The supply chain always is a topic of conversation because virtually every industrial operation machine designer constantly is attempting to thoroughly understand operating conditions and create the most efficient, timely and economical manufacturing environment that can be used for converting raw materials into product, producing packaged products and delivering finished products to the consumer. This is especially true in all segments of the beverage industry.

From experience and firsthand observations made during comprehensive tours through production plants and distribution centers, it became obvious that more emphasis is placed on the delivery aspect of the supply chain — making sure the retail or wholesale marketplace is supplied with the “right product/package, at the right time and in the right quantity” — an age-old phrase, but very true in actual practice. If making this phrase true does not happen, knowing what happened and why is important. After all, the goal is to produce and sell.

Putting processing aside, where automation has all but eliminated the labor complement, normally this does not have a significant impact. In distribution, where pre-distribution and routing systems have improved deliveries and reduced out-of-stock situations, the focus instead must be directed to the production of packaged products. The reference has been made before because without the production segment of the supply chain, there would be no product to deliver; therefore, the onus clearly falls on manufacturing to make sure that delays and breakdowns are minimized or prevented at best, and to ensure that line speeds are maintained.

From an operations perspective, packaged production line capacity and capability in a manufacturing facility become the key elements of the supply chain. Machinery and equipment were designed and configured using a line-speed calculation method that can be altered because of condition changes. However, operating conditions, modifications to models with component parts, aging equipment and improved functionality also have contributed to line speed alterations in many situations. With advanced technology and new methods for establishing line speeds, there is reason to believe productivity can be improved.

The other important factors involved in aging equipment, in addition to line speeds and modulation, are obsolescence and functionality, which have been and will continue to become more important, if not critical.

To illustrate the point, one example is the design and creation of the production line with individual pieces of equipment manufactured by different companies. How do you interface (modulate) equipment from multiple sources to be efficiently compatible with function, speed and quality? There have many calculating methods and theories used for the design, installation and operation of production lines; however, the one concept most generally used involves the advanced percentage approach.

For example, a can line with a filler speed of 1,000 cans per minute (cpm) (2,500 cans per hour) must have the next work station (seamer) capable of accepting containers at the filler discharge rate and should be discharging at a faster rate or it will generate container backup on the line. In reality, the situation requires the availability of an accumulation table, the size of which always becomes debatable. The rate at which the seamer must accept and/or discharge containers would be a percentage higher than the filler speed — this is the advanced percentage. To some, this might sound like design 101, but this approach, especially with the advent of higher-speed machinery, requires manufacturer coordination and consultation because of the increased complexity of package lines.

Variable manufacturers, with different speed, function and compatibility factors, present a difficult scenario for packaged production line configuration and speed projects. The numerous steps in the process are time-consuming and expensive. Is there a better way?

For several decades, beverage production line designers have been developing concepts that are what you would expect in the 21st century. The design process has been transitioning toward simplification, efficiency, compatibility, maximizing uptime and making machine speed determination an integrated part of an entire line. Ways in which to accomplish this include eliminating archaic methods of calculating individual machine speeds, coordinating different design philosophies and refraining from imposing operating conditions that require accumulation tables.

Machinery manufacturers have been and will continue to create all work stations for a packaged production line — from container input to finished package product discharge to the warehouse or shipping dock. What does this do? By having a single-source provider, all machine speeds along the entire line are modulated (all slow down at the same time if a problem is detected anywhere along the line) and no accumulation would be necessary. It becomes a matter of setting a speed range for an entire line rather than for each piece of equipment.

Plus, the beverage producer has an advantage: concern about individual machine speeds could be history, even at high speeds. BI