Lowering Operating Costs with VFFS Maintenance and Repeatability

Emily Brogan
Fri, Oct 22, 2021

A wise man once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That wise man was none other than the founding father, Benjamin Franklin. In today’s fast-paced CPG industries, a common priority seems to ring true- reducing costs. With the cost of manufacturing products on the rise, all cross-functional teams are all looking for ways to lower operating costs. While cost reduction opportunities can come in many different forms, reducing your total downtime- whether planned or unplanned, can be low-hanging fruit.

Maintenance Service on the Metal Gears on Black Background

The world is quite different today, but Mr. Franklin’s principle still rings true. Modern packaging machinery can be complex, with many moving parts that come together to deliver great manufacturing speed and quality. However, when it’s not properly maintained or set up in the first place, all that speed and quality can come to an abrupt halt- often when it seems to be the least ideal timing! Decreasing total downtime for your machinery boils down to a couple of key strategies- high repeatability of your machinery and processes as well as effective food machinery maintenance

VFFS Machine Calibration - Recipes and Consistency

Consistency in quality is one of our long-term goals when it comes to supporting customers. Consistency is more than just getting and keeping the machinery running, it's the game of inches (more like millimeters) that impacts the quality of the packages coming off of the line and therefore your customer base. Shift after shift, year after year, it's imperative that the quality of your packages, the precision of your package weights, and the quality of your product through the supply chain stay consistent.

High repeatability of changeovers allows for minimal adjustments during product runs while maintaining a high level of precision. A specification that isn't complicated to fine-tune while still hitting all appropriate check marks allows for consistency during changeovers results in improved overall throughput and ultimately profitability. Even features like toolless changeovers or automatic checkweigher feedback can make all of the difference in the time your operators have to spend getting a machine up and running sellable packages. 

Placing high repeatability and high accuracy on your list of priorities when evaluating packaging machinery solutions will improve workflow on an everyday basis while decreasing downtime by reducing setup requirements. Giving workers all they need to quickly perform both daily checks as well as maintenance will help increase productivity along with overall uptime. Especially in today's staffing climate, where labor can be spread thin.

Preventive maintenance - The Key to Longevity

The best way to reduce unplanned downtime is to put measures in place to prevent it from happening in the first place. The longest periods of downtime in a manufacturing facility are often caused by breakdowns. It can be unpredictable but often avoided. 

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With a proper preventative maintenance schedule, downtime due to breakdowns will be greatly reduced. However, even better than preventing failures is being able to predict them! One of the best ways for you to predict a breakdown in your machinery is by properly and thoroughly performing preventive maintenance tasks on a regular basis. This allows you to spot issues before they become major problems and save thousands of dollars in unexpected downtime costs.

Setting and Sticking to Schedule

Preventive maintenance can be broken down into two important categories: cleanliness checks and wear checks. With proper preventative maintenance, you can significantly reduce your risk for major mechanical failures, increase your overall uptime and prolong the life of your wear parts by keeping them clean, but just as importantly,  preventive maintenance should always include a documented inspection of a machine’s critical components as well as other key elements that could cause problems down the road.

Furthermore, understanding each component’s lifespan can go a long way towards predicting when certain parts need replacement. In addition to predictive capabilities, identifying and logging areas where your machinery fails regularly can allow you to bring in your machinery expert to address an issue like premature part failure or a drop in OEE. Being strategic in maintaining equipment requires more effort up front but has huge payoffs in terms of reducing cost over time.

ROVEMA Recommended VFFS Maintenance Schedule Template

Using a VFFS maintenance schedule is an excellent way to get started, and with the help of the Life Cycle Support team, we have created a preventative maintenance checklist to help you get started. This document is an excel template that you can easily modify to suit your own requirements (with custom fields).

You'll want to customize it for your specific applications. In particular, be sure to outline how often you'll need to do each type of check based on field conditions. If it's a particularly demanding product, or if you have a higher risk of downtime from external factors such as temperature, then a more frequent inspection will be necessary. 

You can download your template by submitting the form below: