technology in the form of the patent pending Butler Automatic SP3HSL Sleeve Splicer solves the challenge of striking a balance between fast splices to minimize downtime and accurate, well-formed splices. Butler’s SP3HSL provides a zero-speed, in-registration, automatic splice from an expiring roll of film to a new roll, all while continuously providing film to the downstream process at speeds up to 450 feet per minute without interruption or any need to reduce the process speed.  The SP3HSL provides a butt-splice joint with tape on both sides, ensuring smooth motion over the forming mandrel.

Automatic splicing technology enables packaging operations to fully reap the benefits of this type of packaging, in terms of marketing optimization and rapid, cost-effective packaging design changes.

Learn more from Food News International. 

Butler Automatic Introduces Enhanced Register Sensor for SP1 Automatic Film Splicer

Sensor provides greater resolution and simpler control for reduced packaging film waste 

Middleborough, MA– Butler Automatic, the inventor and global leader of automatic splicing solutions, announces that it has developed an enhanced register sensor for new and existing SP1 Automatic Film Splicers. The new register sensor improves upon the previous sensor’s accuracy and reliability, and features software that more precisely controls the splice position, thereby reducing packaging film waste.

The register sensor in the SP1 Automatic Film Splicer uses registration marks on the film to provide an automatic, in-registration butt splice. In doing so, the splicer provides the downstream process with a consistent product pitch or imprint spacing, eliminating the need for re-registering the film in the process after a splice. The register sensor is critically important to minimizing film waste.

Butler’s new register sensor delivers a wider range of sensing and has proven to be more reliable in distinguishing between similar colors than the prior generation.  As a result, manufacturers are now able to have print across the full width of the film, even when the print is similar in color to the black register marks.

Additionally, while the prior design required the operator to physically relocate the sensor in the in-web direction when adjusting between products of different length or pitch, the new control software allows the operator to achieve the same result simply by entering an offset value on the touch screen user interface. This enhancement allows operators to locate the splice in different positions on the final product more easily.

The new register sensor is available as an option on any new Butler SP1 Automatic Splicer. In addition, it is available for retrofit with any Butler SP1 Splicer that shipped with the factory-installed Bi-Directional Registered Splice Option and also has a touch screen user interface. In these machines, it provides the full functionality when installed as a retrofit. The retrofit includes replacement of the sensor head with the new head and amplifier, and upgraded controls and user interface software to support the registration offset functionality. Customers with older splicers who desire improved resolution can contact the Butler Service and Parts Department to check for retrofit compatibility.

Butler Automatic Film Splicers Increase Profitability and Reduce Lead Time

With automatic splicing, pre-applied zipper film is easy to incorporate into existing packaging lines 

Middleborough, MA– Butler Automatic, the inventor and global leader of automatic splicing solutions, announces that its film splicers such as the SP1 Automatic Splicer make pre-applied zipper film easy to incorporate into existing packaging lines. As a result, these splicers greatly increase profitability and reduce lead time for reclosable packaging. Butler’s automatic splicers are engineered with a small footprint, and are custom built to fit on the front end of virtually any flexible film packaging line. Butler splicers make reclosable packaging retrofits a possibility for many packaging lines.

Reclosable packaging is in a period of rapid growth, as many manufacturers realize the added value reclosable features offer consumers. This is especially true in the food industry, where a push towards reclosability has led to the implementation of a number of reseal technologies. Many methods of adding reclosable features to an existing flexible packaging line require large capital investments, but pre-applied zipper film can be an ideal tool for companies looking to make the shift to reclosable packaging without significant up-front costs or extensive lead time.

Rolls of pre-applied zipper film are less dense than traditional film roll stock, leading to fewer impressions per roll and therefore less time between roll changes. Automatic splicing eliminates the downtime of these additional roll changes, dramatically improving the profitability of packaging with pre-applied zipper film.

With a simple mechanical design and high-quality manufacture, the SP1 delivers long-term, trouble-free performance. The device senses the diameter of the expiring roll of film and automatically splices the end of each expiring roll onto the new roll.

