A filling machine operator job is to run the filling section of a production line; depending on the type of liquid filler; the operator may be more or less involved.
For some liquid filling machines, technicians may need to set up bottling equipment for production and run them. At the same time, other operators will wait for a technician to prepare the filling machines for operation and only monitor the filling machine and do minor troubleshooting.
While a filling machine is running thousands of bottles during a production run, some issues may occur like:
There are many types of filling machine production lines, and depending on the type, design, and set up, it may require or not a filling machine operator job. Here are a few:
Running these automated liquid filling equipment increases efficiency and dramatically reduces production costs.
A lot of the time, it takes many different trials to find a proper setup and adjust the machines where the filling equipment is performing as desired. There are hundreds of possible setup combinations when you have packaging machinery where you can adjust machines fill speed, conveyor speed, acceleration, and deceleration of conveyors, spacing between containers, and filling nozzles height, among other possible setups.
Understanding that so many possible combinations are possible will help to realize that even when the filling machine is running well, there is probably an even better operator setup. Attention to detail and data collection will be important tools to optimize the function of the pack machine in operation.
The packaging or filling machine manufacturer has vast experience. Therefore, it would be an excellent resource to contact them. In addition, sometimes, a video showing a setup will be enough to get recommendations that will increase the productivity of the filling machine as well as provide preventive maintenance guidance to avoid shutdowns.
These machines require an operator to run, move containers, nozzles or align them or press a foot switch or a button. A capable machine operator makes a big difference; with experience, some of these filling machine operators can become extremely fast at their job.
Automatic inline filling machines don't require an operator, but you must have a stable setup that you can rely on before deciding not to use one. For these, you need:
- Good setup mechanic or technician job: Instead of having a filling machine operator, you need a good mechanic to do a great setup that you can rely on.
A good setup means that the machine can run unsupervised for a prolonged time of 15 minutes or more; if you can achieve this going from 15 minutes to hours without supervision is very close.
- Back-Up Sensor: Besides having a good setup for the machine, it's equally essential for the filling machine not to run when there are delays in the packaging equipment following the filling process. Most manufacturers offer a back sensor that takes care of that process, so if the sensor detects containers ahead at the exit of the filler, it prevents it from doing a cycle and sending bottles or containers to a stopped process
Rotary machines will work great without a filling machine operator but require an organized, skilled mechanic to set up and exchange infeed screws, starwheels, heights, and sometimes filling nozzles or pistons.
A filling equipment operator is a person operating a filling machine. Their primary responsibility is to get as much production as possible, clear machine jams and in some cases help with quality control, so they need to:
- Operate the filling machine as fast as possible; this may require moving the containers in and out as possible, minimizing motions to maximize productivity
- Operate the liquid filler to avoid spills; some bottling equipment and conveyors need cleaning if there are spills before continuing production; when this happens, filling speed goes to zero, creating significant losses in bottling production.
- Each bottler is different, but when you have a manual operator, sometimes they need to spend 7 to 8 hours running the machine. This type of job is not for everyone; it's essential to realize that and don't be afraid to try new workers for the job.
A setup mechanic is a person adjusting and tweaking the bottling machinery so it runs as reliably, without spills, and as few misses as possible; they need to:
- Setup liquid filling machines and explain what they need to do to the operator. Then, depending on the operators' ability to run the bottling line, these mechanics get called to help constantly to solve any issues during production.
- They set up multiple machines in addition to helping with peripheral equipment like pumps to feed liquid filler, cap elevators to feed capping machines, mixers, labeling machines, and conveyors.
What bottling equipment operators make varies drastically depending on:
- Ability - Worker Characteristics: Most filling machine operators will start close to the minimum wage or minimum available rate in their area so the level of education is not a factor and very few companies ask for a school diploma or equivalent. But all bottling facility managers will increase their salary quickly to an operator they can rely on and get more production at the end of the day.
Workers who pack food are always needed, and depending on the job responsibilities there may be more or less room to grow.
- Location: Each city has a different base depending on the current situation, unemployment rate, and States minimum wages, among others. So the average salary will fluctuate substantially. The Department of Labor will have wage data from the state or city is widely available and it can be a great resource to take an educated decision.
