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Maintenance Costs in Pet Food Packaging

Co-Packing Roundtable: Part 3

  • pet food packaging maintenance costs

As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is true of packaging machine maintenance. When a motor fails or a machine breaks down, it results in unplanned downtime and, usually, the high cost of emergency maintenance support. If you’ve ever experienced this, you might have asked yourself “could I have prevented this from happening?” Often, the answer is yes.  

Taking a proactive approach to maintenance can reduce unplanned downtime and the long-term expense of maintaining your packaging equipment. In today’s post, six packaging experts will explore several tactics that co-packers can employ to better manage their machine maintenance costs including parts and service agreements, purposeful equipment design, and remote troubleshooting capabilities. For advice managing capital and production costs, visit the BW Packaging Systems pet food blog

Today’s roundtable includes:

  • William Graf, Managing Partner for Design Group
  • Jan-Pieter Grootendorst, Sales & Marketing Expert for BW Flexible Systems
  • Daniel LoRusso, Director of System Sales in North America for BW Integrated Systems
  • Robert Redman, Managing Partner of Food and Beverage for Design Group
  • Todd Sandell, Sales Executive for BW Flexible Systems
  • Jeremy Stith, Partner for Design Group

Additional credentials for each of these experts are provided at the end of this post.

How can co-packers keep machine maintenance costs low?

Grootendorst: Be proactive. Maintenance should be approached like a planned event unlike downtime, which often occurs without warning. For example, when we sell a machine to a customer, we provide a manual that defines the optimal process and schedule for maintenance tasks like cleaning, lubricating, and making other adjustments to the machine. Customers who complete these tasks within the recommended time frame experience less downtime and lower maintenance costs.

Graf: Some of the manufacturers we work with are looking more into predictable maintenance and artificial intelligence tools. For example, your machine would be able to anticipate and warn you when a motor is going to fail. Or they might invest in tablets and HMIs that allow the operator to troubleshoot with the OEM remotely. It’s innovative, but is it worth the investment for a co-packer? Maybe or maybe not; if they can’t afford to hire people to do the maintenance, maybe it’s worth it.  

LoRusso: Preventative maintenance is all about selecting the right machine, comprised of the right components and finding a partner that understands the lifecycle of the machines. Each maintenance package should be specific to each co-packers’ needs.

What should co-packers look for in parts and service agreements?

Sandell: It’s important to determine how available and accessible parts will be to a co-packer. Part of this is preventative; you want to keep enough wear parts on hand so you can replace parts quickly and continue operating with limited downtime. The other part is how quickly can you get technical support and parts from the OEM? Having the right agreement in place helps you resolve these situations faster.

LoRusso: The customers we work with are often interested in lifecycle support.  This essentially means we will provide them with the parts and services they’ll need throughout the life of the equipment. This includes maintaining spare parts lists, maintenance procedures, pre-scheduled audits, and so on. Co-packers should work with their supplier to come up with a package that supports their long-term maintenance needs, investment strategy and overall production needs.

How does equipment design impact packaging machine maintenance costs?

LoRusso: Packaging line design is not just about the flow and placement of equipment, but the selection of the right equipment with the right design. Individual equipment designs should account for the frequency of specific maintenance tasks and provide efficient access for maintenance personnel. This will limit the time and duration required to perform frequent maintenance tasks. For example, we want to make lubrication or frequent wear part exchange easy to access. If you’re required to remove guards or major machine components for frequent maintenance, you may be lowering your entire line’s efficiency due to bad machine design.

Sandell: The trend today is to reduce machinery components that need to be maintained and add features that operators can maintain without getting maintenance people involved. An example of this would be quick change and automation of equipment that does not require tools so that it can be done by an operator or a changeover person rather than bringing in a maintenance person who is usually more skilled than is necessary to change a machine over.

How does remote support affect the costs associated with unplanned downtime?

