Horizontal Thermoform Fill and Seal: Calculating the Real Costs

If you've been seeking to enhance your existing automated operations and have previously rejected converting to horizontal thermoform fill and seal (HTFS) machinery, it just might be time to rethink that decision.

Compared to other styles of packaging machines, the immediate benefits of HTFS machinery - more output plus less time and decrease manpower - are obvious. The long-term gain of decreased per-package costs (encompassing material and production-cost savings) also are appreciable.

Specifically, HTFS is faster than horizontal flow wrap and more versatile than vertical-packaging machinery. And, while each application possesses its own specifics, in general there is a packaging-cost savings ranging from 30%-70% when switching to HTFS.

Even better, servo-driven HTFS machines edge out their pneumatic counterparts. When a machine's primary functions are pneumatically driven, the compressed-air requirement is high, ranging from 20 cubic feet per minute for a small machine to 80 cubic feet per minute for a larger, higher-speed one. Servo-driven versions, however, typically consume 80% less compressed air per cycle.

Yet some company leaders still believe the technology is out of reach price-wise - until they weigh the true costs of doing business as-is.

Many people limit their financial outlook and consider only the HTFS machine and material cost, and don't see how much their current setup costs in terms of:

  • utilities (electric, air and water consumption)
  • wasted film
  • compromised efficiencies (speeds related to utility consumption)
  • packaging-material costs
  • factory floor space
  • output potential
  • maintenance (requires skilled personnel or repair contract with the manufacturer)
  • wear and tear (light built vs. rugged built in terms of press sizes and capacity)
  • depreciation and resale value (considerations include fixed web width versus adjustable and capacity capabilities)

So, consider more than the cost of a new machine or omitting packaging material. Be especially cautious about purchasing "tinker toy" - type machines versus their hardier cousins. Many companies sell low-grade machines and rely on aftermarket sales to survive. These wear-and-tear costs aren't always considered by purchasers and might not revealed by a vendor. The result: a significantly inaccurate assessment of a machine's costs over the long haul. A 4-ton press and 2-ton machine may perform comparably at first, but the 2-ton will wear out much faster than its sturdier competition.

In addition, a machine should be viewed in terms of its versatility: Can it handle numerous sizes and package types or is it a one-trick pony? In terms of packaging material, consider the design of package dimensions as well as machine hardware to potentially reduce the starting gauge of plastic.

Kicking the tires

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