- Type of machinery: If an operator is running a manual filler, their ability brings an opportunity to get paid more if they can perform at high speeds versus an operator running a machine where the job requires mainly supervision.
Liquid filling machine operators don't need to be highly qualified, and the average salaries reflect this. The best road for growth and higher wages is to become a Setup Mechanic; this is a viable road for all filling machine operators since they are very familiar with the machinery; they just need to be attentive, learn and apply themselves.
Many conveyor systems serve different purposes, from transporting bottles from a filling machine to an inline capper to a conveyor transporting massive mining products like coal into furnaces for energy production or conveyor belts moving boxes in an amazon warehouse expedite an order. There are also many different types of designs and principles of conveyor handling solutions for your material handling needs like:
One of the main components of conveyor systems is the conveyor chain or belt conveyor. Based on the characteristics of the chain then, the conveyor frame, curves, and power drives are designed to match the correct specifications. The most popular designs in the bottling industries are:
Tabletop conveyor belts are among the most widely used in automated conveyor systems globally; this type of handling equipment is used from small, semi-automatic liquid filling lines to multi-million Dollar machinery running thousands of bottles per minute. Within the tabletop family of belts, there are hundreds of options available, so to choose the best for your application, you would need to specify:
The video below shows an efficient bottling line with transfers used to be able to run:
Choosing the correct method when transferring from one conveying system to another is essential, especially when handling unstable bottles or products. There are many options to move your containers from one conveyor to another. Bellow, please see illustrations of the most common ones with corresponding comments:
Curve turning capabilities or not: There are infinite shapes of belt systems, and each bottling project is different. And each conveyor manufacturer has its designs and preferences for each project. Some production lines are in a straight line. A linear line conveyor has the advantage of a lower cost and capabilities for future expansions. But some conveyors need to have particular shapes to fit into production rooms, go around other production lines, or be more efficient in the handling needs. For turning and curves, you will need flexible chain conveyors; you can find these in stainless steel conveyors, plastics, and other materials.
The temperature that it will be operating at: Certain parts of the conveyor handling line may require high-temperature capabilities; a typical example is when shrink sleeves are being applied into a bottle that then needs to go through a heat tunnel. Since most plastics that are often used in conveyors can’t handle the heat, a solution is to use stainless steel tabletop belt; in addition to the belts or chains, the bottom guides where the belt slides need to be of a low friction material that can withstand the friction and temperature, a good solution would be bronze guides.
The product that it will be in contact with to determine if it’s compatible with the belt material: Unfortunately, in the bottling industries, spills are common, so whatever tabletop belt material you are using needs to be able to withstand the products that will be running in your bottling line. This is a big concern primarily in chemical industries that bottle corrosive products; if the suitable material is not chosen, the belt may last a few days instead of a few years.
The specific bottle size and shape, and labels –perhaps the most important– are an integral part of your product’s branding. You have dedicated significant time and resources to designing a great-looking label that conveys your product’s story. The next challenge is how to apply the label to your bottle and make it look great. Because incorrectly applied bottle labels always look terrible, no matter how well-designed they are. You can apply pressure-sensitive labels either by hand or by using a machine.
Labeling by hand is simple. You peel the adhesive label from the roll and apply it to the bottle with firm pressure. This method can be time-consuming and can lead to frustrating results, however, if the label is applied crooked or if there are bubbles in your application. Because it’s a repetitive task, often machines will do the job far better and more reliably. It can also become expensive as your production needs grow due to increasing labor costs.
If you do small jobs a manual or semi-automatic labeler can work when applying container labels. For larger volumes, you may want to consider an inline or rotary labeling machine. This will not only help keep production costs down but will also make your process more efficient. In general, a machine will be capable of applying different label shapes, including oval labels, rectangle labels, round labels, etc. The label size and material are also important to take into consideration. Standard labels will typically be able to apply mate labels, printed labels, and others. The machine may need specific sensors to be able to apply metallic labels, clear labels, or other labeling materials to your containers, bottles, and jars. Your bottle’s shape will determine the type of labeling machine you will need to consider. Generally speaking, for cylindrical or round bottles you will use a wraparound labeler.
