MGS has been deeply involved in serving those in our community that have less. We do a semi-annual blood drive, collect toys that are distributed by a local church and we’ve also collect funds while in the shadow of national disaster such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. One of our more active, local campaigns centers on collecting food for our local food shelf. We’ve followed a novel approach in doing this.

MGS joined The Food Drive Challenge ( a few years ago. This isn’t an organization but is more like a “movement” of several small to medium-sized businesses around the country that would like to engage their staffs in working to support those in need in their local communities. It works like this:

– The company determines who will run their campaign and he / she registers the company on the website “The Biggest Giver” challenge at the link above.

– PDF tools and tips are available on the website

– A strategy is determined…do we have team competitions, a company-wide prize like a Friday off during the summer or some other plan to spur on participation?

– The food drive is conducted – the suggestion is to do it during the month of March as this is one of the low points for food shelves

– Results are reports in and the site administrator will provide an update to all companies participating as to how they did against the other firms and what we raised as a group

The basic idea is that this is good for the company, good for the staff and good for those in the community that receive the direct benefit

– The company benefits because people that give are generally better employees. All companies want the best employees. We all would rather work with “Givers” .

– Employees that participate have the opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves and contribute to serving others. We’re all busy now days and we might have good intentions of getting involved in some kind of service work, but who can find the time? With the employer providing the opportunity do serve, the employee can easily become a part of this.

– Obviously those in need are served by what is raised – food, household items, etc.

By the way, in recent years many food shelves would almost prefer to receive monetary donations as they have the ability to purchase items at a lower cost than individuals. Our company provides a $1 to $1 match with our staff donations as an incentive. We’ve found more people willing to give cash than scrounge through their cupboards or go shopping.

So, would you consider urging your company into considering becoming part of the Biggest Giver Challenge at We hope so. And so does your staff and your community.

MGS Machine Corporation

9900 85th Ave N.

Maple Grove, MN 55369


There are a many ways you can drag down your Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) rating, but make sure you avoid these common culprits…

1. Under training. Machine operators should know how to properly load commodities and quickly clear jams to get the line back up and running. Train them accordingly, and place simple how-to instructions–with more pictures and less text–near the machines for fast cleaning, troubleshooting and changeovers.

2. Shoddy commodities. Stay on your vendors to ensure they provide quality commodities. Inconsistent and out-of-spec materials are hard on equipment and are big-time OEE drags. By optimizing your commodities, you’ll make it easier for the equipment to run smoothly. The extra cost–usually just pennies–is worth it.

3. Lack of buffer zones. Strategically place buffers to compensate for downstream failures while the upstream equipment, which can be more difficult and time-consuming to restart, continues to operate. It’ll help reduce labor costs and overtime and could increase your line capacity.

4. Out-of-synch speeds. Making sure that downstream equipment outpaces upstream machines seems like a no-brainer, yet we still see lines in which equipment speeds are not properly synchronized. Each successive machine must outpace its predecessor, or it’ll pull down your OEE rating.

5. Surge charges. Improper spacing of equipment can trigger harmful surges, shutting down upstream equipment unnecessarily. Be sure you’ve got enough surge coverage and that the location of sensors allows for an efficient run.

6. Excessive “reject” stops. Your OEE rating gets nicked with every stoppage, so tread carefully here. Plan for a “reasonable number” of items to come off the line without a shutdown. Rethink what’s truly a critical error–and worthy of a stoppage– and what isn’t.

7. Refill shutdowns. Don’t let new web rolls, labels, and tape put a halt to your run. Work with your OEM to allow refill changes to be made online, and keep things flowing.

Our firm:

MGS Machine serves the pharmaceutical market with its automated packaging machinery solutions. We have over 14,000 successful installations in 27 countries around the world. Our main campus is located in Maple Grove, MN USA. We work with pharmaceutical manufacturers and their contract packaging suppliers to implement automated secondary packaging lines.

MGS Machine Corporation

9900 85th Ave N.

Maple Grove, MN USA 55369



Serialization is an anti counterfeiting strategy being adopted by CPGs globally. Government has begun to mandate this in certain industries. Product serialization is one approach. Firms adopting product serialization must deal with data management at an enterprise, plant and line levels. This commentary provides an approach to secondary packaging applications. Unique serial numbers are marked on the unit of sale, then the case or bundle, and finally the pallet. Aggregation of these numbers occurs at the case and pallet. The following suggests how this may be done and minimize risk.


Goods available for sale that are of high value and reasonably easy to counterfeit are the most likely targets. We see this in the pharmaceutical industry (MGS’ core market) but it is also a concern in electronics and with items like ink jet cartridges. Counterfeiting is done by highly organized crime rings using the profits to finance and expand their illegitimate operations.

