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Fluid Filling Liquid Filling SolutionsNot long ago, while plugging away at my keyboard one Thursday morning in a bit of a frenzy to wrap up a proposal for a client, my phone rang. On the other end of the line was the voice of a younger sounding woman who introduced herself as Nicole.  It didn’t take much in the way of conversation for me to realize that Nicole needed some help. She had launched a small essential oil business out of her kitchen some eight months earlier and, after generating tremendous demand through social media and farmers’ markets, for the handful of products she offered she was beginning to feel like a victim of her own success.  Simply put, she couldn’t keep up and she was beginning to realize that weighing, filling, capping, and labeling her product all by hand was not sustainable. Unfortunately, her attempts to determine where to dip her toe into the waters of packaging automation only resulted in confusion and anxiety as a result of the nearly endless number of different types of liquid filling machines and customization options.

Guilty as charged.  The liquid filling industry has, over the years, become a convoluted mess of countless filling methods, riddled with endless bolt-ons and caveats that result in nothing but confusion for the novice entrepreneur trying to solve their production problems.  Unfortunately, Nicole’s story is very common. We intend to change that by simplifying the customer experience, asking straightforward questions, and educating people just like Nicole. So, if your situation sounds similar to Nicole’s, keep reading as the rest of this article will walk you through the three factors you must consider as you begin to take the plunge into liquid filling automation; the same three factors I explored with Nicole on our call that Thursday morning.  These are universal ideas that apply to most start-ups, regardless of niche, including everything from BBQ sauce to shampoo.

By the end of this reading, you’ll have a better idea of when and where to invest your hard-earned money in order to maximize your productivity.

Factor 1. Current State – How are you doing it now?

With so much variation between liquid filling operations, its critical that we clearly document your current filling, capping, and labeling process so that we can visualize our greatest growth opportunities.  So take out a notepad or piece of paper and jot down the steps you currently follow to get your product from inception to ready-to-ship. This is more or less a brainstorming exercise to try and keep the descriptions associated with each step relatively concise and DO NOT skip any steps.  In Nicole’s case, the list looked like this:

  1. Carefully measure and combine ingredients in a large bucket
  2. Hand-mix for 10 minutes
  3. Pour products into small, 1oz bottles using a funnel
  4. Cap and tighten containers by hand
  5. Print labels onto 1×2” mailing labels with desktop printer
  6. Peel labels and apply to bottles by hand
  7. Place finished bottles into boxes ready to ship

Now that we have our list, we want to identify how much time each task takes to complete.  Here is Nicole’s updated list for your reference:

 

TaskTime Required
Carefully measure and combine ingredients in a large bucket10 minutes
Hand-mix for 10 minutes10 minutes
Fill by hand120 minutes
Cap and tighten containers by hand60 minutes
Print labels onto 1×2” mailing labels with desktop printer10 minutes
Peel labels and apply to bottles by hand120 minutes
Place finished bottles into boxes ready to ship20 minutes

 

At this point, we should have a fairly clear idea of where our greatest opportunities exist to improve our efficiency.  In most cases, you’ll find that the tasks in your process that would benefit most from some type of automation are in the areas of liquid filling and labeling, as was the case with Nicole.

Factor 2. Future State – Where are you going?

Now we need to spend some time considering the growth trajectory of your company.  This is critical to ensure that the capacity of the equipment you’ll be investing in will meet the volume demands you anticipate in the coming months and years.  It also ensures that we can design a system that can be readily expanded if your growth curve requires it.  Because there are a nearly limitless number of design configurations and systems to address the specific needs of different packaging scenarios, it’s best to break down your growth projections into two broad categories:

Current and Future Products

A well-designed and executed packaging system needs to grow and evolve with your company; hence, we need to think beyond your existing product line-up and anticipate future offerings.  Below is a table you can use to help you reason through and better understand your product roadmap. As you complete the table, try and anticipate any products you intend to introduce to your market in the next 36 months.  The sample table below is what resulted after Nicole and I walked through it together.

