5 questions to answer before requesting a packaging machine proposal
Think it's time to contact a packaging machine manufacturer for a price quote? Great, let's talk. But first, take some time to make sure the high-level parameters of your project are defined. Here's why.
Packaging machine manufacturers need to know very specific details of your project in order to provide the most accurate recommendations and pricing. Packaging equipment is not usually 'off-the-shelf'; each machine is tailored to the unique specifications of the customer. What this means for you: Be prepared for a bunch of questions when requesting pricing.
To help you get started, here's a list of 5 common questions you can expect, and tips for arriving at the answers.
1. Do you use premade pouches or rollstock film?
A flexible packaging machine can either form your bags from a large roll of plastic film (called rollstock), or it can fill and seal bags that are already made.
Both packaging material types are purchased through a film supplier, which is a company that specializes in creating or converting packaging films and bags.
Here's the difference between the two formats:
- Rollstock film is a large spool of flat plastic packaging film wrapped around a hollow core. This large roll of film is formed by a packaging machine into the bag style of your choice. In general, rollstock film is the most economical choice and can be processed at higher speeds.
- Premade bags are prefabricated by a film supplier, meaning they arrive at your facility already formed into a bag shape. A packaging machine then fills and seals these bags. In general, the cost per bag for premades is higher but provides a more premium finished look.
2. What are your bag styles?
Many different bag styles can be produced on flexible packaging machines. Below is a short summary of the most popular types:
- Pillow bags are the most widely-used and economical packaging format, comprised of two flat panels sealed together on the top and bottom with a vertical seal down the back. Think chip bags or small packets of coffee found in hotel rooms.
- Doypacks are stand-up pouches with an oval-shaped base. This premium bag type is becoming increasingly popular for specialty food products.
- Quad seal bags have a rectangular bottom and can stand unassisted. This bag type has two side gussets and two panels joined together with four vertical seals, providing a more structured bag and modular look. Quad seal bags are often found in the premium section of the coffee aisle.
- Flat bottom bags are similar to quad seal bags, featuring two gussets, but only have a single vertical seal. Coffee bags are often this style.
- Gusseted bags are similar to pillow bags but have side gussets, offering more internal space.
- Three side seal bags are flat pouches sealed on three sides.
- Sachets are small, flat 4-side sealed packets. Think small single-serving packets of sugar and ketchup.
- Stick packs are very narrow pillow bags, used things like single-serve drink mixes.
3. Do you have any packaging speed requirements?
Packaging machine speeds represent how many finished bags can be completed by the equipment in a certain period of time.
Speeds are usually given in bags per minute (bpm). This number represents how many finished bags the machine can complete per minute.
The packaging machine speeds achievable for your particular project will depend heavily on your product and its properties, your plant environment, your bag type, and the skill of equipment operators.
If you have a goal of a certain number of bags per hour, day, week, or year, run the math to calculate the equivalent bags per minute. In general, if your production requirements are intermittent or are only a handful per minute, you would likely be better served with a semi-automatic or manual packaging process. A fully automated solution would be overkill, both in speed and cost.
4. What are your bag specifications?
Knowing the exact specifications of your bag or bags is vitally important to spec the appropriate packaging machine.
Each packaging machine has pre-defined parameters, and your bag sizes and types will be what informs the recommendations of the packaging machine manufacturer. Here's the information your OEM will ask for:
- Package dimensions. For flat bags, width and length are all that's necessary. For bags that have gussets or stand up, width, length, and depth are required.
- Package weights or volumes. For solids and powder products, how heavy is your filled package? For liquids, what is the volume of the filled package?
Most global packaging machine manufacturers represent their parameters in metric units (usually mm or mL), but imperial units in inches, ounces, and pounds are fine as well.
5. What are your product specifications?
A packaging system must be also tailored to the specifications of your product. Apart from a general description of your product, expect the following questions about its physical properties:
- Solids: What is the average piece size (dimensions) and weight? Is the product sticky, dry, fresh, or frozen?
- Liquids: What is its viscosity? (More on liquids and viscosity here)
- Powders: What is its bulk density? Does the product flow freely? (More on powders and bulk density here)
- Filling temperature: When your product is filled into bags, will it be hot, frozen, or room temperature? (Expressed in degrees C or F)
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