The lightweight 500-ml nonreturnable bottle launched a revolution in the bottled water industry, but it posed an intriguing challenge for bottled water manufacturers.
The Packaging Challenge
Over the past 10 years, 500-ml PET mineral water bottle weights have fallen from 25 grams to 9 grams, creating more compressible, environmentally friendly and less expensive bottles. Polyethylene shrink film multipacks, now the industry standard, have been getting larger and heavier, often requiring corrugated trays or pads for package stability, which in turn has added cost and introduced a recycling and carbon footprint negative.
The Offset Solution
Offset, or staggered, packages solve this riddle. In offset packaging, alternate bottle lanes are advanced one-half-bottle diameter in relation to each other in a Hartness GlobalShrink machine.
This creates a honeycomb pattern which results in six contact points between bottles, instead of four, which is typical in a standard rectangular pack. This grid allows greater shrink force between the rows of bottles when the package is tightened. This greatly reduces the bottles’ tendency to move laterally within the package, leading to consistently tight, great-looking, and, most importantly, safe packages. “Offset packaging is a unique value proposition,” says John Loughlin, Hartness market development manager for film products.
Tested and Proven
To confirm that the offset package was stronger and more stable, the Hartness GlobalShrink team and Hartness Robotic Palletizing engineers visited the Clemson University Center for Flexible Packaging (CEFPACK) with a number of bottled water customers. Offset multipacks were packed on Hartness GlobalShrink high-speed shrinkwrap machines. The packs were then palletized and run through a series of ISTA-3 pallet tests, including random steel vibration, compression, incline impact and a specially designed corner-drop test. The tests included packages of 24, 28, 32, 35 and 40 lightweight PET bottles.
The results were unmistakable. Offset packages were tighter than the traditional packages and had increased pallet stability. “For some package sizes, it’s possible to palletize one more pack per layer per pallet,” Loughlin says. That means fewer transport trucks. The increased stability and strength of the package eliminates the need for corrugated cardboard to stabilize large water multipacks, making the package more environmentally friendly, and, in some cases, allowing Hartness customers to double stack pallets in the warehouse, saving valuable warehouse space.
Pallet stability test at Clemson University
Hartness engineers made one more key finding: Bottles in the offset packages stayed tightly packed even after a progressively greater number of bottles were removed from the package. “The packages look better on the store shelf because of their increased tightness, which increases the customer’s chances of selling all the packages on the shelf,” Loughlin says. The tighter package conferred another advantage: Workers can carry the remaining packaged bottles safely as they load refrigerators, vending machines, or other storage locations.
John Loughin tests offset pack handling as bottles are removed from package. http://youtu.be/7tpMrROoy8g
“The increased package strength leads to safety and increased pallet stability, while the stronger package gives a more attractive on-shelf appearance,” says Loughlin. It’s a stronger, smaller package that makes storage safer, use easier, and distribution more efficient. The reduced cost from eliminating the corrugated cardboard is just the cherry on top.
How many companies have been in business for over 100 years and are a Fortune 200? The answer is only a few and Illinois Tool Works (ITW) is one of them. ITW is a leading diversified manufacturer of specialized industrial equipment, consumables, and related service businesses. As an evolving international company, ITW is bringing in competent young individuals with diverse backgrounds and personalities. ITW created a rotational program named Emerging Leadership Development Program for recent college graduates. The mission of this program is to develop the participants into leaders for the future through exposure to the different businesses. The management group of ITW carefully selected twelve participants with high potentials out of thousands of applicants. One of them is Chi Leong, a.k.a.Terry.
Chi named himself Terry after a video game character because it was the only English name he could enunciate at the time. He was born in 1989 in the City of Macau, which was colonized by the Portuguese and it is currently the Las Vegas of China. He migrated to Chicago without his mother when he was 16 years old knowing only the English alphabet. As one of the few Chinese students attending a public high school in the racially divided and crime-infested part of Chicago, he quickly realized the only way out is to become successfully academically. Challenges such as language barrier and racism failed to diminish Terry’s desire for success. Through hard work and perseverance, he was accepted by a Big Ten university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in 2008.
