Digital controls not only assist in creating a more flexible packaging line, but they also help keep the packaging line running more efficiently. Packaging recipes of different configurations can be programmed into the system, but integrated lines with digital controls can also feed data up and down the line to ensure that product is always within specification and running at the correct speeds. 

“With our packaging cell from weight to case packer, we can feed information both forward and backward to ensure good processing line efficiency,” said Jeff Almond, Heat and Control industry manager, snack food packaging, of Heat and Control/Ishida’s equipment. “We automatically adjust air fill on bagmakers during production to ensure good case fit, and the seal check communicates with the case packer to create seamless bag handling.” 

Data can also help snack manufacturers prevent waste at such a critical moment in their production. Waste in the packaging department means a manufacturer has lost everything that went into that finished product: ingredients, packaging, and the labor and energy. With snack manufacturers running faster than ever before, preventing waste is critical, and digital tools play a role. 

“Generally, the biggest challenge in today’s world of smaller pack sizes is manufacturers’ need to run the same SKU much faster than before,” said Simon Hill, group solution specialist, packaging, TNA Solutions. “This presents different challenges in different ways, but the main one is when trying to increase output, waste percentages can also go up as a trade-off.” 

This can look like bags not being sealed properly or weight accuracy being off, sometimes even both, he pointed out. By collecting data, TNA can keep plant operators informed as to what may be causing any fluctuations in bag weights or alert them to product that is trapped in the bags’ end seals, allowing them to correct the issue and maintain the output levels. 

As the labor issue persists but consumers look for variety and multipacks, snack manufacturers are being pushed to invest in automation and adopt technologies they may have been hesitant to in the past. Luckily technology advancements have made automation safer, faster and more efficient than ever. With the right plan, technology and digital controls, snack manufacturers can automate their way into increased sales.

This article is an excerpt from the September 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Snack Packaging, click here.