16 Questions to Ask Before Buying an Automatic Shrink Wrap Machine

Automatic shrink wrap machines are a step up from manual or semi-auto machines. Companies using automatic machines are often packaging thousands of products daily. The initial costs are substantially more than lower volume machines. Though the capital expenditures may be higher, the efficiency will quickly pay for itself. There are always many questions when purchasing an expensive piece of machinery. Many people desire to see the machines in person or at least have products run on the machine before purchasing. We agree with that and offer in-house testing and viewing before making a purchase. Unless familiar products are being packaged, we require testing before selling a machine.

Below are common questions asked by companies interested in an automatic shrink wrap machine.

1. What is the cost? 

The cost of a fully automatic machine with accessories will be substantially more than smaller shrink wrapping machines. Many automatic machines with the right equipment can cost more than 100k. One-piece automatic machines for 30-40K will package smaller items. Like anything, you can shop and find some automatic machines for much less but question the quality and longevity of the device.

2. What size of products can the machine accommodate?

Large or small, the product size matters. There are multiple styles of auto machines; knowing the largest and smallest product being run will help determine what size and style of machine will be needed. The weight of the wrapped product is an important question to determine the proper film required in the machine.

3. Can I run samples on the machine?

Samples are strongly encouraged when purchasing an automatic shrink wrapper. Unless the machine supplier is familiar with packaging your style of products, testing should be conducted. The testing will show which machine is suitable, what shrink film is best, and if heat shrink wrapping is the right solution for the product being wrapped.

4. What additional machines or conveyors are needed?

Many auto sealers are the sealer only, a shrink tunnel will be needed to heat the film and form the material around the product. Be sure to consider a tunnel that will keep up with the speed of the sealer and fit the products being wrapped.

A powered infeed conveyor is standard for most automatic setups. The powered infeed conveyor allows the products to be placed in the production line. Conveyors come available with many different belts and options.

5. What are the electrical supply requirements?

One-piece auto machines may have one power cord versus a two-piece device that will have two lines with different power requirements. Most machines will come bare wire for hard wiring or installing a plug that matches the power supply.

It is crucial to have the correct power supply at the machine. Running long power cords will drop the electrical output at the device and cause problems. We recommend having a licensed professional install electrical plugs and properly check for the correct electrical supply to the machine.  

6. How many products can the machine run per minute?

Automatic shrink wrap machines can vary in the number of products per minute. More oversized products that are longer will generally take more time to move in and out of the sealing area. Smaller products can quickly move through the machine and can be run at faster speeds.

On the low end, an automatic shrink wrap machine should be able to package at least 17-20 products per minute. Other machines are capable of higher production numbers. Some machines packaging smaller products can wrap 60-80 products per minute. The average expected speed would be between 25-40 products per minute with a fully automatic heat shrink wrapper.

7. How complicated is the machine setup?

We do not recommend ordering a fully automatic packaging line without a technician setting it up and conducting training. Adjusting the machine for each product with conveyor belts and film threading would be better for someone skilled to show how to set up the equipment properly. Once set up and training is completed, employees should know how to adjust the machine for each product and reload film as needed. We strongly urge companies not to order expensive equipment based on price with no support or technical assistance. 

8. How much time does it take to adjust the machine?

Product adjustments are necessary if several sizes of products are being run. If only running one product size, skip this question and move to number 8. Some machines have manual product adjustments, consisting of crank handles to adjust the machine to fit the wrapped product. Other digital devices have product memories and automatic product adjustment to adjust the machine as needed to fit the product being wrapped.

The automatic product adjustment feature is perfect for companies wrapping dozens of different products. Each product can have a saved setting for workers to enter the right adjustment for each product. Without an auto adjustment, the sealing head, film head, conveyors, and film unwinds will need to be changed between products with significant size differences.

9. What material is recommended for use with the machine?

What type of automatic shrink wrap machine are you looking for? Different shrink materials will be needed to wrap small products, large products, heavy products, or bottles. Find out what material the shrink wrap machine uses and ensure it is readily available. Many companies get into binds when purchasing packaging machines from not knowing if the material is available from more than one source.

10. Can parts and services be found?

This should go without saying if spending tens of thousands of dollars on an automatic shrink wrapper. The availability of parts should be one of the first questions to consider. With an automated machine’s production, downtime can cost more than the part needed and eventually the device itself. Be sure replacement parts are available.

In addition to parts, look into the service available. There may be issues that come up demanding a trained technician. If that is not available, what will you do? Hire a third-party company to attempt to fix the machine? If possible, on the front end, inquire about parts and servicing for any automated packaging equipment you are planning on buying. 

11. Do your products need a closing gap conveyor?

Automatic sealers will have a conveyor belt transporting products into and out of the sealer. Between the two conveyors is where the sealing bar can be found. Products with small dimensions can fall into the gap.

Closing gap conveyors are used to eliminate lost products. The closing gap allows the two conveyors to come together, momentarily closing the gap between the conveyors. It is essential when packaging small products such as cosmetics and baked goods.

12. What are payment and financing options?

You know a general idea of cost, now how to pay for it. What financing or payment options are available with the machine? Some companies require a deposit, and the remaining balance due once the machine ships. Other companies offer lease options. Users pay a monthly rate, and scheduled maintenance is also provided with some lease contracts. Find an option that fits your needs and a machine that accommodates the products and estimated production levels.

13. Can the machine be synced with an existing line?

To purchase automated equipment for end-of-the-line packaging, you should consider if the device will sync with the existing line. Does it have the right drive and program to do so? If not, can the speed be matched manually to sync with an existing line?

14. How does the machine ship?

Most automated packaging machines are not small or cheap. Some are custom and one-of-a-kind. If they become damaged in shipping, it may be months before the machine can be replaced. Determine if the machine is shipped on a dedicated load or if it will be interlined between multiple freight carriers.

In addition to the freight carrier transporting the equipment, how is it all crated and packaged? You will need a loading dock or forklift to unload the machine, but will forklift extensions be required? Will any tools be needed to uncrate or unpackage the device? These are essential questions to consider when the machine is ready to ship.

15. Where does the machine ship from?

Will the machine be shipping internationally direct to your facility? That can have delays at the port and possible damages or missing items upon arrival. If the machine is shipping domestically, will it be delivered via freight carrier or locally? Check the location and lead time to avoid disappointment and possible production loss.

16. How long will it take to receive the machine from the order date?

Most automatic shrink wrap machines are not stock items. There are times a stock option is available, but it does not happen often. If there is a lead time on the machine, find out how long the lead time is and when it would be expected in stock. Ensure you are dealing with a reputable company that accurately quotes lead times and keeps promises.

Conclusion

The difference in efficiency and output of an automatic shrink wrap machine compared to a manual or semi-auto machine is a game-changer. Many questions should be addressed along with logistics and setup issues, but a suitable machine is well worth it. Take the time to ensure you are working with the right company to fit your needs when purchasing your next automated shrink wrapper.

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