The ergonomic design of a narrower packaging line allows easy access to machine parts and simplifies cleaning. Source: Bosch

When modern technology works well, people often don’t notice it at all. It simply becomes part of their life. People use their cell phones, computers and other devices without a second thought as to how they work. But when that technology breaks down or requires constant maintenance, frustration builds as people recognize what they once took for granted.

In packaging, specifically wrapping, operators want to simply turn on a machine and not give it a second thought. When bakers trust that their equipment will efficiently and effectively wrap products, they are free to worry about other things. Equipment manufacturers aim to create machines that are easy to use and easy to maintain.

User-friendly design, safety, sanitation, remote maintenance and training are all key factors to keeping wrappers running smoothly.

“Baking and snack food producers are asking for packaging equipment that is simple to operate, flexible, easy to clean and allows quick changeover from one product to another,” said Mark Evangelista, brand manager, SleekWrapper.

Dennis Gunnell, vice-president of sales and marketing, Formost Fuji, said equipment manufacturers need to make machines safer and simpler for today’s operators because their tasks in the bakery can be so varied.

“They’re asked to do so many different things that they can’t sit at one machine and operate it,” Mr. Gunnell said. “They’re usually running multiple pieces of equipment at the same time, so the quicker they can diagnose a problem and take immediate action, the sooner they’ll get the machine back on-line.”

While the list of complex demands for today’s equipment grows, manufacturers are finding ways to keep things simple and operator-friendly.
Touchscreens allow bakers to streamiline production processes.

Tactful tech
Packaging operators shouldn’t have to learn a new language or skillset to run wrappers. Like the rest of a bakery production line, the objective is to make technology intuitive.

Touchscreens have become ubiquitous in today’s world, and packaging equipment is no exception. Together with servo-driven machines, touchscreens have become the new normal. SleekWrapper machines are all servo-driven and come equipped with a 7-inch color touchscreen. Mr. Evangelista said they allow operators to save and recall settings. Modern HMIs allow easy changeover from one product to another by saving and recalling recipe and wrapping settings, whereas older versions of the machines required manual adjustments.

Kelly Meer, product manager, Bosch, said the HMI 4.0 on the Pack 403 machine is user-centric with features found on any smartphone. Users can pinch to zoom and swipe to change. Five years ago, Mr. Meer explained, touchscreens on packaging equipment were designed with different dynamics and screen structures that could potentially confuse an operator.

Today, Bosch’s wrappers are designed with a measurable and definable scale etched onto the physical equipment that corresponds with the HMI’s documentation program. When rolling out a new product, measurements can be easily saved in the HMI and replicated.

“Every adjustment has a number, every adjustment is reproducible, and everything is documented in the HMI,” Mr. Meer said. “All of this can then be backed up and protected. Bakers need to think: ‘If this machine dies tomorrow, where are all the settings written down? How do I get the next machine to run like the last one?’”

At interpack 2017, Cavanna Packaging introduced its ZeroX model flowwrapper, capable of wrapping piles or slugs of wire-cut cookies. Bill Kehrli, Cavanna’s vice-president, sales and marketing, said preprogrammed HMIs rely on language-free touchscreens.

“It doesn’t matter if the operator is in Pakistan, Mexico or France, for example,” Mr. Kehrli said. “Everything is icon-based so the operators can navigate through them like the lights on the car.”

With the touch of an icon, the wrapper will automatically changeover in two minutes with no need to switch parts.

Technology advances also enhance the efficient design of equipment. For example, servo motors take out the timing factor with chains and belts so mechanics and operators can access all parts of machines.

Bosch’s Pack 403, introduced at Pack Expo 2017 in Las Vegas, is designed to be more ergonomic for its operators. The company narrowed the machine by 10 inches to improve access.

“If you’ve got this big wide machine and you’re running this tiny narrow product down the middle of it, there are a lot of parts in the way,” Mr. Meer said. “A big focus at Bosch is improving the ergonomics and the user experience. If it’s easier to work on and there are fewer things in the way, there’s less waste.”

Technology and operator-focused design are creating new ergonomic designs that also enhance the ability to clean any machine.