 

VariablesCurrent ProductsFuture Products
Viscosities10 - 30 cps-1 - 65 cps
Bottle Sizes0.5 to 2.0 fluid oz.2 to 8 fluid oz.
Product Changes per Day13
ParticulatesNoneNone
Fill TemperatureAmbient 60-80°FAmbient 60-80°F
Cleaning TemperatureCold to Warm <140°FCold to Warm <140°F
Product CharacteristicsN/ASome Foamy Products
Production EnvironmentN/AWet/ Washdown
Capping RequirementsHandheld Chuck CapperAutomatic Screw Capping
Coding RequirementsNoneLot & Date Code
Labeling RequirementsWrap LabelsWrap Labels
Sealing RequirementsNoneTamper Evident Neck Bands

 

Volume Demands

Now that we have a better idea of the type of products you intend to offer in the coming 36 months, we need to consider your volume demands.  This will prevent any buyer’s remorse associated with investing in a system sized for your current product range only to discover it cannot accommodate future products you anticipate introducing.  In Nicole’s case, she anticipates offering future products in larger quantities and is also considering introducing a wider range of viscosity products as well as some foamy products. These variables are critical to designing a system that maximizes her investment.

Factor 3. Best Bang for your Buck

Fluid FillingOne of the unfortunate realities of operating a small business or a startup are the challenges we face that result from limited access to capital.  No one enjoys borrowing money, especially if that money is accompanied by a steep interest rate and/ or an endless term sheet. As a small business owner myself, the last thing I want to do is burden my customers with a mountain of debt.  This is why it’s critical for us to accurately assess the current and future demands of your packaging system and optimize that system for maximum cost effectiveness – against the backdrop of your budget.

So, it goes without saying that you’ll need to know your budget.

The great news is that most of the components we design will pay for themselves in a relatively short window of time.  This is especially true as it pertains to liquid filling machines and labeling equipment which, in an average small operation, will pay for themselves in less than 180 days.  Once we understand your financial constraints, we can confidently recommend which components will most benefit you in the immediate future and then we can design an implementation strategy to introduce future components that will complement your system.

Additionally, we can help you explore alternative financing options that will stretch your dollar even further.  For instance, instead of committing several thousand dollars down on a single filling machine, you could start by leasing a small, yet complete, filling, capping, and labeling system for $250 – $600 per month.  There are virtually an unlimited combination of options to address your needs and not break your bank account and we’d love to explore them with you.

As it pertains to Nicole’s case, she had a budget of approximately $10,000, so we recommended that she invest in our Series 1 Piston Filler™, which is a single-head table top piston filler that will easily accommodate all of the liquid filling needs for her current and future products over the next three years.  Additionally, she purchased a Series 1 Automatic Wrap Labeler™ to ensure that her labels were consistently and efficiently applied to her containers. By introducing these two pieces of equipment into her production, she was able to decrease her filling time from 120 min per batch to 20 minutes per batch and her labeling efficiency from 120 min per batch to 18 minutes per batch.  This improved her total production efficiency by 84% which has given her over three hours of time each day to focus on developing new products and staying engaged with her customers.

We love creating these types of experiences for our clients – it’s why we do what we do – and we’d love the opportunity to connect with you and discuss how we could help you grow your business!

About the Author:

Dan Grasser

The Filling Man™

Throughout his career, Dan has developed a unique ability to help clients discover their objectives by asking generative questions.  He leans on his industry knowledge to develop creative solutions for clients. I rarely find that what clients think they want for their project is what they actually need to help them accomplish their goals.  I have no interest in simply selling you a piece of equipment because we happen to have it in stock and I have little respect for other packaging companies who approach their clients with that sort of transactional mindset.  You'll always get an honest answer from me and I'll do everything possible to ensure that you're thrilled with your results!

About the Author:

Dan Grasser

The Filling Man™

Throughout his career, Dan has developed a unique ability to help clients discover their objectives by asking generative questions.  He leans on his industry knowledge to develop creative solutions for clients. I rarely find that what clients think they want for their project is what they actually need to help them accomplish their goals.  I have no interest in simply selling you a piece of equipment because we happen to have it in stock and I have little respect for other packaging companies who approach their clients with that sort of transactional mindset.  You'll always get an honest answer from me and I'll do everything possible to ensure that you're thrilled with your results!

Let's Get Started!

We'd love to hear about your objectives, answer any question you may have, and help you discover why Fluid is uniquely positioned to help you grow. Just fill out the form to the right or give us a call.

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Let's Get Started!

We'd love to hear about your objectives, answer any question you may have, and help you discover why Fluid is uniquely positioned to help you grow. Just fill out the form to the right or give us a call.
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