Line balancing involves assessing both operator and machine time to ensure that task times are distributed evenly across the line.

In our previous blog, "Time Study Can Help Packaging Manufacturers Meet Demand and Achieve Peak Operational Performance," we discussed the first strategy, time study, to find the right balance between meeting evolving demands and achieving peak operational performance.

The second strategy, line balancing, involves assessing both operator and machine time to ensure that task times are distributed evenly across the line. This in turn cuts out any idle time, even the slightest blips, and helps keep a company on track with its takt time, which is the rate at which products need to be produced to meet orders. Line balancing can help packaging companies stay in line with demand, reduce in-process inventory, decrease cycle times, and enhance overall throughput.

Line Balancing Checklist

The way companies implement line balancing will be unique to their needs, but there are some common denominators packaging manufacturers should keep in mind as they begin the process.

  1. Map packaging tasks and timings. The best way to start is to map out all the tasks involved in the packaging process along with their respective timings, gathered through time study analysis. This helps to quickly identify bottlenecks and areas of excess capacity and sets the stage for better realignment.

  2. Consider the automation option. Automation isn’t a panacea, but consideration should be given to areas of the packaging process where it could help reduce manual error, and help with repetitive tasks such as filling, sealing, and labeling.

  3. Redesign packaging tasks. Armed with individual task details, examine specific tasks that may benefit from a redesign. Getting into this mindset helps optimize the efficiency of each station

  4. Deploy workers strategically. Utilizing workers based on their skills and the demands of each packaging station will ensure that each part of the line is staffed by capable personnel.

  5. A living process – continuously monitor and adjust. Companies that succeed over time are in the practice or regularly reviewing their packaging lines to adjust for changes in demand, specs, or new efficiency findings from ongoing time study work.

Flexibility + Efficiency = Growth and Peak Ops Performance

The packaging component to any manufacturing operation is crucial – it is essentially that stretch of grass from third base to home, when the product goes through its final steps before being shipped. There are many different types of lines, of course, and each one uses a different mix of both automated and manual processes. But one thing they are all facing is an increase in mass custom production of smaller package sizes, which introduces a whole new set of variables to consider, such as managing diverse materials, adjusting to different specifications for each order, and adapting to unpredictable orders – a design change, for example – that can throw that valued precision off.

This makes flexibility and efficiency paramount, both in terms of people who need to be trained and strategically deployed, and in equipment that needs to be able to handle the extra changeovers quickly. Time study and line balancing check all these key boxes and can help firms achieve the dual objective of meeting rising demand while driving peak operational performance and keeping customers satisfied.