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Considerations When Moving from Bulk to Single Serve

Jerry Buckley
South Central Regional Sales Manager
BluePrint Automation (BPA)

What are the challenges processors face when converting from bulk packing products to individually wrapping them? 

When packaging from bulk, the packing operation paces the output of the secondary packaging on a line.  However, this dynamic changes when packing individually wrapped items as the processing operation and primary packaging paces the line and secondary packaging has to keep up and keep ahead so it doesn’t negatively affect the efficiencies of those upstream processes.

What three tips would you give for determining the type of HFFS packaging system that fits their requirements? For example, capacity, speed, packaging materials, packaging seal integrity, product breakage, etc. 

Typically, 3 tips might be:

  1. If seal integrity is the most important factor, then heat sealing may likely be the best choice.  
  2. If speed is the required factor, then cold sealing is commonly a better choice. 
  3. If space allows, then having a redundant wrapper and product re-feeding (buffer) system would be advisable.  However, if space does not allow for redundancy, then the ability to allow for a large range of speed ramp ups and when a wrapper stops is very important.

Typically, when converting to individually wrapped products, what are the short-term semi-automated options vs. the long-term solutions? 

Initial short-term options typically involve diverting product to operators for hand feeding products into the lugged infeed of a Wrapper.  Long-term solutions include either mechanical distribution systems available for feeding the Wrapper’s lugged infeed for some products, while others are better suited for Robotic pick and placing into the Wrapper lugged infeed (such as the Vision Guided Robotic Systems that BluePrint Automation routinely provide for this).

In high-speed line situations, how do you automate the packaging of variety packs? What are the semi-automated ways vs. the turnkey automated set ups?   

Typically for fully automatic variety pack systems, it is more efficient to take the products from bulk containers and pack them into their secondary variety pack cartons or cases.  Thus, decoupling the processing operation from the packaging operation so that packaging can outpace production and not negatively affect the production of processing if a problem arises.  However, to minimize equipment costs and save on floor space, it is sometimes required to package one product while it is running “live” from a line and the other product from bulk (thus reducing packaging efficiency if the “live” production stops for some reason), or run both products from two live process (which further erodes packaging efficiency as either line stops).

What are the challenges and solutions in putting together multiple flavors in a single carton? 

As mentioned above, this process is more efficient and easier if all products are fed to the Variety Packaging System from bulk.  Therefore, your products need to be able to be fed by some type of bulk feeder and be strong enough to be initially packed and stored into bulk totes, trays or bulk cases without damage.  On a 3-flavor Variety Pack System as described above, BluePrint Automation would typically feed products from 3x Bulk Feeders or Shaker Tables to meter products to corresponding Vision Guided Robots to progressively fill cartons running past all 3 Feeders.

What are the challenges and solutions automating smaller 8- or 12-count cartons vs larger 24- or 36-count ones? 

The packaging solutions for running smaller count cartons is usually similar in technique to packing larger counts, but generally the smaller counts are required to run at the same bar speed but much faster carton speeds.  Therefore, these counts typically require larger Systems with more Packing Robots and possibly more Bulk Feeders taking up more floor space and adding more cost to the Variety Packaging line.

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