Each year as the weather turns colder and temperatures drop, we like to remind our packagers that some adjustments may be necessary to packaging machinery, specifically filling equipment. While not true for everyone, especially those lucky enough to live in warmer climates (this is the time of year that we get jealous of some of our packagers...) temperature can have an affect on product and viscosity. When troubleshooting filling machinery, packagers must keep in mind that weather may be a cause of changes in performance.
Even though almost all packaging will take place in a temperature controlled building or facility, even transport and storage in a cooler climate might affect some products. Take, for example, motor oil, which will thin out, or become less viscous, when temperature increases. While temperature changes to products being packaged are less likely to be as extreme as what oil in a vehicle might see, even slight changes of temperatures can make some products flow more freely or less freely, based on a rise or drop. So what does this mean for packagers that experience changes in product viscosity due to storage or production floor temperature in the winter? Quite simply, identify the issue and change the filling machinery settings.
With automatic filling machines, changes in the viscosity or flow of a product during colder months may require additional cycle time for the machine. In other words, fill times will increase. Troubleshooting issues occur when packagers overlook temperature or viscosity changes and make adjustments based on other possible causes, creating additional issues outside of the viscosity change. Packagers must identify changes and take temperature and viscosity into account when troubleshooting. Generally speaking, incomplete fills or fills that are not level (depending on the filling principle) during colder months may indicate a change in viscosity. Check not only the filling machine, but the temperature of the product and the storage of the product as well. Adjustments on automatic liquid fillers can be done quickly and easily on the touchscreen operator interface, but may require some trial and error to reach ideal fills when viscosity changes occur. Semi-automatic machinery may require a longer manual fill time or the adjustment of simple timers, but the process should still be quick and easy while requiring some trial and error.
Of course, such changes might again be necessary when the seasons move back into Spring and Summer. To resolve the issue long term, packagers can remove the machinery from the equation and focus on the production floor environment and storage of the product, where this is feasible. Keeping the product and the production floor within a certain temperature range at all times will help stop changes in product viscosity.
While the issue of viscosity change due to outdoor temperature will not affect a majority of packagers, or even a large minority, it is important to keep in mind as we enter the winter months. Don't overlook Mother Nature when troubleshooting a filling machine! To our family of packagers bracing for colder weather, stay warm! And for all of our packagers, remember NPACK Packaging Specialists are always available to assist in troubleshooting packaging equipment.