PACKAGING INDUSTRY FOCUS Automation stepping stones

Automated packaging machine specialist, Endoline, offers some simple pointers for SMEs looking to automate


t’s official; SME’s in the UK are on the up with growth and start-up business rates

returning to pre-crisis levels. Considered the back bone of the economy, SMEs contribute a staggering £1.2 trillion to the UK each year.* Now, in the face of a national living wage, coupled with the growth of affordable systems, SMEs are beginning to take a leap of faith into the fast paced world of automation. According to reports 2016 is set to be the

‘tipping point’ for manufacturing technology, with increasing numbers of companies embracing robotics and automation. While this rise in the manufacturing sector has sparked employment debates, companies are realising the potential to improve output and efficiencies through automation. While job roles will start to shift away from labour- intensive repetitive tasks to more intricate roles to optimise manufacturing processes and aid business development.

GET FLEXIBLE As a small company you may have to adapt your business several times to meet growing demand, so you may question investing in automation in case the system becomes obsolete within a couple of years. Wrong. Any automation supplier worth its salt will offer an adaptable solution to future proof your investment. Today many machines can be upgraded or retro-fitted with new technology to suit future requirements; many of our systems today have been in situ for almost 30 years and have adapted with the changing demands from our customers.

WHERE’S THE PAYBACK? For most, if not all SMEs, the return on investment (ROI) figures can be a real deal breaker. However, with careful planning, a 12- month ROI is attainable. A well thought out automated system can quickly turn an inefficient labour intensive operation into a cost effective high output production line. Only go for what you need – you don’t necessarily need a system with bells and whistles, but look for those that can suit the changing needs of your business. A quality provider of automation will help you calculate

the best solution for you based on your existing costs. Any downtime on production can have a detrimental effect on any business. So with this in mind it’s important to make sure you can install automation easily and be able to program it quickly so your production can run smoothly. If you have to rely on resources outside of your business you run the risk of a gap in production, which can have a direct impact on your profitability, so speak to your provider for regular on-site training and support packages.

BECOME LEANER There is much debate around automation and lean, but SMEs should put the myths to bed and focus on solutions. Implementing lean into manufacturing environments means that it really is an approach to solving manufacturing problems, and if the best solution to a particular problem involves automation, then that makes automation lean. Ultimately it’s about reducing errors and

defects, and error-proofing. Finding the right level of automation can enhance your lean initiatives in previously unconsidered ways, giving you new ways to reduce wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted effort when used in the right applications. It’s an age old saying, but when a company decides to automate they often feel that unless they have thousands of pounds to spend fully automating their packaging line then they might as well not bother. However, as a company we often find ourselves reminding customers that they can build up automation slowly. Look at a way of automation which brings flexibility to suit your growing needs - while lowering the risk level. Rather than replacing your workforce with a fully automated line ease your company into the concept – while keeping labour involved to work on the new, more productive packaging line.

USE A REPUTABLE COMPANY If in doubt, many people turn to the internet; we have even known first time buyers purchase automation equipment from eBay. However, if something goes wrong with that system you will find it difficult to purchase spare parts or find a reputable engineer to fix the problem. Purchase an automated system from a quality supplier, and don’t be put off if they work with bigger companies, chances are they will offer less technical systems for a lower price but for the same quality. *The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

Endoline T: 01767 316422 /AUTOMATION



Oversizing motors can improve energy efficiency


hen selecting motors for new installations, energy

efficiency can sometimes be improved by slightly oversizing the motor, instead of just following a recommendation from a motor sizing tool. In the majority of cases, a

wider choice of motors is available than the selection tool would have you believe, as each IEC motor frame size offers a variety of options in terms of output and torque. Variations in performance has implications on the internal design, such as the length of the motor core. By selecting a motor with a longer core, the total losses can be reduced. The copper losses increase slightly but the iron losses and the magnetising current are reduced, so the net result is an overall reduction of losses. A slightly oversized motor also increases the chance that the motor will be running at its most efficient duty, generally 80-90 per cent of maximum torque and 90-100 per cent of the speed. Motors are normally sized using a selection tool

such as DriveSize. This will help select an appropriate motor for the duty. However, it may be worth also trying a calculation that oversizes the motor by, say, 15 per cent, to see what happens when the selection tool calculates the overall efficiency of the system. It is possible that efficiency may be improved by as much as one or two per cent by the selection of a motor with a longer core. In the case of motors with long running hours, this will be well worth the effort, as the energy costs over a 30 year life will far exceed the purchase cost. The life cycle cost of an electric motor is much

more important than its purchase price. An electric motor in continuous duty consumes its own cost in energy during the first 30 days, irrespective of its rating. A motor with a longer core will contain more material and so, as a consequence, may cost slightly more to purchase. However, the energy costs over the lifecycle are more significant. A motor that is wasting one per cent of its energy over a 30 year life is a poor investment. It must be stressed that oversizing the motor does not produce an energy saving in all circumstances. The outcome depends on the individual installation and the calculation needs to be made on an individual basis. This way of looking at potential energy savings in

motor installations is especially appropriate when selecting motors for long running hours and a long expected service life, such as applications in the water industry or building services, or when designing systems to comply with the energy- related products directive (ErP).

Frank Griffith, Consultant Engineer, ABB T: 01925 741111


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