Redman: When we consider unplanned downtime, we have to think about the skillsets of the available maintenance personnel. As equipment gets more technologically advanced, the required maintenance skillsets change and many facilities are located in rural areas where it may be difficult to draw these new skillsets into that geography.

Stith: In addition to the predictive maintenance tools that were mentioned, another feature that is on the rise is OEM remote troubleshooting. By granting your OEM remote access to your facility and equipment, co-packers can have standby technical support to resolve downtime faster. Especially with COVID-19, more manufacturers are considering remote troubleshooting. It’s a cost that co-packers should consider – is there enough value in this service?

Grootendorst: Troubleshooting with a support technician remotely via your machine’s HMI is something that has great value. It eliminates the downtime and costs associated with having to fly a technician out to your site. With remote support, you can have a technician dial in and solve the issue right away. Almost 90% of the issues we see from our customers can be solved this way.

Did you find this content useful? Check out our first post on planning & capital costs or our second post on operational & production costs.

About the Experts

The BW Packaging Systems Pet Food Blog is built upon cooperation and sharing of information between experts across the pet food industry including equipment manufacturers, packaging line integrators, engineering consultants, private label brands, co-packers and more. This post includes insights from:

Design Group

Design Group is a premier system integrator for a wide range of filling and packaging line solutions with extensive experience in material handling, printing, labeling, inspection systems, secondary packaging requirements and management information systems. They provide complete production systems, line upgrades and experienced professionals ready to complement their client’s project team. In this post, you heard from:

Robert Redman
Robert Redman is the Managing Partner of Food and Beverage market sector for Barry-Wehmiller Design Group.  He brings 28 years of food and beverage experience to his company and its clients and is well-versed in packaging, process, controls and facility integration projects. Rob has provided oversight of multiple projects in the pet food industry including wet pet food, dry pet food, and treats production.

William Graf
William Graf is a Managing Partner for the Northeast Region at Barry-Wehmiller Design Group. He brings 20+ years of relevant experience and has in several capacities including project manager, engineering manager, director, partner and managing partner.  

Jeremy Stith
Jeremy Stith is a Partner at Barry-Wehmiller Design Group.  He brings 17 years of food and beverage experience to his company and its clients and is well-versed in packaging, process, controls and facility integration projects.  Jeremy is especially familiar with pet food packaging solutions, as he has completed multiple projects in the pet food industry including wet pet food, dry pet food, and treats production.

BW Flexible Systems

BW Flexible Systems is a leading producer of weighing and bag filling systems,  SYMACH palletizers, conveying systems and wrapping machines for pet food  and animal feed. They also have a wide range of vertical baggers and horizontal flow wrappers to package treats, bones and other pet accessories, customized to meet each customer’s production, package style and economic requirements. In this post, you heard from:

Jan-Pieter Grootendorst, M.Sc.
Jan-Pieter Grootendorst is the Global Strategic Marketing and Innovation Leader of Bag Filling and Palletizing at BW Flexible Systems. Since 2018, he has been the EMEA APAC sales leader for BW Flexible Systems, SYMACH bag filling and palletizing. He brings multiple years of pet food packaging and palletizing experience to the global team.

Todd Sandell
Todd Sandell is a Sales Executive at BW Flexible Systems. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the petfood industry and packaging/palletizing systems through product development, product management, marketing, applications, business unit management and consultative sales.

BW Integrated Systems

BW Integrated Systems is an industry leader in the design and manufacture of end-of-line packaging equipment and robotic automation solutions, as well as the execution of integrated packaging systems. They provide several solutions to the pet food industry including material handling and palletizing, depalletizing, bliss and tray forming/erecting, cartoning and case packing, and systems integration services. In this post, you heard from:

Daniel LoRusso
Daniel LoRusso is the Director of System Sales, North America at BW Integrated Systems. He has over 15 years of industry experience and has led project management in both the US and EMEA. Previously, he was Director of Operations for our Loveland CO manufacturing facility for 7 years. His Primary role is to bring cohesion to commercial teams, alignment between sales executive, and aids in the collection and understanding of client’s needs.