Automation Solutions for Direct to Container Digital Printers: Maximizing ROI and Adapting for Increased Uptime

SKA Kinsbrae in facility

A direct-to-container digital printers return on investment (ROI) is dependent on throughput and efficiency, and so being able to provide efficient continuous operation in order to maximize ROI is imperative.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to reasons where uptime and, thus, efficiency are negatively impacted. Some of these factors are unplanned, such as machine faults/errors, downed cans, an inconsistent supply of containers up or downstream from the printer, consumable shortages or low-quality consumables. There are also planned factors that can change the uptime of a machine, including maintenance, changeovers, or time required for training and safety instruction.

Adaptability/flexibility is key to responding to these factors, but there are also things that you can do to set your line up for success and adjust to these obstacles in the moment in order to salvage as much uptime (and profit) as possible.


The digital printer is a very specialized piece of equipment that requires a team to diagnose and repair when issues arise. When these repairs are needed, it adds to the lines downtime. Equipment on either side of the machine that does not require hyper-specialized diagnostic repair situations adds to a printers uptime, increasing overall profitability.


Keeping the conveyors primed with containers is essential to keeping the flow of product moving through the line, and thus, ROI. For the protection of the line as a whole as well as the decorated containers, line control is another facet to consider and can also serve to protect the line in the event of unplanned downtime. Moderating the chain speed ensures a consistent supply of cans and helps to eliminate downed cans.

Optimal line control implementation can minimize downtime on changeovers, stopping or pausing the chain speed or chain pause can control the flow and prevent can damage. Line control can also help to manage SKU changeover mid print-run so that SKUs do not intermix.

There is also an environmental facet to controlling line speeds, as the amount of energy consumed within the line is lessened by not running the line chains continuously, and can save a line money on variable costs.

Friction on a can decorating line can be disastrous to the printed artwork and the overall perception of the product. Controlling line speed can serve to reduce the damage to printed cans. Using line controls creatively to minimize downtime on the changeovers is another consideration as a printer moves between designs or can sizes.

Printing companies have evolved from small family companies who have built a team of printing experts. Each of these companies has products that require a diverse range of infeeds that is different from what is typically seen in container equipment handling. Having a team that can adapt to these very specialized considerations is essential in crafting a line that can maximize a company’s ROI.

An impeccable marriage of the printing company and the container handling company is the best way to ensure that your investment is truly maximized. Ska Fabricating is the industry leader in automation for digital printing lines. We’ve worked on projects across the globe and are excited to hear about yours. Drop us a line at


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