Cover of Industry Update Manufacturing Magazine July 2024, featuring Packserv Australia.

Packaging Machinery looks to Industry 4.0 and 5.0 technologies

Sydney-based Packserv began as a packaging equipment machinery and technical services business for manufacturers in 2007 just before the global financial crisis strangled many. Now it’s taken a leap into Industry 4.0 by making a digitised, twin-lane, 8-cylinder filling machine.

Packserv is a strong advocate for Australian made manufacturing, its packaging machinery is made locally here in Australia, supporting local FMCG manufacturers.  Having started manufacturing capping and filling equipment in-house: its range now includes equipment for filling, capping, labelling, container handling and infeed and out-feed tables. The company gives training, service and support to all customers, primarily from FMCG, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Liquid Filling MachinePackserv was deemed an essential service during Covid and the company invested in more machinery while the market was quiet so that FMCG manufacturers could access equipment immediately avoiding the significant supply chain disruptions and long lead times. Managing Director Nathan Wardell steered the business through that second crisis for manufacturers and now believes the dust has settled and industry prospects are looking up.

“I think the lower end of the manufacturing industry’s SMEs disappeared during Covid and the last four years. The survivors, they want to compete — including with international product,” Wardell said.

“We service the SME market and have found that SME customers who used to want to fill five to 10 to 20 units a minute now want to do it twice as fast.”

While Wardell sees industry accelerating processes to be competitive, Packserv strives to give customers no more than they need. The company enjoys working with companies that are starting out: to fit customers’ growth, Packserv has a buy for life philosophy with its machinery offering a simple modular design that can be added to as the customers’ needs change and utilise common spare parts.

Made in Sydney 
Inhouse manufacturing of conveyors and pneumatic fill-and-capping equipment started in Marrickville in 2018. Packserv makes and stocks almost all the filling machine parts inhouse and these are traditionally made with high CNC-machined in 316 stainless steel and 6010 aluminium plus some engineered rubbers and plastics for other parts.  This means that Packserv is able to offer immediate access to machinery, parts and technical support, thus helping FMCG manufacturers put food into the supermarkets and compete against imported alternatives avoiding 6-12 months lengthy delays.

Pneumatic machines are safer than electric — especially if water or washing is involved or products are flammable.

The digital, two-by-eight, fast filler
Most of Packserv’s systems are single-lane but the company has developed a digitised system which has two incoming lanes and eight adjustable filling cylinders.  Known as the eight-head auto filling machine, it’s designed to fill 120-140 units per minute. Eight nozzles shuttle across to fill the second lane’s eight containers — which efficiently saves the wait time of the first eight containers getting out of the way.

“The machine is Industry 4.0 enabled, so it offers real-time remote access capabilities, proactive technical support and predictive maintenance capabilities. This drives greater productivity, reliability and efficiency, while at the same time reducing and optimising energy consumption. The new design concepts mean the machine is more energy efficient.  We’ve also incorporated a closed-loop cleaning system to reduce product changeover durations reducing operator time,” Wardell said.

The machine’s valve technology can handle different particles and viscosities so long as the fill is in a ‘flow’ or liquid state.

Packserv is working together with universities and technology partners to introduce Industry 4.0 and 5.0 technologies into its machinery range.  The company teamed with University of Technology Sydney for programming its dual-lane filler and they are continuing to work with UTS grad students to develop AI for it.  It’s also working with University of Sydney to develop long-lasting titanium parts.

Another collaboration with University of Wollongong is in the realm of additive manufacturing and 3D printing offering new avenues to enhance our manufacturing processes and exploring alternate composite materials that can be utilised in Packserv’s machinery.  This means that as well as making complex parts, routine parts can also be made stronger and at a price that makes them economically viable.

Packserv offers filling, capping, labelling and handling machinery for the FMCG, Pharmaceutical and Cosmetics industries
Packserv offers filling, capping, labelling and handling machinery for the FMCG, Pharmaceutical and Cosmetics industries

Sales, hire, service and longevity
The company does outright sales long-term and short-term hire — even for a few days — as well as rent-to-buy, leases and will happily supply an upgrade within its range as well.

Packserv sometimes installs 10 or 15 machines in one production line and will source other suppliers’ machines to put a complete solution together if required.

Because it makes its own filling-and-capping machines and almost all parts for them, Packserv has stock on hand. As much as possible, it uses common parts across newer machines so customers can continue using what they started with — or add more as needed.

“We get almost constant calls from people who have bought something online which has broken down or has sensors that work erratically. But in a lot of cases they are not worth fixing,” Wardell said.

As part of its buy for life philosophy, Packserv’s quality machinery offers a simple modular design that can be added to as the customer’s needs change. “We’d rather sell machines which last and we often service machines which are still working well at 30 and 40 years old.”

Last year Packserv generated 60% growth in turnover despite the contraction manufacturing has experienced in the last few years.  Wardell expects to see a new raft of startups that need Packserv’s products as our onshore FMCG sector improves.

If he can capture that market, Wardell is looking to invest further in advanced manufacturing and new markets.

Read the article on Industry Update Website or see the article on the Digital Magazine.

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