The transition of being surrounded by skyscrapers in a major city to being surrounded by corn fields in the middle of nowhere spurred an agricultural interest in Terry. He chose to major in Technical Systems Management. This major is simply a combination of agricultural technologies and business principles. Terry was doing well academically but he realized that his introverted personality hindered his path to success. He decided to take control of his social skills by striking up conversations with a minimum of five strangers daily. With positive thinking and perseverance, he finally grasped the social skills he needed and he has made three best friends. The social skills Terry has developed in the first two years of college marked a turning point of his career.
Through many social interactions, Terry has gained the ability to present himself confidently to college recruiters. He was offered internships for companies including John Deere and Caterpillar throughout his remaining college years. All of his internships were marketing related and this exposed him to projects including date analysis, event planning, and market research. In his free time, he does kickboxing to sharpen his mental determination and Latin dance to maintain his positive attitude.
The first corporate assignment for Terry is to support the marketing team of Hartness International, a business unit of ITW, in Greenville, South Carolina. ITW believes this assignment will be a perfect fit for the professional and personal development of Terry. He will participate in projects including website management, tradeshow support, and marketing assessment tool development.
Look for Terry at Pack Expo in Las Vegas in September 23-25 at the Hartness International booth #C-3525.
Recently, I had the unique opportunity to speak at an Executive conference sponsored by the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers (ISPE) in Philadelphia. The topic was interesting. Pharmaceutical Executives were seeking manufacturing and quality "best practices" from other manufacturing segments, such as beverage and aerospace. Why? I wondered.
Many of us who work in manufacturing have long considered the pharmaceutical industry a bit of an anamoly, and with good reason. As Hartness had been a supplier to the pharmaceutical industry for some years, I had several pre-conceived notions about the industry:
- there is always a vast supply of capital to build new packaging lines, therefore many companies are not particularly concerned with efficiency improvement
- innovation spend goes toward new product development (not new package development)
- there is very little competition for large drug makers, so cost-reduction is not critical.
Though I came to Philadelphia to educate, I learned every bit as much as I taught. It's safe to say that things are rapidly changing for the pharmaceutical industry, and especially for the industry leaders.
As an ITW company, Hartness has a number of packaging solutions that have helped other manufacturing sectors improve efficiency and improve flexibility. That's why Nancy Berg, the President and CEO of ISPE, invited us. We joined Boeing and several other well-known companies as speakers.
While presenting our innovative DYNAC technology, which improves packaging line efficiencies in a compact footprint, I learned that the pharmaceutical industry does recognize the need to be more innovative in both its packaging and its supply chain. I also learned that it's not that simple:
- Capital is less readily availble today.
- Operating margins are decreasing for many companies due to competition from generics and increased governmental scrutiny.
- Consumers are looking for more sustainable packaging.
- Pharmaceutical companies are having to consider the consumer experience for an aging population that is more concerned about sustainable packaging and "ease-of-use" than ever before.
In many ways, I could have been speaking to a group of beverage executives who are worried about on-shelf differentiation, sourcing sustainable packaging material like thinner-walled PET and pouches, and who are lamenting the price pressure due to the rise of store brands, all of which is driven by cost-conscious consumers. The ability to innovate remained a concern for many of the executives, primarily due to three factors: a culture that does not reward innovation, high risk involved with making changes, and governmental regulations that require massive amounts of compliance documentation i.e. significant hidden cost to innovate. Obviously we, as consumers, want to be safe, but pharmaceutical executives with whom I spoke, discussed the need for a healthy balance between the public safety and innovation.
In the end, my final message was this:
There are innovative solutions such as DYNAC accumulation/buffering technology and Robotic automation that are being used successfully in other manufacturing sectors like beverage, home and personal care. These innovations can improve efficiency, increase flexibility and effectively handle light-weighted packages. Hartness' solutions are just two examples of a multitude of technologies being used successfully in other industries. If innovative manufacturers can scale and price these technologies appropriately for the pharmaceutical industry, there are great opportunities to help this industry accomplish its operational goals.
Recently I sat down with Rick Sweeney, the general manager and executive Vice President of Straub Distribution Company and asked him to share some of this thoughts on the industry and trends in supply chain and distribution.
Straub has over 350 employees, and is considered one of the foremost Anheuser Busch distributors in the USA. Recently Straub installed ITW Warehouse Automation's Vertique case picking system, designed to reduce labor costs in the warehouse and on the road.
