Many smaller packagers look to tabletop packaging equipment to help efficiently prepare a range of products for the shelf. One of the most popular pieces of equipment to achieve such goals is the tabletop filling machine. And one of the most asked questions regarding the machine is how fast the machine will work, or how many bottles per minute can be filled.
Tabletop filling machines can use all of the same principles that automatic machines use, such as filling to a level or filling by volume. For the most part, tabletop machines can also handle the same viscosities as automatic machinery. The difference is in the automation level. Tabletop, and other semi-automatic equipment, will require the operator to interact with the machine with each and every fill cycle. A tabletop filler requires an operator to place bottles, initiate the fill cycle and remove the bottles with each cycle.
So where an automatic machine will take a set amount of time for each cycle the cycle time for each cycle of a tabletop filler will depend on how quickly the operator moves. For this reason, estimating bottles per minute on a tabletop bottle filler is much more difficult than on an automatic machine. However, it is not impossible.
On an automatic machine, if a cycle takes ten seconds, then you will always get six cycles per minute. If the machine has eight fill heads, the equation for bottles per minute is simple: Eight bottles per cycle x six cycles per minute equals 48 bottles per minute. Now let's imagine a tabletop filling machine with four fill heads. We have the four bottles per cycle, but how do we reach the cycles per minute?
Assuming no distractions or other job tasks are required, the operator may be able to load four bottles on the machine in 5 seconds. He then initiates the fill cycle, which takes ten seconds. Another five seconds is required to remove the bottles from the machine. The role of the operator now takes the cycle time to twenty seconds. Four fill heads x 3 cycles per minute gives you twelve bottles per minute on the tabletop machine.
However, human operators do not always operate at their most efficient. Long days can take a toll, replenishing empty bottles may add time to some cycles throughout the day. Even someone walking past an engaging the operator in conversation may slow down that cycle speed. In the above example, twelve bottles per minute is achievable, but that number may go up with a very efficient operator or down with a very distracted operator.
Of course, bottle size, product viscosity and number of fill heads can also change the cycle time. NPACK can help to estimate the number of bottles per minute that can be filled with a tabletop machine, but it really depends on the operator of the machine, the factors just mentioned above and a number of other details for a true number to be reached.
While speed is almost always increased over hand filling bottles with a tabletop filling machines, packagers also receive other benefits from these simple liquid fillers. Whether filling by volume, level or some other method, the accuracy and consistency of the fills will not be affected by long shifts, tired workers or bad vision. Tabletop filling machines allow a packager to add not just speed, but also reliability to the filling process.