How to reduce downtime

by Jim Stahlman, senior packaging manager, POWER Engineers
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POWER Engineers

One of the biggest battles most companies face when dealing with production line changeovers from one product to another is the amount of lost production time that can result when getting the line operating efficiently after the changeover. Reducing changeover times can help get the line running at your target efficiencies.


Guiderails that adjust using a bolt and nut configuration, even if they are marked, can cause a lot of issues.

  • Base register the machines and the conveyor to one side whenever possible. That way only one side of the rails needs to be adjusted.
  • Minimize curves in the line and use drop-in change parts to change over the single curved rail.
  • Slant the side-by-side chain transfers so the guiderails run straight. Straight guiderails are much easier to change.

In the image above, red indicates guiderails set for smaller product and green indicates adjustment for larger product. This illustrates a guiderail adjustment on a straight transfer versus a slanted transfer, which allows for straight guiderails which are easier to adjust for changeovers.
  • Hand-crank guide brackets with counters (quick-adjust guiderail brackets like those depicted in the photo at the top of this page), while expensive, will pay for themselves in reduced downtime. Consider a human-machine interface (HMI) that shows the counter settings for each location to make the changeover simple for the operators.
  • Whenever possible, find guiderail height settings and styles that work across the entire range of products.

Machine changeover

When buying new machines or units, operations pay close attention to changeover between products.

  • Consider menu-driven automatic changeover options, which are available on many machines. These options are costly, but the reduced changeover time over the life of the machine can be a major cost savings.
  • Save labor costs and reduce changeover time with robotic handling options for unit operations. Many suppliers offer machines, line case erectors, case packers and palletizers with robotic arms to simplify changeover and increase reliability.
  • Look for machine options that include tool-free change parts for traditionally adjustable items such as feeders, label carriers and tracks. Changing these parts out so they don’t require adjustment saves a lot of time during changeover and startup.
  • Color-code fixed pin stops for height adjustment to reduce time and adjustment mistakes.

Product Considerations

Companies should always look for ways to standardize as many aspects of the product formats as possible.

  • Use the same sized closure on all products to eliminate changing over that portion of the line.
  • Use consistent label and coding locations on all case sizes to avoid moving the label or coder heads.
  • Hold packaging material suppliers to tight standards so fine-tuning of material issues is not required.

Many of the aforementioned considerations come from practical hands-on experience. It is always better to involve your equipment manufacturers, engineering consultants and manufacturing team to review historical challenges, identify options and then employ modifications and initiatives that will streamline the process and minimize downtime.

This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at

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