Here are some excerpts of our conversation:
Scott Smith: Rick, we're hearing a lot about customer choice and package light-weighting in the consumer package goods segment. Are these trends that are impacting beer distribution as well? If so, how?
Rick Sweeney: The rapid growth of craft beer is a major trend that is associated with customer choice, and our SKUs are growing like crazy because of it. That segment now has growth trends in the mid teens while all the majors are losing share. Clearly people have a wider range of products they are going to choose from, in everything they do, in wine, beer, clothes...really everything. People used to have a set of one, two or three brands, and they wouldn't drink anything else. Today, the average consumers have 15 brands in their mix. They go to the store and ask themselves "what's on sale?" or "what's the occasion?" and that's what they're purchasing.
We've seen a ton of (primary and seconday package) light-weighting in the beer business, and this is where it ends up before it goes to the retailer. We measure damaged product by what comes back on the trucks, and we are up 50% over the last 4 months.
SS: So essentially, your BSL (breakage, spoilage, loss) numbers are going up, so you're saving money on packaging but giving some of the savings back in returned product?
SS: Has automating your case picking area helped?
RS: I would certainly say it's helped, but we did not base any ROI on a reduction in damage because we don't measure the amount of damage prior to loading the truck, so it is difficult to determine where in the supply chain something might have been damaged.
Click on "Get Insights from Thought Leaders" button above for the whole story!
Straub Distribution handles about 11,000,000 cases per year. Along with this interview with Rick Sweeney, I've compiled a Case Study on Straub's Vertique installation. Feel free to download it as well as the interview transcript.
As a student at Furman University, I had heard about Hartness International as a highly influential international business with local roots. Now, as a marketing intern at Hartness, I am seeing firsthand what has contributed to this company’s reputation.
The past two semesters I took business courses on strategy and sustainability from a phenomenal professor, Dr. Bruce Clemens. Before attending his courses, I thought sustainability was merely a fancy business word for the slogan “Going Green”. I quickly discovered, however, that sustainability means much more to a business than recycling and limiting waste. The term and its engagements are essential to the existence and preservation of the company and industry as a whole.
After just a short time at Hartness International, I see that sustainable practices are woven into all aspects of the business. The sustainable solutions that Hartness has developed and implemented have established this company as a packaging industry leader and global innovator.
Lean packaging lines designed around DYNAC that require less space and energy
Packaging equipment that consumes minimal utilities
Robotics and innovative line control strategies that enable the light-weighting of containers
Programs that extend the life cycle of packaging equipment
Organic, environmentally-friendly UV inks for bottle decoration and coating
Dr. Clemens instilled in me this passion for sustainability. From a classroom passion to first hand business experience, I am looking forward to pursuing and contributing to this passion during my internship at Hartness International.
Editor's Note: Ben Granger is a Senior at Furman University completing his final semester in Business Administration. We are pleased to welcome Ben to the Hartness Marketing team for the summer.
Revamping a website is no easy task, and our marketing team is excited to have just unveiled the new Hartness website. With many new functions to make searching quicker and easier, look for new sections such as one dedicated to market segments, and another featuring a development timeline of Hartness innovation in the marketplace, that I personally find very interesting.
One of our goals was to create a site that would allow visitors to easily interact with Hartness, with our thought leaders and our management team. Take this new blog, for example, where you'll find posts from Hartness employees, as well as guest bloggers. The site also provides links to social media sites on which Hartness participates.
So, whether you are searching for the latest packaging equipment and robotic solutions, seeking innovative line designs, researching ways to increase throughput or just browsing, we appreciate your visit!
At the end of the day, this website is for you, so we want to know what you think. We're even willing to offer the possibility of a little reward for your time. Leave a comment or suggestion here below, and then click on the button Win an iPad. Subscribe to this blog and/or to our newsletter, and you'll be entered twice.
Have you been keeping up with the many developments in our label deco inks and coatings? If you aren’t very familiar with Hartness-Inks, you may want to check our web page.
The colorants we now use eliminate any concerns about Bisphenol-A (BPA), and our pigments are ground directly into our own proprietary resins. We have made a variety of Pantone and some exciting custom colors for clients, ranging from transparent to opaque, and from matte to high gloss. This process is enabled by UV technology.
