It's not unusual for a company to be extra cautious when facing a major equipment purchase. It's good preparation to consider costs, output rates, and how the equipment will work with existing machines. You might also consider training, equipment qualification, and how the department might have to change to accept more automation.

For those new to the responsibility of selecting packaging equipment, National Instrument LLC, Baltimore, Md., (filamatic.com), manufacturer of liquid-filling machines, offers this checklist to simplify the challenge.

Create a flow chart for the newly proposed work flow and prepare a written list of specifications for the new equipment. This should include:

  • Containers, closures, and other packages that will be handled by the equipment. Include all package dimensions and production control drawings with dimension tolerances on each.

  • List liquids to be filled, including characteristics, a range of required fill accuracy and fill volumes.

  • Space requirements for the equipment should include length, width, and height. Measure doorways, elevators, and hallways that equipment must pass through to its final work space.

  • List required line speeds. Identify rate-limiting steps. The slowest portion of the line must be scaled to meet the required line speed.

  • Identify required materials for parts that will contact liquids and the overall machine. Be sure to list materials that must not deteriorate when in contact with product liquids. Include materials common to equipment that might deteriorate in the presence of cleaning agents or liquids.

  • Identify environmental requirements for the equipment. For example, will it work in a class 100 clean room with laminar flow air, or someplace less clean? Include humidity and temperature ranges, and other environment details describing where the equipment will operate. Include environmental requirements for liquids.

  • Find required application and release-torque ranges for capped containers.

  • List information on products such as sterility, pH, shelf life, use in the marketplace, and final product quality control and quality-assurance test specifications.

  • Identify preferred equipment controls and inspection systems including those for PLC suppliers, and user passwords.

  • Tally the electrical, compressed air, vacuum, heat, steam, and other requirements for the equipment.

  • Identify transportation needs.

  • Detail how the liquid gets from reservoir to filler nozzle.

Assemble this data, along with sample containers, and forward it to your equipment manufacturer. It will analyze the data, conduct product testing if applicable, and respond with recommendations.