The differences between two popular packaging machine types: Vertical form fill seal (VFFS) packaging equipment and automatic pouch filling machines.
Let's take a look at 5 important points to consider when trying to decide which type of flexible packaging equipment will best fit the needs of your business.
If packaging speed is your foremost consideration, vertical form fill seal machinery will often beat premade pouch filling and sealing equipment. Packaging world’s flexible packaging playbook explains that "form fill seal, whether horizontal or vertical, is dedicated. It is capable of considerably higher volumes and faster speeds."
New technologies in pouch packing macinery, like Lin-Pack’s technology development, are quickly increasing speeds of automatic pouch filling machines to 60 bpm, which matches speeds of some VFFS machines.
In the world of packaging, increased speeds can sometimes mean sacrificing some flexibility: Bag styles must be more simplistic when packaging at high speeds and initial investment requirements are often a fair amount higher when purchasing packaging machines optimized for speed.
Remember, faster isn't always better. You must consider the needs of your unique application when deciding on flexible packaging equipment. While speed is important, you may find that it is not the most important aspect of your packaging project.
Waste and Scrap
Waste and Scrap Considerations
When operating a VFFS packaging machine, you essentially become a bag maker as well. Excess packaging material will be concentrated in your facility, with your company assuming costs for its disposal. When utilizing premade bags, scrap is disposed of off-site by the film company with that cost being passed on via purchase price of the premade pouches.
VFFS packaging machinery will also create waste (both packaging and product) during machine set-up, calibration, and changeover. With a premade pouch machine, you can set-up, calibrate, and perform changeovers without running product, allowing you to recycle the pouches and use them for final production. In theory, you could have zero waste on a premade pouch machine.
Packaging Machine and Material Cost
The cost of premade pouches and rollstock film is dependent on several variables. In working with our film supplier partners, we find that premede bags usually cost more than rollstock film when considering cost per impression. Sometimes the differences are minimal, and other times the price difference can add up to a substantial amount. While this may sound like a major decision point when evaluating costs, keep in mind the price of rollstock does not include the cost of scrap, labor, and time dedicated to VFFS packaging machine startup, tracking issues, and changeovers.
Much of the time a premade pouch machine will require a higher initial investment than a vertical form fill seal packaging machine. As with every capital purchase, cost and budget are very important, but many other factors will impact the packaging equipment's total cost of ownship over the long term. If a packaging OEM offers a price substantially lower than its competition for similar packaging machinery, take the time to research why that is. An inferior packaging machine can cost many times its initial price in repairs, lost production time, inferior packaging, etc.
Staff and Technical Expertise Required
When utilizing a vertical form fill seal packaging machine, you create your own bags in-house. Your employees will assume the 'bagmaker' roles necessary to ensure proper machine setup and changeover, including loading rollstock through the film path and ensuring accurate film tracking. This requires a more extensive level of technical knowledge and training.
When working with premade bags, an independent film supplier fabricates and ships the pouches, and your employees simply load them into the machine's bag magazine, necessitating much less technical expertise. With modern infeed technologies like robotic pick and place systems, manual labor is cut even more, so a single minimally trained worker can effectively load and operate a pouch filling machine.
Bag Types and Complexity
According to Packaging World's Flexible Packaging Playbook, if you will be making many different pouch sizes, shapes, or styles and need to change over a number of times in the same day, the automatic pouch filling machine is better suited to the short runs and flexibility you require. If you have longer runs and higher output, and only one to four standard bag sizes or styles, the VFFS packaging machine is the better option.
As with many decisions, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to selecting flexible packaging machinery. Your choice of packaging equipment must take into consideration many factors that will be unique to your packaging project:
· Requirements of your marketing department, such as bag style, advertising area, aesthetic appeal, and shelf presence.
· Requirements of your consumer base, both present and future. Consider things like portability, convenience, resealable and easy-open options, and the message you want your packaging to convey.
· Logistical considerations, like weight and shape of your packaged product and how that relates to shipping costs. Also consider how easy and efficient it will be to pack and palletize your packages for shipment.
· The technical experience of your machine operators, production staff, and maintenance crew. Are you looking for a machine that will complement your current staff's technical abilities, or are your equipment considerations independent of workforce implications, realizing you may have to invest in new and possibly higher paid staff?
· The constraints of cost and budget that are set forth by company leadership