Changing Over a Machine

Improving Changeover Capabilities Enhances Packaging Machine Flexibility

As production facilities continue to be challenged by smaller batch runs, higher OEE requirements and skilled labor shortages, there is a desire for simpler, more flexible equipment. One way to achieve more flexibility is by addressing the time, tools, and parts needed to implement changeovers.

Size changeover can be accomplished by a variety of methods. Historically, the most common methods involved a cart full of change parts, manual adjustments using slots and scales or manual adjustments with digital (mechanical) counters. Some machines still use a combination of all three.

The change part cart methodology, using carton template plates, drop in guides/plows and pushers, can be the most reliable of these three, but it can also be cumbersome for storage if the line has to run more than a couple of sizes. It also opens up the possibility of either mixing up, losing or damaging these parts once they are removed from the machine.

Manual adjustment methods solve the issues associated with change part carts since items are not removed from the machine. They can be provided with or without tools with most end users preferring tool-less methods.

The use of slots and scales are the most cost effective. However, it also tends to be the least precise method since the scale requires some operator interpretation. Manual adjustments with digital counters have proven to be far more accurate but there is a cost associated with providing a mechanism for the counter to attach to. There also isn’t a way to verify that all changeover points have been adjusted to the correct set point. So, all of these methods provide flexibility, but none of them offers the “fool-proof” setup that is desired for vertical start-ups driven by OEE requirements.

Another approach to changeover involves putting servo motors on changeover mechanisms. This method provided the “fool-proof” push-button changeover that production facilities desired, but it came with a high price tag. The high cost was associated with the servo technology required to coordinate multi-axis motion control. This required expensive hardware, larger electrical panels and additional programming by an electrical engineer. This method provided challenges from a budgetary standpoint.

Thanks to recent advancements in changeover technology, we now have additional possibilities to help achieve vertical start-up demands. The new technologies include RFID, digital (electronic) counters with communication to the machine controller and low voltage smart motors that can provide accurate and reliable device positioning without the need of expensive hardware for coordinated multi-axis motion control.

  • RFID technology has improved and continues to evolve into smaller less expensive formats lending itself to be use for part verification if change part methods are used.
  • Digital counters with feedback can be used in conjunction with manual adjustments to verify all changeover points are set to the correct position.
  • Finally, smart motors can be used to automatically adjust changeover points and provide a more cost effective approach to push button changeover.  

These new technologies provide manufacturers with multiple changeover solutions to match their methodology and budget restrictions. Identified below are three levels of changeover capabilities manufacturers should inquire about when seeking new cartoning technology from a secondary packaging equipment provider:

Standard Changeover

  • Battery powered electronic counters on rotary adjustment devices
  • Kipp handle & scale manual adjustment devices for all other settings
  • Tool-less product change parts
  • Calibration sheets supplied for each SKU/carton size

Semi-Automatic Validated Changeover

  • All set points are validated, insuring vertical start-up
  • Electronic digital counters with feedback on existing rotary adjustment devices and electronic operator verification on kipp handle & scale adjustment devices
  • RFID technology for verification of carton sizes listed above
  • Includes mobile HMI tablet for manual verifications points, as well as redundant machine controls.
  • Calibration sheets supplied for each SKU/carton size

Automatic Validated Changeover

  • All set points are set automatically through the machine controller, reducing change-over time and insuring vertical start-up (still requires product change parts)
  • Smart motors added to existing rotary adjustment devices and select linear adjustments for automatic changes
  • The linear adjustments will have feedback to the PLC removing the need for touch to verify feature on the handheld HMI
  • RFID technology for verification of carton sizes listed above
  • Includes mobile HMI tablet for redundant machine control

R.A JONES offers standard changeover, semi-automatic and automatic validated changeover solutions on a variety of new cartoning equipment. If you have further questions regarding what changeover technology is right for your operation or would like to understand R.A JONES’ offering in more detail, please email us at:

R.A JONES is a global leader in the design and manufacture of primary and secondary packaging machinery for the food, pharmaceutical, dairy and consumer goods industries. R.A JONES is a part of Coesia, a group of innovation-based industrial and packaging solutions companies operating globally and headquartered in Bologna, Italy.

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