Tips for Maintaining Packaging Line Equipment

By William Brum, P.E., Manager, Aftermarket Parts & Service, Butler Automatic

The benefits of pairing autonomous and preventive maintenance strategies are an increase in planned maintenance over unplanned, maximized equipment availability, and the ability to forecast production capacities and maintenance budgets with greater precision.

Proper maintenance of packaging equipment is critical to minimizing downtime and keeping costs low. This article will discuss tips for how to best maintain your packaging line machinery, using automatic splicing technology as an example. With the right maintenance strategy, an appropriate inventory of spare parts, and timely upgrades in addition to support from an expert vendor, you can drastically reduce unplanned downtime, keeps costs low, lengthen the service life of your machinery, and maximize profits. With the right maintenance practices in place, even companies with minimal dedicated maintenance staff can reap these benefits and optimize packaging line operation.

Read the full article in Product Design & Development to see Bill Brum’s tips for maintaining packaging line equipment.

Butler Automatic SP1 Automatic Film Splicer Reduces Downtime in Consumer Packaged Goods Packaging

Splicer performs non-stop film changes in CPG packaging operations 

Middleborough, MA– Butler Automatic, the inventor and global leader of automatic splicing solutions, announces that its SP1 Series Automatic Film Splicer is ideally suited towards consumer packaged goods (CPG) packaging applications. The SP1 Automatic Film Splicer increases efficiency in packaging operations by eliminating the packaging line downtime caused by manual film roll changes.

“CPG packaging operations can benefit from the introduction of the SP1 Automatic Film Splicer because it has a significant positive impact on line efficiency,” said Mike Mucci, Vice President of Engineering at Butler Automatic.  “The SP1 enables customers to eliminate the leading cause of planned downtime – film roll changes – and therefore to dramatically improve profitability.”

In eliminating film roll change and manual splicing, Butler’s automatic splicing technology typically reduces downtime by 5-10 minutes per operational hour. For a typical packaging line operating 20 hours per day, 6 days per week, this can yield up to 20-25 hours of additional production per week, or the equivalent of an extra day’s production.

With a simple mechanical design and high-quality manufacture, the SP1 promises long-term, trouble-free performance. The device senses the diameter of the expiring roll of film and automatically splices the end of each expiring roll onto the new roll. It is capable of running at speeds of up to 600 feet per minute (FPM).

In addition to the standard SP1 automatic splicer, Butler offers the SP1 RB, designed for full wash-down capability. The SP1 RB is built to standards common with many regulatory requirements. It features mostly stainless steel construction, with only specific splicing head cylinders using coated aluminum, and has minimal flat surfaces.

Butler Automatic to highlight SP1 and SP3HSL Automatic Film Splicers at PACK EXPO 2016

Butler Automatic, the inventor and global leader of automatic splicing solutions, announces that it will showcase its SP1 and SP3HSL Automatic Film Splicers at PACK EXPO 2016, to be held November 6-9, 2016, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. Butler Automatic experts will be on hand in Booth #S-3003 to demonstrate how the film splicers increase efficiency in a wide range of packaging operations by eliminating the packaging line downtime caused by manual film roll changes.

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Benefits of Pre-Applied Zipper Packaging Film

Reclosable packaging is in a period of rapid growth, as many manufacturers realize the added value reclosable features offer consumers. This is especially true in the food industry, where a push towards reclosability has led to the implementation of a number of reseal technologies: traditional zip locks, slider locks, reusable adhesives and even Velcro-like closures. You may be considering adding a reclosable feature to your packaged products, or may have heard about the hype around new kinds of packaging, but likely have questions about the affordability of such a change. Packages constructed from pre-applied zipper film can be an ideal tool for companies looking to make the shift from traditional to reclosable packaging without significant cost or lag time.

Read the full article in Food Manufacturing.

Increasing Production Uptime and Throughput in Packaging Applications

Downtime, both planned and unplanned, can have a pronounced impact on packing line efficiency and throughput. This downtime, caused by film roll changes, registration errors, catastrophic film failures, bottlenecks, and more, is costly, and may seem impossible to avoid. Taking appropriate steps to streamline processes wherever possible can help to mitigate the repercussions of downtime, improving your overall line efficiency and therefore profitability.

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