Imagine, each day, having to manually pack and seal thousands of boxes of different sizes and shapes. Mail order company Heartland America, Chaska, Minn., did just that until recently when it decided to automate key parts of the packaging process.
Providing a turnkey packaging solution to Heart-land was packaging distributor Jesco Industrial Supplies Inc., Minneapolis. Jesco chose for the task a 700r 3M-Matic Random Case Sealer from 3M, Minneapolis, and a Fill-Air 1000 packaging system from Sealed Air Corp., Saddle Brook, N.J.
Here's how it all works: The 3M-Matic system uses pneumatic actuators to hold empty boxes open for filling. It also aligns them for sealing and automatically adjusts to the package height and width. Next, the Fill-Air 1000 equipment inflates a plastic packing cushion used to secure the boxed items. This clean, lightweight, inflatable packaging eliminates loose fill mess. Finally, a taping head, also from 3M, smoothly and precisely applies sealing tape.
"Before, we'd manually apply several pieces of tape to each package. Flaps of one box would stick to adjacent boxes," says Chris Scribner, operations manager at Heartland. "The 3M-Matic system uses only one strip to seal the flaps and centers it on the box every time so packages look more professional."
Besides making packages look better and saving materials, the equipment significantly boosts throughput. Before the improvements, 15 people were needed to handle about 60% of the shipments. Today, 14 work-ers manage the entire throughput, or up to 4,600 boxes/day at rates to 15 boxes/min, a 37% improvement.