HMPS is a company that likes to provide solutions to production problems using its knowledge of how to engineer machines that are not only state of the art, but provide a return on investment (ROI) for the client.
This was the case with one of its HMPS5000 machines, a solution that not only helped a food contract packer speed up operations but won HMPS the Machine Builder of the Year at the Zenith Awards in 2017.
HMPS were asked to provide the solution because the client not only wanted speed, but also flexibility for its operations – two things that are not always inclusive in such a piece of machinery.
“The main driver was that they had a line that was running product at about half the speed it needed to be,” said HMPS executive chairman Mark Emmett. “Its sales and export growth in Southeast Asia had meant that its requirements and production capacities needed to double. It looked at replacing the existing line with a new line that would run at twice the speed.”
The installation required some machinery from Europe, while the end-of-the-line case packaging machinery was where the HMPS5000 came into its own. HMPS’s part in the process helped put the inner packets of cake mix into a shipper that sat on the supermarket shelf. Emmett said that they worked with the customer to make sure the right solution was reached.
“We went to site and worked through the issues and what the limitations were with their current machinery,” said Emmett. “Their old equipment couldn’t cycle at the rate that they needed to match the new upstream equipment from Europe. They had an upstream machine that could produce 200 bags a minute, but the downstream equipment could only accept 100 bags a minute. The downstream equipment was also old technology – it was air cylinders and valves, whereas the new machine is all servo motors and electric drives.”
When it came to flexibility, the company needed the HMPS5000 to be able to handle short runs, different-sized products and also be capable of producing quick changeovers during the production process. How does Emmett rate the HMPS5000?
“It is a big, beautiful machine,” said Emmett. “It is something that normally someone might go to Europe to source. But European machines and American machines don’t have the flexibility or the ability to change quickly between sizes. In Europe, they’ll set a line up and it’ll run the same sizes for a week. In the US they’ll set a line up and it’ll run for a year.”
And then there are the speed considerations.
“With the contract packer’s site engineers and production people on board, we looked at what was important for them in a new machine,” said Emmett. “And one of the most important considerations was that it could maintain the speed. The speed of this machine is a step change in what would normally be achieved in an intermittent motion packaging machine. Our client outlined that the speed, the quick changeover and being a flexible machine were what was important to them. And their engineers working with ours highlighted those points. We went away and came up with a new design of the machine that met their needs.”
Like any new concept, plan or machine there are bound to be teething problems and the HMPS5000 was no different. The main issue for the developers was getting the device to cycle 30 products a minute, which was hard because of the size of the food packets.
“Moving a large product is like moving a large mass around quickly,” said Emmett. “It’s controlling that mass through the machine that was the most challenging part of the design. If you’ve got a very small product and you want to move it quickly it is a lot easier because you’ve only got a small mass that you’ve got to move and stop. When you’ve got 12 packets of 350g cake mix and you want to move it quickly and stop it, and do that over and over again every two seconds, it really puts a demand on how we set up the servo drives and all the control systems that interlinks the process.”
To help HMPS make sure that it built the machine to the correct specifications, it used simulations via Autodesk Inventor. As the company designed the machine, it could test flows and simulate the whole process in the 3D CAD before it started to cut metal or test things. The whole process took six months to complete.
HMPS has also started to integrate the IoT into its latest machines as it allows it to monitor the performance of its machines online. With the HMPS5000, the IoT aspect was launched in February. One of the main drivers for the IoT elements is that clients want instant information on how their equipment is working and what condition it is in. This helps with preventative maintenance and stops unnecessary downtime.
“Our clients want to know the Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) constantly and we want to be monitoring it,” said Emmett. “An example is if you have an electric drive and its working hard all the time. If we start to see that there’s more load on that drive, then we can address it and rectify the problem before it becomes a stoppage and causes downtime. That is what we want to achieve with our HMPS Connect, which is our IoT solution.”
This sort of machinery – faster flexible and capable of quick change – is where manufacturing is headed. Having a machine that will do this is a real change for Australian-built packaging machinery. HMPS has seen interest in this machine in factories in Asia and have received enquiries from the US, too. The effort that its engineers have gone through putting it together has become not only a benefit for HMPS, it will help it grow its business, according to Emmett.