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BWIS - Cost Factors for Pet Food Co-Packers

Pet Food Packaging Cost Factors

by Donna Wolfe | May 03, 2021

10 Insights from Daniel LoRusso

Daniel LoRusso, BW integrated Systems Director of Sales in North America, was recently interviewed by the editor of Packed With Expertise, an industry blog offering diverse perspectives and expert advice on today's packaging challenges. With over 15 years of packaging industry and project management experience, LoRusso was happy to share his expertise with professionals across the pet food industry.

The following content is an excerpt from his interview on the topic of equipment cost factors in pet food co-packing.

Q&A with Daniel LoRusso –Packed With Expertise

PWE: What are some factors that influence the packaging equipment capabilities a pet food co-packer should look for to satisfy their contracts?

LoRusso: Initially, the cost of a new packaging line is largely dependent on the customer’s required production rate, product sizes and packaging formats. As a co-packer, it’s important to evaluate your need to interchange between each of these factors because what you are really selling is production time, not just product out the door. Co-packers want to changeover as much as possible, as quickly as possible, with as many different SKUs as possible. Maximizing their amount of production time is critical.

PWE: What is a common pitfall that co-packers can avoid when designing a facility?

LoRusso: One of the pitfalls we commonly see in a wet food co-packing facility is not segregating wet and dry sides of the lines. There is a lot of liquid processing in a wet food plant, starting with the rinsing and filling of the cans. There’s also a lot of heat steam in the air, creating a very humid area. Proper line design and equipment ensures this wet and humid environment doesn’t wreak havoc on the labeling and packing sides of the line. So, when we talk about wet and dry, we need to distinguish between the parts of the process that utilize water and heat and those that don’t. The materials on the dry side of the line, whether it be labeling, or case packing or cartoning, tend to be paper, paper board, corrugate, or other materials that are susceptible to humid and wet environments. When we design lines, we take special care to create demarcations between these environments. We also take the time for specific equipment selection that helps dry and prepare cans for secondary packing. If there is too much overlap in these environments, you may be causing lower efficiencies in the dry side equipment.

PWE: What are some factors that co-packers can consider to help them maximize production efficiency?

LoRusso: To maximize production, co-packers can have an integrator look at the task the line needs to perform (ex: can sizes, pack formats, labels, etc.). Most of an integrators’ up-front sales process (and the first part of this investment savings) is the time they spend to understand the customer’s business. This will give the integrator an understanding of the machine standards required as well as the speed and capability of those machines. But it’s not just enough for the integrator to understand speed and capability, they need to dive deeper with the co-packer to understand their intended operational philosophy. Everything from staffing, to changeover, to automation, to manual operations, product types and more. 

PWE: What are the primary operational cost factors co-packers should be aware of when purchasing new equipment?

LoRusso: When BW Integrated Systems designs a packaging line for a customer, we take into specific consideration raw material movement, the customer’s staffing and automation requirements, and their requirements for line flexibility.

PWE: How can co-packers plan for optimal line flexibility during the sales processes?

LoRusso: Maximizing the number of SKUs they can run is the most important thing. One of the ways we help co-packers do this is by selecting machine-specific options that create quick and effective changeovers that are repeatable every single time. It’s also critical to think of changeover as part of the conveyance design. Quick, accurate, and repeatable changeover of the conveyance system can ensure an efficient start-up of the next SKU – this is what drives successful co-packing.

PWE: What role does raw packaging material play in driving operational costs?

LoRusso: With raw material movement, your goal should be to lower operational costs by mitigating complex distribution from the warehouse to point of use on the line. For example, one of our favorite strategies for aiding in operational efficiency is to centralize raw material supply locations. This helps optimize fork and hand truck movement and minimize empty trips – that is to say trips where the fork truck has nothing on it. We also utilize visual, audible, and other cues to suggest when a machine center may be running low on a necessary material. The combination of these efforts creates an efficient supply of materials to keep the line running.

PWE: How can co-packers keep machine maintenance costs low?

LoRusso: Preventative maintenance is all about selecting the right machine, comprised of the right components and finding a partner that understands the lifecycle of the machines. Each maintenance package should be specific to each co-packers’ needs.

PWE: What should co-packers look for in parts and service agreements?

LoRusso: The customers we work with are often interested in lifecycle support.  This essentially means we will provide them with the parts and services they’ll need throughout the life of the equipment. This includes maintaining spare parts lists, maintenance procedures, pre-scheduled audits, and so on. Co-packers should work with their supplier to come up with a package that supports their long-term maintenance needs, investment strategy and overall production needs.

PWE: How does equipment design impact packaging machine maintenance costs?

LoRusso: Packaging line design is not just about the flow and placement of equipment, but the selection of the right equipment with the right design. Individual equipment designs should account for the frequency of specific maintenance tasks and provide efficient access for maintenance personnel. This will limit the time and duration required to perform frequent maintenance tasks. For example, we want to make lubrication or frequent wear part exchange easy to access. If you’re required to remove guards or major machine components for frequent maintenance, you may be lowering your entire line’s efficiency due to bad machine design.

Looking for expert advice on packaging line integration, equipment cost factors, or another related topic? Contact us to get in touch with an expert.

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