The immediate identification and correction of bottlenecks along the manufacturing line are critical factors in streamlining efficiency and increasing profitability in the processing and packaging of food products, according to PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

For many companies, the instinct is to minimize, minimize, minimize—reducing cleaning and changeover time. But in the rush to eliminate extra steps, companies cannot overlook valuable additions. The adoption of equipment and initiatives to improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is essential to reduce bottlenecks, maintain the integrity of operations and increase cost savings.

PMMI says one of the best examples to illustrate this point is Food Engineering’s 2014 webinar, “OEE Opportunity Calculator: On-line Feasibility Tool for Production Line Improvement.” A manufacturer applied the OEE Opportunity Calculator developed by the Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence (AIOE) to improve the efficiency of a bottle filling line. The simple Microsoft Excel-based program projected a 5 percent improvement in OEE would generate $1.1 million in savings, a 10 percent improvement would save $2.3 million, and a 25 percent improvement would save $5.8 million.

According to PMMI’sTom Egan, vice president of industry services, once a bottleneck is identified,  there are two ways to unblock it. One method is to decrease input ahead of the process where the bottleneck occurs. The other is to increase the efficiency of the bottleneck step in the supply chain. In general, increasing efficiency is a better option because decreasing input means slowing down the production line, which can be costly.

To maximize efficiency, Egan says companies should embrace optimization and packaging automation to streamline operations and cut costs. Because automated systems are reliable and consistent in producing given amounts of throughput in a specified amount of time, taking advantage of automated technologies can enhance a company’s ability to stay ahead of competitors.

“Another way to increase efficiency is to take a more holistic approach by aiming to improve OEE,” Egan says.“By focusing on OEE dashboards, which evaluate processes based on availability, performance and quality, manufacturers can better manage and improve existing packaging processes. When used in conjunction with human-machine interface [HMI] systems, OEE dashboards allow the integrated design concept to minimize downtime and optimize production flow.”

Utilizing simulation technologies can also enhance packaging line efficiency. Food manufacturers can first manipulate computer models as opposed to directly adjusting their production lines. Using simulated models is easier and more cost effective than altering the actual packaging process, and provides insight into the causes of bottlenecks and inefficiencies throughout the supply chain. 

Companies looking to streamline their operations and reduce bottlenecks in their supply chains can find the latest solutions at PACK EXPO Las Vegas held September 28-30, 2015.

 At the debut of PACK EXPO East in Philadelphia last week, attendees  found new solutions to help streamline operations. This September’s PACK EXPO Las Vegas will also be a destination for food manufacturers to find the latest technologies to reduce bottlenecks in their packaging lines. The show will feature aisles of innovations that food industry professionals can use to maximize the efficiency of their product lines and enhance OEE. In addition, PACK EXPO Las Vegas will offer opportunities for attendees to learn about relevant trends through a variety of educational programs.