A wraparound labeler applies the first part of the label to the bottle and then spins the bottle around until the rest of the label has been applied. Some machines also allow you to apply 2 labels from a single roll on the same bottle. For this, you will need a 3-point turn system that includes sensors or some other mechanism to identify the correct placement of the labels to the bottle and dispense them accordingly.
For bottles that are not cylindrical a different type of labeling machine will be needed. For square/rectangular and oblong-shaped bottles, a front/back labeler is often the machine needed. These apply the labels to the front and/or back face of the bottle. A front labeling machine will have one labeling head whereas a front and back labeling machine will have two separate labeling heads. The labels for these types of applications will come in individual roles (one for the front label and one for the back label). Some front/back labeling machines offer a wrap station. These machines are very flexible and capable of labeling a wide variety of bottles including square, rectangular, and cylindrical bottle shapes. For tapered bottles, your labeling machine needs to be able to tilt the labeling head so it can properly apply the labels on these types of bottles. Keep in mind that this is typically an option that does not come standard with the machines.
For other applications, like neck labels, top/bottom labels, etc. a different kind of labeling machine is needed.
When using a machine to label your bottles a very important thing to consider is the roll’s wind direction. Wind direction is the orientation of your label as it is coming off the roll. It is very important because it determines the correct placement of your label on the bottle and you do not want to end up with labels that are upside down or sideways. There are 8 wind directions to choose from, but more than likely you’ll only need to consider options 1 through 4, with 4 being the most common for wraparound labeling heads. Wind direction depends entirely on your labeling machine’s specs. Your labeler provider should be able to make the rolls according to the wind direction required by your labeling machine.
In the bottling and packaging industry, a filling machine refers to the device that manufacturers use to help them fill all sorts of different products into bottles, boxes, or any other container that needs to be filled. As one can imagine, thousands of various applications may require a filling machine.
Although there are many types of filling machines for many industries, I will focus on the bottling industry. That is the area I work on a day-to-day basis and have more knowledge about.
You need a filling machine if the process of your bottles or containers getting filled is taking too long and/or labor costs start being an issue.
Some manufacturers start very small, home mixing, filling, and labeling and can manually produce a few hundred bottles; at this point, you may not need any filling equipment.
But as soon as your production increases and quality, speed, fill level accuracy, cleanliness becomes an issue, you will need to invest in a filling machine.
Higher capacity requirements need further automation like automatic bottle feeders (bottle unscrambler). This makes economic sense when you have at least one full-time employee feeding bottles into production lines all day.
You can purchase a bottle unscrambler for typical containers that can feed 60 bottles per minute for less than $40,000. So if adding these machines eliminates one employee earning $12/hour, your payoff will be around 15 months, two employees 7 to 8 months.
There are many types of filling machines, and the best filling machine for your needs will be unique. The main factors in determining which machine will be best for your needs are:
Depending on how many bottles you need to fill per day, you may need a handheld filler, semi-automatic, automatic inline filler, or a rotary filling machine. Typically, the faster the filling machine, the higher its price.
You can start manually producing with any system for a few hundred dollars and make a few hundred bottles per day. Still, more significant investments will be required when you require higher speeds, cleanliness, and accuracy.
Unfortunately, no single technology currently works best for all types of products; the most flexible filling machines have a high-cost disadvantage.
Each filling project is different, and although the best machine for a particular application may be an overflow filler, the recommendation to the customer changes completely if he wants to fill higher viscosity products in the future. Here are some scenarios and typical recommendations.
Overflow filler: If you are only doing water-thin to very light oil type viscosity, we recommend overflow fillers because they work fast, accurately, and the cost of these machines is less than most other filling technologies.
Overflow filler explosion-proof: This filling machine is basically an overflow machine for flammable products. Great attention is taken to ensure that all electrical components, motors, and sensors can’t create a spark, among other things, explosion motors, intrinsically safe sensors, and barriers, cement-filled electrical boxes, and many pneumatic systems to reduce electrical use.
