In most cases, even a single product will be packaged in several different sized containers, and many packagers will produce, prepare and sell a number of different products. Luckily, automated packaging machinery can be manufactured to handle a range of products and containers, so in most cases a single packaging line will work for all of the products and packages. Changeover, in this context, refers to the process of moving a production line from one product or package to another. Though the steps will differ based on the design of the packaging machinery, we will take a look at the typical changeover process.
Changing over a product will be slightly more simple than changing over a bottle or other container, in that the only piece of packaging machinery that will directly handle the product is the filling machine. Packagers will typically run through a filling machine cleaning process before changing products, though this may not always be true. The cleaning process may require some disassembly to clear the product pathway and avoid cross contamination from product to product. However, many automatic liquid fillers will include a CIP, or clean-in-place, system that will allow the cleaning process to be completed with the push of a button.
From here, filler settings may need to be adjusted if the products vary at all in viscosity or other aspects (for example, if one product foams but the other does not). Most automated machines will include an interface and a control panel in one location that will allow the operator to quickly and easily adjust fill times, indexing times, dive times and other settings crucial to the performance of the machinery. In addition, many of these machines will include recipe screens, allowing all of the settings for a particular product to be recalled by entering a simply number on the correct screen. Once the setting are complete, the bulk supply for the new product can be hooked to the machine and production can begin to run again.
Changing over the container means adjusting not just the liquid filler, but every other component of the packaging line as well, making the process slightly more complex. First, the conveyors for the packaging system will need to be changed over to accommodate the new bottle sizes, both height and width if necessary. These changes are normally simple hand knob adjustments that will allow guiderails to be slid up and down as well in and out, though some models may require the loosening and tightening of bolts. Once the conveyor is adjusted for the new container, each individual machine will need to be adjusted as well.