Bulk bag fillers are critical because in any bulk material industry, whether it be food/dairy or plastic, or chemical products, there is a step where the product needs to be stored in some container.
Bulk bag fillers make that storage simple, safe, and efficient.
In this post, we are going to cover the following must-know guidelines you should consider when handling and choosing bulk bag fillers:
- Advantages of Bulk Bag Fillers
- How to Choose a Bulk Bag Filler
- Implementing Proper Support
- Correct Use of Liners
- Pre-Inspection of Bags and Equipment
- Avoid Overfilling or Overloading
- Sealing and Dust Containment
- Special Considerations for Auto-Eject Filling Systems
- Dust Mitigation
The container’s type, size, and volume may be a small bag holding 50lb or a small hopper holding 100lbs, or a giant silo that holds up to 100,000 lb. or even more.
Bulk Bags or Super Sacks or Totes are known as FIBC (Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container) used in the bulk material industry to store products (powders or pellets or grains) 1000-3000lbs depending on the product bulk density.
Advantages of Bulk Bag Fillers
The main advantage of the bulk bag is that once emptied, the bag occupies very little space and is either disposed of as scrap (food and dairy) or can be reused if the process permits in the plastic or chemical industry.
It has been reported that the use of the bags increases 12% – 15% per year and is not slowing at all. Most of this growth replaces 50# bags, drums, and gaylord boxes, which all present a higher cost of packaging and have severe ergonomic risks (back injury from repetitive lifting or awkward assembly of gaylords).
In a bulk powder handling operation, FIBCs are used in 2 different functions. The first is to pack the final product (blended formulation or finished product) in a bulk bag to a required weight and transport the product in bulk bags to the customers.
Most of the ingredients used in any industry (Food/Dairy/Chemical) are received in the Bulk Bags packed at the supplier manufacturing location.
How to Choose a Bulk Bag Filler
The Equipment used for this operation is Bulk Bag Filler. According to the Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container Association (FIBCA), the bag should be suited for the filling and emptying environment in which it is used.
Consult the attached “bag tag” here for weight rating and capacity, along with the manufacturer’s handling guidelines.
Like all FIBC handling equipment, fillers must be specifically designed for use with bulk bags.
They must be rated for the weight of the filled FIBC and adhere to approved handling methods. They must also come equipped with a proper safety loop and spout connections.
In addition to selecting the correct bag and equipment, operators must follow best practices to minimize the risk of injury.
Let’s go over some of the most important safety considerations when filling bulk bags.
Guideline #1: Implementing Proper Support
Lack of proper support will cause a filled bulk bag to lean dangerously to one side, creating a safety hazard to nearby personnel.
The rule of thumb is the bag must be supported off the corners about 3” to 4” from the pallet during filling. This allows the fabric to stretch correctly and avoid leaning or slumping. The filler must also accommodate proper support whether or not a pallet is used.
Guideline #2: Correct Use of Liners
FIBCA safety guidelines call for pre-inflating bag liners before use in most cases (formed/attached liners may not require pre-inflation).
The liner should extend past the fill spout or duffle, and it must be adequately secured during filling and discharge. Operators must tie off the liner within the fill spout or duffle in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Choose a bulk bag filler with a pre-fill inflator for lined bags to make filling more efficient, safe, and a better end product. Consider pre-inflation methods such as a compressed air venturi or expander or a positive displacement blower.
Guideline #3: Pre-Inspection of Bags and Equipment
Before attaching the bag to the filling system, an inspection of bag loops, body, spout, and bottom should be performed to ensure the package is suitable for filling. Also, a review of the equipment to include the spout seal, scale, height adjustment, and any other attachment/support components.
Guideline #4: Avoid Overfilling or Overloading
Operators must never exceed the safe working load (SWL) capacity of the bulk bag in use. FIBCs must never be filled to a level that affects the stability or that exceeds height-to-width limitations.
Bags are typically rated at a 5:1 or 6:1 SWL ratio. For example, a bag rated to hold 2,000 pounds must pass a test at 10,000 pounds to meet the 5:1 standard.
This means the bags are extremely well built and safe; however, pushing these limits beyond the stated capacity may have dire consequences. Overfilling the bag by size or overloading by weight creates several safety hazards. The bag may tip over or burst, the seams could rip open, or the lift loops could rip off.
A scale-controlled filler helps to fill bags to the precise weight required for each application. For products that have trouble settling, a vibration or thumping densification may offer a good solution. A filler accommodating mechanical adjustments is ideal for filling bags of varying heights and weights or even filling two bags on a single pallet (bag-on-bag).
Guideline #5: Sealing & Dust Containment
Operators must not be exposed to dust when filling bags. The fill spout or duffle must be closed and sealed during filling, as well as securely closed once complete. Operators should also inspect the bag to ensure the bottom discharge spout is securely locked before filling.
Equipment should enable the fill spout to be appropriately sealed without the operator holding it in an awkward position. Never use inferior sealing devices such as bungee cords. Bulk bag fillers should include dust-tight connections and efficient dust collection mechanisms.
Guideline #6: Special Considerations for Auto-Eject Filling Systems
More automated filling systems may include the automatic release of the bag spout and lift loops and drive the full bag from the machine via roller conveyors.
While these systems offer improved ergonomics and allow the operator to be outside of the bag removal and forklift traffic, they require some critical behavior and awareness to avoid injury.
Operators must ensure that they do not have fingers, arms, or other appendages near automatically moving mechanical systems.
They must also stay clear and never stand on powered rollers, belts, or other conveying devices. When operating in automatic mode, these systems should include proper E-Stops, lockouts, disconnects, interlocks, and even buzzer or light warnings.
Guideline #7: Dust Mitigation
Many dry materials create a static charge as they flow into or out of the bag, creating a risk of electric shock or a dust explosion.
The bag, all handling equipment, and operators must all be appropriately grounded throughout the filling or emptying process to mitigate the risk. Dust mitigation procedures will also vary depending on the type of bag or product in use. For example, Type C FIBCs that contain flammable substances must be grounded, along with filling or unloading equipment.
Bulk bag fillers are versatile, efficient, and able to work with a combination of filler designs, features, and equipment. Specifiers and operators can customize bulk bag filling systems and should keep in mind the guidelines explained above, from dust mitigation to being mindful to avoid overfilling and more.
Here at Pneu-Con, we understand that the wide variety of options can complicate the process, but we pride ourselves on providing bulk bag fillers as simply as possible through our partners. Please contact us today if you’d like to discuss how we can help provide you with the insight you need to choose a bulk bag filler or operate a system safely.