Harm to the public comes in two principal ways – financial and health / safety. Consumers are duped when buying an item that may not meet the published claims. Manufacturers experience lost sales. And in the case of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, the risk to our health is potentially life threatening.

Industries’ response to secure our product channels is to adopt various anti counterfeiting strategies. Special printing, holographic foils and chemical signatures are all in current use. The global pharmaceutical community has largely adopted the application of serial identifiers (unique, non-consecutive numbers) to their products. Throughout the distribution channel this number can confirm the product is legitimate. Importantly, the end consumer can verify this as well.

The infrastructure required to implement this is significant. This barrier has delayed moving forward faster. Government has gotten involved to mandate serialization among health care products manufacturers. The governments of Turkey and Brazil are early adopters. In the U.S., the State of California passed legislation in which serialization requirements start January 1, 2015. The business case for implementing serialization on existing (and all new) packaging lines is challenging to build. Government intervention will see to it serialization happens.


Our discussion will be geared toward the use of serialization within pharmaceutical packaging operations. Generating a random, unique number for each unit of purchase (each packaging line could require hundreds of numbers for every minute of operation) is the first challenge. Beyond that, each number must be associated with each product; groups of numbers (aggregates) must be associated with other unique numbers (parent – child relationship). Then, all this data must be managed, stored and made available well into the future.

Both plant and line level information systems must be in place and equipped to deal with this data. There are a number of firms and partnerships in the marketplace providing solutions for this. Our discussion will be centered on implementation at the packaging line level and how it can best be configured to provide accurate data to the line level information system.

It has become customary to apply the first or lowest level of serial identifier on the unit of sale. Commonly, this is either a bottle or carton. In few instances, it has been considered to apply serialization at an earlier level, such as a blister, vial, pouch or even a tablet. Our requested implementations have only been at the unit of sale as the lowest or first lead thus far.


Our discussion will center on applying the unique serial number to the carton, then case and finally the pallet.

Applying a serial number to the carton

Cartons have allowed space and location for printing or labeling that gives data on the lot and expiration date for many years. Adding a serial number to this means allowing for the necessary space to apply it. It may also require an upgrade printer technology.

Typically the serial number is applied in a machine-readable format, with the 2D code being chief among those. The 2D code is small, can be printed with either a laser or ink jet printer and has the ability to contain a lot of data. A few years ago, we saw RFID tags being considered, but have not been widely commercialized largely due to the unit cost.

It can be challenging to add a printing head and a vision camera or scanner inside of a cartoner. This creates a lot of clutter in and around the area of carton flap closing, a common area of cartoner failure. So clearing jams and cleaning the machine becomes problematic.

We recommend a small, separate print, verification and reject module be added to the line immediately downstream of the cartoner. This keeps these functions discrete and separate from the customer and easier to manage. Also, some of the modules can have lockable bins that insure rejects are not added back to the line by operations or other personnel.

It’s critical this module maintain positive control of the carton to insure high quality printing, particularly the case with 2D codes. Otherwise, unnecessary rejects will occur. Also, the carton can be inspected for open flaps prior to being conveyed to the casepacker or bundling machine, eliminating a potential jam and line stoppage.

Applying a serial number to the case or bundle

This is where the first level of aggregation occurs (all cartons in the case or bundle are now tied to a new, unique, single serial number). Where another, new unique number is issued and all the serial numbers for each carton are associated with it (parent – child relationship).

Each carton serial number is read by a scanner or vision camera and collected by the line monitoring system. Then, the new serial number for the case or bundle is issued. In some equipment, it’s possible to scan the collated cartons all at one time just prior to loading the case or wrapping the bundle. We recommend this as it provides additional assurance of which cartons actually make it into the case or bundle.

At this point, the case or bundle is now assigned a unique serial number. The line monitoring system must store this data and track it until the next function of the packaging line is performed. Typically this is palletizing, the last function on the packaging line.

Applying a serial number to the pallet

Each case or bundle having its unique serial number now arrives at the palletizing operation. Just prior to this, often we are asked to apply a label to the case or bundle displaying its 2D code.

With some line monitoring systems, it is also possible to print this label and include printing the serial number in human-readable format. Also possible, is to print the serial numbers for each carton included in the case or bundle in human-readable characters. This makes a user-friendly system.

Once the label is applied, the case is added to the pallet, either manually or via an automatic palletizing machine. A new, second level of aggregation takes place. All cases or bundles are now tied to another, new, unique serial number. Now the function of the packaging line is complete.

Our firm:

MGS Machine serves the pharmaceutical market with its automated packaging machinery solutions. We have over 14,000 successful installations in 27 countries around the world. Our main campus is located in Maple Grove, MNUSA. We work with pharmaceutical manufacturers and their contract packaging suppliers to implement serialized secondary packaging lines.