Piston filler: Piston fillers have been available in the bottling industry for more than 100 years because of how flexible they are and the wide range of products they can fill. With this type of filler, you can produce thick products like mayonnaise and water-thin products with the right type of nozzle.
Cost: These machines can be very expensive because they require tight tolerance parts made in 304 and 316L stainless steel with a high cost and are difficult to machine.
Cleanability: There are a lot of parts, so thorough cleaning will be a lengthy process.
Range: Most manufacturers will only guarantee accurate fill levels to 10% of your total piston fill volume, so if you have 100oz pistons on your machine, you won’t be able to fill below 10oz without a piston change.
Flowmeter filler: This type of fill technology has gotten a lot of track, and more manufacturers are using them every time because they are very accurate, can fill a wide variety of products, and it’s the easiest machine to clean and change products.
The current disadvantage is the cost since each nozzle requires one dedicated flowmeter, and for flexible systems, you need a mass flow meter that tends to be very expensive.
Pump Fillers: These machines use positive displacement pumps, and some customers like them because of the wide range of volumes and viscosities they can handle.
Cost: They are among the most expensive systems because each fill nozzle is connected to one positive displacement pump driven by a motor with an encoder, a stepper motor, or a servo motor.
Accuracy: To obtain consistent fill weights, great care needs to be taken in fill tank height, settings, room temperature, among others. Even with the highest quality pumps and servo-driven systems, each nozzle will have a different setting and may need to be adjusted throughout the day.
To answer the question of how to cap a bottle I would need some basic information like, what type of cap, type of bottle, speed requirements, torque requirements, sterilization, among others. So I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible with what I estimate will cover 95% of the capping done in the world.
There are thousands of bottle and caps designs out there but the principal for this capping is the same, you have to somehow place the cap on the bottle and screw it in with enough torque so you seal it and/or snap the safety ring on the bottle, so how do you do this, well depends among other things how many you want to do and at what speed, so I will break it down into industry categories:
Solution: At this stage normally you would just do it by hand, no need for machinery
Solution: At this point it’s convenient to use a hand held capper that will be priced between $300 to $1000, it’s a good way to start and eliminates the tedious un-reliable capping by hand. With these simple machines you can achieve good torque and placing the cap manually is not an issue for the operator unlike torquing by hand which can cause blisters, wrist problems, among other things.
Solution: If you have a single bottle that you need to do large production runs, for a few days then it makes economic sense to invest on an automatic capper that will place the caps and torque them automatically. For that solution there are 2 primary technologies, inline capping or chuck capping. Here you can look at an article to guide you a little better on common capping problems.
On the other hand if you are producing a total of 10,000 bottles but you are doing many changes, of bottles and caps and only run a 1,000 or so per type it would probably be better to invest in a cap tightener - retorquer. The investment for this machine is a lot less and changeover from one bottle to another takes less than 10 minutes
Solution: When you are capping more than 50 bottles per minute and up to 120 bottles per minute you need to look at an inline capping machine or a multihead chuck capper. The advantage of the inline capper is cost and flexibility versus the chuck capper that will give you better torque control and less cross-threaded or miss-capped bottles at a higher price requiring also expensive changeparts.
Solution: At this speed the best solution is a multihead chuck capper unless you are doing several types of bottles then it might be convenient to have several bottling lines. These machines are great but are very expensive and each bottle requires changeparts like star wheels, infeed screws, etc..
High end rotary chuck cappers average 2000 bottles per hour per head, so if you need to do 120 bottles per minute = 7200 bottles per hour / 2000 = 3.6 heads. So you would need at least 4 capping heads, this is only a starting point and each project is different. If your container is large (gallons or so) or difficult to handle you may want to buy a machine with more
In the plastic cap area you also have among others:
Automating the capping process of these type of capping systems normally requires large investments because handling them requires complex part handling as well as a very elaborate system for correct placement. Most small to medium bottlers and copackers hand place these type of caps and have inline tighteners that can torque the bottles eliminating the tediuos and tiring hand torquing process.
Trigger sprayers, pump sprayers, droppers and measuring cups are more common and a lot of technolgy is already developed so there are machines and designs out-there. Certain custom caps and diificult application will require specilized sorting systems and robotics to handle them and those machines tend to be very expensive and not very reliable because of the lack of previous experience - testing.
