A major, international supplier of laundry pods and dishwashing pacs, with manufacturing facilities in North America and Europe, had an exemplary record of customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, that sterling reputation was expensive.
Despite having converted much of its end-of-line inspection to counting operations, some lines were still using traditional weighing techniques. And to prevent undercount, the detergent manufacturer was erring on the side of caution. The result was overage – a lot of overage. For example, it was estimated that for every 20 dish detergent pacs it was giving one away for free – an attrition rate of an unwieldy 5%. Considering the high-speed nature of its filling process, this amounted to more than a million giveaways per month, at a cost well into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Stickiness was another concern. Liquid laundry pods are made by water soluble film through a mold. The film is placed over the drum and vacuumed, then filled with the liquid detergent or combination of detergent, softener and/or scent. When the product emerges it is sticky, making precise dosing a challenge – one only exacerbated by the product’s exceedingly light weight of just 25mg. To counteract the likelihood of product-to-product adhesion, the manufacturer employed a necessary-yet-cumbersome system utilizing a heating tunnel to dry the product, which is then sprinkled with a drying powder.
The detergent manufacturers was faced with a choice: For any business that sells large quantities of product, fast and accurate sorting, quantity apportionment and packing methods are essential for manufacturing efficiency and quality control. From an end-of-line standpoint, one of the most important decisions a company must make is choosing whether to pack a product according to weight or by product count. This critical decision can drastically impact bottom-line revenue and open the door to streamlined production and – as discussed below – even opportunities for product line expansions.
The detergent manufacturer decided to forgo weighers or robot picking entirely, and instead install state-of-the-art counting machinery from Cremer. The company incorporated several machines from Cremer’s HQ Series, a line of compact counting and packaging machines providing fast, reliable and cost-efficient counting solutions for primary or secondary packaging operations.
Available in HQ, HQF and HQI models, the versatile counting machines can be used for a wide variety of pods – either in bulk quantities or single piece discharges into any package. The HQ Series is scalable for varying production levels depending on product type and output, including the high volumes typically found in detergent manufacturing.
Importantly, the sophisticated new Cremer HQ Series counters are even better at separating stickier items than preceding models. Solutions such as these have given many suppliers the production freedom and versatility to develop and manufacturer more innovative, aesthetically pleasing detergent pods and pacs – including multi-ingredient and multi-color versions. The laned system also helps diminish downtime associated with maintenance and cleaning.
Compatible with all industrial packaging and cartoning machines, the HQ Series features a compact footprint, and streamlined tool-free disassembly for easy operation and cleaning. Other features include silent operation with no compressed air required, and a product detection unit with 100 percent accuracy. Up to three memory flap levels are available for count separation and dispensing. Vibratory plates for product transport and separation and a timing hopper for discharging product counts are also built in.
The counting machines were placed at the same spot as the original multihead weighers directly atop the bag filling machine and over the existing conveyor belt for precise positioning and discharge of product counts into plastic tubs.
At one of its production sites, the detergent manufacturer also invested in a buffering system that takes eight full minutes to fill – mitigating the downtime expense of sudden machine stops. Considering this, the partnership with Cremer produced not only an exacting counting system unaffected by minor product weight deviations, but also a line management solution that helps absorb “time is money” revenue loss incurred by unscheduled downtime.
The detergent manufacturer has been employing Cremer’s turnkey solution for several years, with the steep decline in product wastage providing an expedient recoup of all infrastructure expenditure. The success story exemplifies the notion that counting products by the piece is the most efficient, cost-effective alternative to modern weighing and pick-and-place systems.
Optical counting – as opposed to weight-centric quality control – guarantees that the net content count is 100 percent accurate for both wholesale and retail packages. Meanwhile, a lane-based approach to sorting helps make even sticky items simple to separate, and add-ons like buffering systems serve as safeguards against unscheduled line stoppage.