VFFS Speed Considerations
For all industries, it does not matter if business is booming or you are experiencing hardship, in all cases there are pressures to increase output and maximize efficiency.
Production Output = Lower Cost per Unit = Higher Margins
But many make the mistake of approaching this challenge generically. They think that the solution is as simple as turning up the filler or bagger speed or buying a faster solution.
While these actions might give you some success, the answer lies equally in the packaging process. Getting a clean charge from however it's being metered or measured in the most efficient manner for your product is key.
Also, at the start of a VFFS machine purchase, there are certain decisions that you will make early in the project of building out your packaging line that can pigeon hole you into a lower speed bracket than you have envisioned.
Over a series of articles in the coming weeks, we are breaking down the most important decisions and considerations, whether you're in the beginning stages of your project or working through challenges with down time so that:
- You achieve the consistent high speeds you expect.
- You avoid lost time resulting from re-work or retrofit.
- You can be the MVP of your company's project.
How Fast You Can Fill = How Fast You Can Run
The importance of the sealing speed of your bagger is great. But often, where producers run into issues with output speed is the transition of the product from the filler to the bagger.
This relationship is particularly difficult to manage, especially if these packaging line components are being sourced from different suppliers.
For the first installment of this series, we are breaking down why the width of your package and your package head space have a direct relation to output speed and how they relate to how your product is processed.
Width of Package
Unless you're a seasoned pro, you might not realize that the width of the package you are running on a VFFS machine limits the width of the filling tube.
The diameter of the filling tube must be small enough to fit inside of your package. For example, the size of your auger filler tube equates to how many (or few) auger rotations it take to fill the package.
Here is a more specific example: Let's say that two companies want to run a 1.5oz coffee frac pack. Company A is using a 90 millimeter forming tube, as their bag size is 90 millimeters wide.
On the other hand, you have Company B who decides to run their package at 115 millimeters. They are able to use a larger forming tube on their coffee frac pack equipment setup.
Company B is able to fill their coffee frac pack (that's the exact same weight as Company A's package) with less auger rotations, equating to less time. (For more speed considerations specific to coffee fractional packs, we have another blog post here)
Bag Width Workarounds
If you're working through the intricacies of building out your packaging line, you may have other limitations on the width of the bag. Your retailers or other commitments may require a certain merchandising width (like a retail ready packaging solution) or shipping specification.
If this is the case, and you've been advised by your VFFS machinery partner that the use of a larger filling tube or even auger screw would increase your throughput speed, consider whether adding gussets to the side of your package would be a solution.
Adding gusseting to a standard pillow bag or even to make a stand up pouch, like a block bottom bag, wont make the finished package much wider, if any, but could give you the chance to up-size your filling tube and increase filling speed. (For more specific information on considerations around different bag types, you can check out our webinar recording here)
Adequate Head Space
Head space is the amount of room between the top of the product in the filled bag and the cutoff of your package. Allowing enough space in your package during the sealing process is imperative to your overall speed for mainly one reason- allowing for product to settle and clear from the seal area before the seal jaws make contact.
For many customers, it is important to them to minimize the amount of void space in the package, and as an avid supporter of sustainability initiatives, that's very important to us too.
But there is a delicate balance between minimizing the head space for your package and making sure there is enough for the charges to clear from the seal area at maximum machine performance.
At the end of the day, minimizing any product waste, especially caused by seal integrity issues, is of highest importance from a carbon footprint and overall cost perspective.
Often, the characteristics of the product that you're packaging will be the main driver of how much head space you need to allow in your package, and those characteristics will be detailed in the next entry of this series.
Head Space Workarounds
You may not have the luxury to add more head space to your package. While this is rare, it does happen for producers that have maxed out their cutoff length for a smaller machine. The solution that we recommend is a bag tapper or other form of vibration that will help the product settle faster. This can easily be retrofitted to your current solution.
In The Coming Weeks
Bag width and head space are two highly underestimated decisions for achieving the best VFFS solution for your products. For a machine builder, these specs are going to tie directly into the next part of this series- product characteristics. Having a product that is dense and relatively dust free, like coffee beans, is going to have different packaging considerations than a light, dusty product like ground coffee. Even products in challenging shapes, like a green bean, can have issues with head space.
We are diving in to all of these product characteristics next week. If you'd like to receive updates when we publish the next part of this series, subscribe to our blog at the top of the page.