MGS Machine Corporation

9900 85th Ave N.

Maple Grove, MNUSA 55369


Drawings and further information to support this commentary are available by contacting

There are two principal methods to automatically feed trays:

Drop-style (rotary screw or alternating gate) and vacuum (pick n’ place). Drop-style feeding allows for high-speed applications, however the tray design including thickness of material must support this.

Vacuum Pick n’ Place feeding at slightly slower speeds provides the most flexibility in tray design.

The following information will apply to both methods, however our emphasis will be on tray design that supports the Vacuum Pick n’ Place method. There are three main types of Vacuum Pick n’ Place automated tray feeding. In most cases, the trays are stacked in a magazine with the tray cavity forward or toward the vacuum cups.

Standard Reciprocating Motion: The vacuum cups contact the bottom of the tray near the lower sidewall. Flat areas of about 1 1/2″ in diameter must be provided to give a good sealing surface for the vacuum cups.

See a video snippet at

Straight-line Motion: This is the most forgiving motion as it relates to tray design (can handle the toughest trays). Flat spots must be located on the tray bottom near the corner where each sidewall meets the bottom of the tray.

See a video snippet at

- Sidewall Denesting Motion: This is used when the tray material is very thin or no flat spot is provided on the bottom of the tray. Tray sidewalls must be flat (smooth).

See a video snippet at

Bottom Pick Motion: Trays are loaded in the magazine with bottom of the tray facing the vacuum cups (opposite of all other styles) and the vacuum cups contact the bottom of the tray when picking. These applications are unique and least used. The instances when this is required are (1) No good flange to clip on (2) Light tray material so bottom of the tray is flimsy (3) Prohibited from making contact with the inside of the tray. Flat spots must be located on the bottom of the tray.

See a video snippet at

Denesting lugs are a necessary feature to allow for automated tray feeding. Lugs allow for separation of the tray and permits the insertion of a hold back clip between trays when needed.

Standard / Alternating Lugs: The lug from one tray sits atop the flange of the next. Design of each lug is same, but lug location on each tray varies so that the lug from one tray does not line up with the next. This requires trays be manufactured on a multiple head die and collated in sequence so the lugs do not line up.

Reverse Lug: Similar to Standard Lugs, each lug sits on the flange of the next tray. These lugs are more difficult to produce  because lugs are created by notching the mold in an opposite draft angle from the rest of the tray. This can make the tray difficult to release from the mold.  As for the positives, these can be made on a one-up mold. Since each tray is the same, no collation sequence is required.

Feel free to contact us with your further questions or comments about tray design for automation at or call us at 763-425-8808.

So which is better….friction vs. vacuum feeding for stackables. What is a ‘stackable’ item?

Anything that can be organized or ‘stacked’, trayed or loaded into a magazine in an organized manner. Examples are DVDs, magazines, literature, sandpaper, trays (most), brochures, coupons, etc. Thickness can vary as you see from the examples. Each item shares one characteristic – its stackable.

Considerations for selecting the style of automatic feeder (either one based on the use of friction or a pick n’ place style using vacuum)

  • Speed required: Usually friction is faster than vacuum
  • Accuracy of placement required: Vacuum is most often used when tolerances are tight
  • Nesting of products: We think of trays typically in this case. Think microwave-able dinner tray. Friction feeding won’t work because the trays are nested together. Use vacuum here.
  • Quality of finish: We have seen this with trading cards and other high-gloss finished items. The finish on the item may scratch if run through a friction feeder. Vacuum gets the nod.

When looking for a supplier, its best to deal with a firm that handles both styles of feeders so you’re not lead into the wrong automated solution.

Occasionally we will be asked by a customer why they should consider a glue-style outserter instead of a tape-style.  There are three key advantages to outserting with glue versus tape:

  • Lower operating cost – Overall operating costs are typically much lower with hot melt adhesive.  This is primarily due to the ongoing material cost of tape vs. glue.  Hot melt adhesive is typically 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of tape with comparable properties.
  • Less downtime – Typically, outserters using tape will incur more downtime due to roll changes, roll splicing, roll alignment, and other maintenance issues.  With the improved glue technology and the performance of the latest nozzle designs, previous hot melt issues have been all but eliminated, translating to a much more effective and efficient application method.
  • Better bonding – With the various types of caps and surfaces (especially the raised letters on CR caps), tape applied outserts have very limited bonding strength as there are only a few points of contact.  Hot melt adhesive will form around the surface area of the substrate and provide a larger, more consistent contact area.  Also, hot melt provides the flexibility to increase or decrease the amount of adhesive being used depending upon the substrate surface.

Usually after a close examination of the two methodologies and the advantages outlined above, it’s easy to see why most new outserting lines that are installed today use glue-style outserters.


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