Did you know that Hartness-Inks can make just about any color you could want?
We believe that the true test of ink adhesion is to simulate line conditions precisely. To do this we’ve developed our own bottle to bottle automated Rub Resistance tester, which counts how many times two bottles can be rubbed together under increasing weight until the coatings or inks wear through to the bare glass. Our intensive testing regime has allowed us to not only track improvements in the abrasion resistance and durability of our inks and coatings but also to understand how they perform even in the harshest filling line and supply chain conditions.
The innovative Hartness-Inks technology is designed for the printing and coating of glass containers.
This holiday weekend, if you are browsing the beer aisles, be sure to look for the new “platinum” beer in the cobalt blue molded glass bottle. This has been the most successful new product launch from the brewery in years, and demonstrates just how bottle color distinguishes and enhances product appeal!
Editor's Note: Denise Breard, Technical Director for Hartness-Inks, has a background in UV- curable inks, printing and color management and has written extensively about screen printing in industry trade and technical journals.
If you are in the Chicago area, you cannot miss seeing one of the many billboards posted by Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW) which is celebrating 100 years of history making and innovation. Rather than display a list of acheivements in Packaging, Polymers, Transportation, Electronics and many other market segments, the billboards have a simple warm message:Thank You! to the ITW women and men of the company who have contributed to its success and growth.
Hartness is proud to be a part of the ITW family!
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Matt Job is widely recognized as one of robotic automation's brightest minds. Matt began his career atFanuc Robotics where he served as a design engineer in the material handling segment. Since then, Matt has held leadership positions at several of North America's top robotic integration companies. His knowledge of both robots themselves and application engineering makes him one of the industry's top thought leaders. Matt is currently the business unit manager for Hartness' industry-leading robotics group. Matt sat down with Hartness' Scott Smith to discuss trends, innovative applications of robotic technology and shared some "best practices" for robotic success.
View the video or get the full interview transcript by clicking here.
Scott Smith: What's driving all the interest in robotics?
Matt Job: The biggest thing is really acceptance. Robotics have been around since the mid 70s, but in packaging and beverage, the markets we tend to serve, it's really only been in the 90s through early 2000s. With a lot of people getting experience with it, now it's really become acceptable.
Also, we, the fickle consumer (are impacting the need for robotics). Before everything was a 24 pack, now it's down to 20, 15, 12 pack, 6 pack....really anything across the board, so with that you need flexibility. It's also enabled CPGs to bring products to market much faster for us, the consumer.
SS: What about sustainability? Is that a driver towards robotics as well?
MJ: Really every customer we talk to (says) it's on the top of their list (along) with Green initiatives and sustainability. From light weighting their corrugated to light weighting their product, to light weighting their stretch film to even light weighting their corrugated pads everything that (CPGs) are trying to do has to do with removing material. So, yes, that's a big driver because of robotics' ability to provide "soft handling." It really makes a difference in how you get a product from packer to palletizer or filler to packer. Robotics make a huge difference in how packaging lines are automated.
SS: In which market segments are you seeing the most growth?
To view the videos or download the full interview click here.
Do you have a topic would like to see covered in this series of interviews? Please leave your comments below. Like us on Facebook.
Hartness' Follow the Leaders Series was created as a way for packaging industry thought leaders to easily share personal knowledge and keys to success around their area of expertise. Trends, innovative solutions, and "best practices" addressed in this series, are all relevant to the needs of today's packaging and supply chain professionals.
The format allows for quick, interesting reading and utilizes multiple media platforms. Perhaps most importantly, however, it offers you the opportunity to not only gain bits of knowledge that may help you improve your operation, but also the opportunity to "follow" these leaders by engaging them through e-mail or social media. We trust you will find the series interesting and helpful!
In the first interview of this new series, Matt Job, recognized for his expertise in the application of robotics, discusses packaging industry trends from robotic case packing to case picking and warehouse automation.
Here are the most prominent industries:
- Food and Beverage industry
- Automatic machine loading
- Warehouse automation
- Grocery case picking
- Robotic OEMs
- Robotic integrators
Do you have a topic would like to see covered in this series of interviews? Please leave your comments below? Like us on Facebook for special offers.