Manufacturers have much to consider before investing in new capital equipment. We’ve previously covered the first two major questions that should be explored before upgrading from bags to sacks to truckloads.
To recap: ingredient purchases in larger volume containers have lower cost/pound than the same ingredient in smaller packages. Larger volume purchases may then require new and larger storage solutions. With automation, larger volumes could also improve efficiency by lowering the total labor required to unload ingredients from their packaging.
There are 3 more critical questions we have put together in order to help you decide if it is time to invest in new material handling equipment. Upgrading to equipment that presents both new advantages and responsibilities is a crucial moment for any manufacturer, so here are those 3 questions to pose before making that leap:
1. Can (and should) you purchase materials in larger quantities?
50-pound bags, super sacks, and truckloads of material — each of these units of measurements represent a unique cost-per-pound of ingredient. The cost (per pound) is usually lower when you purchase a larger container, but some materials are not readily available in bulk sizes.
Even if they are available, there are times when the typical price advantage may not be applicable. Take for instance, if there are a limited number of suppliers. Another scenario involves many competitors, but only one of them offering the ingredient in a larger container. There would be no incentive for them to sell it cheaper than a 50-pound bag in this situation. This is a nuanced scenario but is still worth considering.
2. Are the ingredients in question used in a timely manner?
There are three scenarios in which having too much material can become a problem. These include a material’s expiration date, a material’s change (due to environmental factors that render it unusable) and material attracting unwanted pests as it waits to be used.
Will your material expire before you are able to use it? This usage-dependant detail will vary from ingredient to ingredient and recipe to recipe. Some ingredients have a clear expiration date. If you aren’t using them before they expire, then it wouldn’t make sense to upgrade to a larger purchase volume.
Other material might undergo some sort of change due to the storage environment rendering it unusable. Hygroscopic material requires dry storage to prevent spoilage. Some ingredients left sitting for long periods of time invite pests. In all these cases, this material would be ultimately wasted, so it would not be beneficial to have ordered these materials in large quantities.
Does the amount of product used dictate which specific technology to invest in?
This question cannot be answered in a generic way. Specific applications will determine whether a bag tip station, a bulk bag unloader or a storage silo will fit an operation best. There is no rule of thumb that can be applied broadly to each material handling situation.
There are many plants still handling bags for each ingredient, so the use of big bags may be new to some manufacturers. If buying ingredients in super sacks is less costly than a super sack unloader, the unloader might provide a worthwhile ROI. Typically, manufacturers who use many bags of a single ingredient regularly could benefit from investing in a super sack unloader.
If you're thinking about buying a super sack unloading system or have any questions on how to help your plant and processes run smoothly in general, feel free to contact our AZO sales team. AZO has more than seven decades of experience in handling raw materials and shaping ingredient automation along the way.