When trying to figure out what filling machine to purchase for your company, look no further than our TruPiston filler. Available in a check valve or rotary valve design, the check valve is primarily used for water thin products as there is no area for the product to slip causing inaccurate fills. At the same time, where it thrives with thin products it’s not a preferred option to fill thick viscous products consistently and accurately. However, our rotary valve system can handle thin products with minimal accuracy issues on small fill volumes, while being able to rip through more viscous and chunky products with up to ¾” particulates for maximum efficiency.
If you are dedicating one product to an entire line, or running a wide range of products and fill volumes Acasi’s electric ball screw piston filler is as ridged of a system as there is designed to handle production 24/7. If you would like to run products that range from 1 oz. – 1 gallon, Acasi’s TruPiston can handle it without any design changes to the standard machine (purchase the additional piston barrels). Via quick disconnect fittings, changing over nozzles for a new product can be completed in a matter of minutes. Thin products that tend to string or drip at the end of the filling cycle can be handled using either our bottom close design, or an air knife which leaves a clean fill (preventing backups at a further point on the line) allowing for a smooth transition at each machine on the production line.
Unlike pneumatic piston fillers that require air to drive the machine, Acasi’s TruPiston is driven by an electrically driven ball screw which allows more flexibility with product dispensing control. The product dispensing speed can be controlled from the beginning of the fill, all the way to the end. If you have a small fill volume or a wide mouth jar a pneumatic piston filler can experience air surges or “spikes” that create messy fills or a total catastrophe which in turn leads to downtime of the production line. With Acasi’s electrically driven ball screw, (for example) and to eliminate bad fill downtime caused by the air surges, the product can be filled at 100% speed for the first 90% of the total fill volume and then ramped down to the maximum dispensing speed while still producing a clean fill which allows for smooth production and a higher throughput. These ramp speeds can be stored in the HMI for quick and easy setup in the future.
In addition to air surges causing bad or messy fills, they can also cause consistently inaccurate fills with constant changes in air pressure. No one likes to guess how much they are filling, so with Acasi’s Trupiston system, fill volumes can be accurately changed on the fly. You don’t need to stop the machine to adjust the dial on the back of the air cylinder, all you have to do is simply go to the HMI, select the fill volume and raise or lower it accordingly, and then immediately upon the next fill cycle, the volume is corrected.
As mentioned above, the Trupiston filler is more versatile and efficient than pneumatic or air over oil systems. The system is designed with 304 or 316 SS, Teflon, Buna, and Viton polymers as wetted parts. The electric ball screw technology allows you to change dispensing speeds at different points of the fill cycle to produce a clean fill and maximize throughput as well as be able to change the fill volume on the fly directly from the HMI. This reduces downtime, and increases throughput.
After visiting more than one hundred manufacturing facilities I’m always surprised by the lack of bottle unscramblers being used in bottling and packaging production lines
After asking if they would consider adding a bottle unscrambler most of the times I’m met with resistant with this claims:
Before disregarding this idea I would argue:
A good bottle unscrambler would changeover faster than a capper and having your bottles being fed by a machine and not a human will increase your production offsetting x 10 cost of setup
2.Changeovers would take too long
If you document your changeovers and use the indicators changeover should take no more than 10-15 minutes
3.It’s a large investment
If you have one person working 8 hours per day feeding bottles a 35K bottles unscrambler would pay for itself in 1.5 years (just on labor costs), if you have 2 persons the payoff is less than 9 months
4. I don’t have space
There are some places where you can simply not add any more equipment, otherwise the effort to put in the machine will pay for it self quickly
If you are running production at least 30 hours per week at 30 bpm or more you should seriously consider adding a bottle unscrambler to your production line, not only will you save in labor costs but your production will increase by being more efficient on your bottle feeding.
Bottle unscramblers don’t go to the restroom, chat with their buddies or work slower because of a bad hangover.
One of my favorite manufacturing quotes by Henry Ford:
"If you need a machine and don't buy it, you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don't have it."