Growth projections for the petrochemical, building products, and calcium carbonite industries are beginning to be recognized as North American companies, large and small, move toward increased automation in palletizing and packaging.
Projects that were shelved for more than two years are coming back to life, with cement companies and others in the construction industry expanding, building new plants, and adding new equipment. Modernization of machinery through retrofits and upgrades to existing equipment is another area of consideration as the petrochemical, concrete, and calcium carbonite industries continue to grow.
Industry reports predict that the global petrochemical market will reach $791 billion in 2018, driven primarily by increased demand in end-use industries such as construction, plastics, textiles, and healthcare. Those projections spell good news for equipment manufacturers in the cement and building industries, especially those offering continuous improvements in automated systems.
Automation has played an increasing role in the production and packaging of building products over the past few years, with even smaller companies moving toward full or semi-automation to compete. Automated lines are especially critical for a cement manufacturer that typically handles 40-lb bags and heavier, running at 1200 bags per hour or more.
Improvements to high-speed palletizing are certain to continue, particularly in a worldwide cement industry where lower energy consumption, low wear, and low maintenance technology are top considerations. New twin-belt systems, for example, are allowing gentle bag handling at ever growing speeds. An alternative to the clamp system that grabs bags and turns them 90 or 180 degrees, the twin-belt system orients bags as they travel over two belts moving at different speeds. This helps bags maintain their shape and pallets maintain a tight, square stack.
Form-fill-seal bagging machines, robotic palletizing, and stretch hood technology all have answered a call for greater economic efficiency and improved safety in the packaging industry. Robotic palletizing continues to improve, with better gripping tools and adjustable grippers for frequent product changes. These systems offer a compact design with a smaller footprint that still is capable of handling up to two 80-lb bags with each lift.
Stretch hooding, technology designed to provide a perfect fit that ensures palletized goods reach their destination safely, is proving especially reliable in the chemical and building materials industry as an alternative to the traditional thermal shrink film or stretch wrapping packaging methods. Stretch hood system technology continues to improve with smaller-footprint machines that offer faster output rates, lower energy consumption, and better maintenance access.
Like much of today’s materials handling machinery, advanced instrumentation and process controls incorporated into today’s bag handling equipment are improving efficiencies in all phases of production. This technology facilitates optimum performance, which results in great output, reduced energy consumption, and lower maintenance costs. Many systems now include remote access portals for immediate diagnosis of equipment issues to maximize uptime of the production cycle.
Equipment monitoring systems also are being introduced that allow manufacturers to keep an eye on the real-time status of bag filling, palletizing, and packaging machines via a mobile device. The real-time analysis of line performance, energy consumption, and compressed air usage is providing target-performance comparisons for improved efficiencies.
Anthony Branch is director of sales for Beumer Corp.'s Palletizing and Packaging Div. Prior to joining Beumer in 2014, he served in various engineering and marketing roles, focusing on high-speed data acquisition within the material handling industry. Branch holds a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA in International Business Administration.
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