Changeparts don’t require any fine tuning, which helps minimize the skill level needed of operators to perform changeovers.

A few years ago there was a series of beer ads where friends argued about whether the beer “tastes great!” or was “less filling.” The punchline was that both were right.

In a gathering of packaging machine builders or users a similar argument might be heard.

“Machines should be totally adjustable to run any package within a size envelope.”

“Changeparts simplify total changeover.”

It’s not really an argument. There are pros and cons to adjustability, as well as to changeparts (machine components sized for a particular package, such as timing screws, dosing pumps or cap chucks).

Advantages of changeparts include:

• All adjustment is built into the part. They can be quickly mounted and, once in place, no further adjustment or fine tuning is required. Eliminating the tools and skill level required may permit changeover to be done by operators. This frees mechanics for other, more valuable, tasks.

• Changeparts can be cleaned and maintained offline while the machine is running. Externalized cleaning means more line uptime.

• Color-coded changeparts provide a visual indication of proper changeover.

On the other hand:

• Each time there is a change in the package, new changeparts must be purchased. This can get expensive fast. The cost of one set of changeparts for a bottling line can be $50,000 or more.

• Lead time for changeparts may be as little as two weeks but can be 12 weeks or more.

• Changeparts are generally stored offline. Time can be lost fetching them, parts can be lost or damaged and sets of changeparts can get mixed. If not properly designed, changing components can be even more time consuming than adjusting them.

Benefits of adjustable machines include:

• New or different package sizes can be accommodated quickly at no additional cost or lead time.

• Package dimensions will vary from specifications. A slightly oversized bottle may jam in a dedicated change part. Adjustable systems can better compensate for the variations.

• There is never a problem with the wrong parts being mounted on the machine.

On the other hand:

• Adjustable machines will generally require a higher level of skill to set up correctly. That is, instead of changing “dumb” parts, the operator must be more experienced to adjust the machine.

So, changeparts or adjustments? No need for argument, both have their place. Most machines will combine some of both. A plant with relatively stable package designs and long lead times might lean towards changeparts. Another plant, such as a contract packager, might need the ability to run different packages on short notice and prefer adjustable machines.

It’s not a question of right or wrong; it’s simply choosing the approach that makes most sense for you. F&BP