Equipment integration is an important piece of the changeover puzzle that shouldn't be overlooked. Packaging lines typically contain a wide variety of machines from many different vendors. While there are standard types of equipment, packaging machine builders tend to specialize and make a specific type of machine for unique applications.

"Each machine from different manufacturers will change over differently," warns Stanley Johnson, executive vice president of Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. (Brewerton, NY). "They will use different tools or handles, or have different methods for indicating change adjustments. And, if some of the equipment is documented in inches and others in millimeters, it will be important to highlight the differences for the operator."

For large systems, Johnson recommends assigning one person to document how to make the changes for the entire system. "Have this person coordinate with vendors at the time of purchase so that each company uses similar naming conventions for ‘product select' on their operation control screens," says Johnson. "If you ask for this at the time of purchase, the cost is much less than having to implement the change after the equipment is installed."

Each machine builder should list all tools and parts required for each change in its operating and maintenance manual. For example, Johnson says product select "A1" may refer to a 5-inch product run on the filler. The case packer may run five different pack-pattern variations of this one product, so the product select on the case packer could indicate choices A1-1 through A1-5. And, the palletizer may run different pallet patterns on each of these variations, so the product select could be A1-2-1.

"Having a common method for product select will assist the operator in first choosing, and then verifying, that they are running the correct setting," Johnson points out. "On palletizers, especially, it often helps if the product-select screen can be combined with a picture showing the pallet pattern chosen. This will help increase uptime and reduce costly errors and damaged product."