Technology is fickle. The latest and greatest invention can quickly become obsolete, replaced by a new iteration or an alternative method of accomplishing the same task. In packaging, as we have seen machine technology come and go, case erectors have remained a constant. These no-nonsense machines provide the essential task of setting up and sealing cases, and are often an entry point for end-of-line packaging automation. Why do case erectors continue to be a vital component on so many packaging lines today? There are multiple reasons.
Case erectors increase line flexibility and reduce changeover downtime
As package design has become a marketing tool to attract consumers, packagers are challenged to implement new materials, containers, and package types, and often in very short timeframes. Packaging machines that can easily adapt to new production parameters reduce the cost and time for product changeovers, providing a marketing edge.
An end-of-line packaging operation with highly flexible, separate but integrated components–case erector, robot packer, top case sealer and palletizer–offers a complete solution that readily adjusts to product changes. These machines can be reconfigured without capital expenditures for retooling that can be required to run new product styles on all-in-one erector-packer-sealers and wraparound packers.
Case erectors can erect and seal a broad range of KD sizes and styles including trays and display cases. They can be adjusted to run different size KDs in a matter of minutes. For packagers running multiple KD sizes or who change products frequently, automatic changeover can be implemented. Auto-changeover packages typically include motorized adjustments that are activated by selecting the new package dimensions at the operator station.
Square cases are critical to line productivity and product integrity
Another benefit of case erector automation is improved case quality. Case erectors are designed with features to make square cases, even if your KDs are improperly slotted, band-marked or warped from poor storage. (read more here) Case erectors are designed to accommodate KDs from recycled stock and form them into square, strong, well-sealed shippers.
Why are square cases so important? Square cases enable the packer, whether a human, robot, drop packer or place packer, to easily insert the primary packages into the case. Unsquare and poorly formed and sealed cases can cause product damage and/or lost production if they cause equipment jams.
Square cases are also basic to pallet integrity. Pallet strength, and ultimately the protection of your products, rests on the strength and unity of your pallet loads. Pallet contents can shift during transport and settle in storage, and square cases provide the structural strength to protect the products inside. Pallets built from unsquare corrugated cases have up to 30% less structural strength with the potential for failure to the detriment of the product load.
Ease of operation and maintenance
Today’s case erectors are smart machines. Most erectors on the market (and all A-B-C case erectors) have sensors that monitor functions and controllers that automate operation. They are equipped self-diagnostics that pinpoint machine issues for quick resolution. They are designed for efficient hot melt adhesive and/or tape replenishment and routine maintenance can be managed by the line operator.
Case erectors are a practical upgrade for low speed lines
When evaluating a manual line for automation opportunities, case erecting is a logical choice. Setting up and sealing corrugated cases by hand is repetitive and tedious, and the average manual case erecting speed ranges between 3-5 cases per minute. Once that speed is exceeded, it makes sense to automate. Other justifications include reduced reliance on the labor pool and improved case quality for better product protection. Low speed case erectors’ conservative price tags make them easy to justify and their compact footprints take up little space on the packaging line. Typically packagers can expect a 6-12 month return on investment with this upgrade.
What’s the future for case erectors?
Case erectors continue to be an integral piece of end-of-line packaging automation. They are easily integrated components that enable line flexibility, improve production and deliver quality cases to the packaging line. Machines are available in a wide range of speeds from entry-level to high volume production to suit many industries and applications. Over time, case erectors will continue to evolve to offer even more features to address packagers changing requirements and deliver flexibility, ease of use, and value to the production line.