An important aspect of packaging automation is the method a fulfillment center uses to secure items in a carton. Items need to be held securely in place in order to avoid damage during transportation and handling. But beyond just securing products, there are also considerations to be made regarding environmental sustainability and the customer opening experience when it comes to choosing how items are secured.
Typical methods for securing items involve the use of void fill materials such as inflated air bags, packaging peanuts made from polystyrene foam or grain- starch, paper, bubble wrap, and stretch wrap. Each of these methods offer unique advantages and have each benefited from varying levels of popularity through the years. But many fulfillment centers are cutting back on the use of plastics and paper in an attempt to be more environmentally friendly and gain the associated public relations boon that comes from being perceived as a “green” company. Companies are also seeking alternative methods to traditional void fill, because void fill machines can be expensive, often require a greater integration effort, and create a lot of waste the end-user has to dispose of at the delivery end of the transaction.
If a carton is tasked with carrying multiple items, stretch wrapping the items together or inserting void fill material for cushioning items is an appropriate solution. But for single items going into a carton in an automated packaging line, one of the best ways to secure an item is by using fugitive glue. This is the type of glue used to secure credit cards to a mailing document. Fugitive glue is generally safe to handle, comes in a variety of tack levels, and is always removable with minimal damage to the surfaces to which it is applied. In a packing automation operation, fugitive glue can be applied to the bottom of a carton, just before an item is inserted.
Items can be inducted into the carton manually or automatically. Manual processes are generally simple and require minimal or no automation. Automatic insertion processes can include ‘dropping’ an item onto a pad, or into an empty carton or inserting an item in an empty carton from either side. No matter what process is used for inserting the ordered item into the carton, fugitive glue can secure it in place, while enabling a clean waste-free presentation of the product to the customer.
The amount and pattern of the fugitive glue can be easily controlled by a PLC controlled solenoid valve, but if an automated glue machine is being considered for a packaging automation line, it is imperative that the glue machine has the interfaces to enable the Warehouse Control System software to signal problems like fugitive glue level low, machine fault, and machine ready. Visibility into the machine minimizes down time, readily identifies machine failures, and enables the kind of remote system support that should be expected in a top-tier packaging automation operation installation.
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