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Labelers deliver quick changeover

Neways' p-s labeling equipment accommodates a wide variety of containers, speeds product changeover by 30% and reduces rejects ten-fold.
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With a product portfolio of 300 products in 32 bottle shapes and sizes personal care and nutritional supplements manufacturer Neways Inc. Salem UT needed pressure-sensitive labeling equipment that could handle such a range of sizes and shapes including rounds and ovals.

Since September '97 the company has purchased five PPM labelers from GEI Mateer Burt (Wayne PA) with a sixth on order. Running on five separate packaging lines the labelers best matched Neways' production requirements and apply front back top and partial or full-wrap p-s labels.

"Before we decided to use the GEI labelers we looked at competitive equipment" plant manager Clay Slaymaker says. "We chose GEI for a number of reasons. The labelers are well-priced they match our line speeds they label a wide range of container sizes with accuracy they handle our clear labels and they achieve high productivity."

Adds head technician Trent Davies: "Of all the labelers I've seen these handle the widest range of container sizes."

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Fast changeover

One of the most important labeler benefits is fast changeover. "It takes less than thirty minutes to make a complete container size change" says Davies "and a good operator can have it done in under fifteen minutes." Slaymaker says changeover speeds on the new labelers are about 30% faster than on Neways' previous labelers.

Part of what contributes to fast changeover is that the set-up parameters for each product are stored in the machine's controller which is GEI's MicroSet® industrial control. (GEI describes its proprietary control as a microprocessor-based programmable industrial controller that's neither a PLC nor PC.) For the electronic portion of the changeover process operators simply enter a product code to call up the settings. Before those settings had to be entered by hand each time. Up to 100 product setups can be stored in the controller though Neways currently uses 32.

A second benefit is increased label placement accuracy. The GEI labelers meet Neways' label placement tolerance requirements of ±1/32". "We experience less than a one-percent reject rate" says Slaymaker. "With our other labelers we have a reject rate of closer to ten percent." Every fifth container is inspected by hand for placement accuracy.

Part of what permits the labelers to consistently peel and place labels is that they're better able to detect clear p-s labels. The labelers use a mechanical pressure switch sensor that detects the difference of thickness between the label and the release liner. This allows the system to flag the correct amount of label so that it's precisely positioned as it meets the container.

Neways' previous labelers had difficulty optically detecting the demarcation between labels. "Clear labels on our other labeling systems weren't very successful" says Slaymaker. "Now we have those other labelers dedicated to running opaque labels."

About 90% of Neways' labels are clear p-s film using labelstock from Avery Dennison's Fasson Div. (Painesville OH) and converted by Label Express (Orem UT).

The labelers also ensure label placement accuracy by adapting to different thicknesses of label stock without requiring any adjustments specific to label thickness. That was an initial concern of Slaymaker's. "We don't have to change a thing" he says. "The labeler just keeps running."

Better efficiency

The labelers have also proven to increase efficiency decrease labor and boost output.

"We're achieving a production efficiency rate of ninety to ninety-five percent on the labelers" says Slaymaker.

Labor savings represent another benefit. "We previously had one operator dedicated just to labeling bottles. Because the lines run so much more smoothly now one operator is responsible for several portions of the line" says Slaymaker.

And finally productivity has increased. "With our automated lines we've at least doubled the previous output" says Slaymaker "and we've reduced labor costs and improved product quality at the same time."

Neways operates four different GEI models: PPM Models 300D 300S 350D and 350S. The "S" models are dedicated to running round bottles with a single wraparound label and the "D" models handle both round and oval containers. Each "D" model features a double labeling unit that can apply labels to both the front and back of oval bottles simultaneously and easily can be changed over to apply a single wraparound label to round bottles. Bottles are extrusion blown of high-density polyethylene or injection stretch/blow-molded of polyethylene terephthalate.

The bottles are first filled then capped. They then go to an induction sealer and finally to a labeler. Line speeds can be as fast as 180 bottles/min. The labelers employ a smooth double-drive roller assembly and stepper-driven push/pull web-feed system.

A final benefit to Neways was fast response from GEI according to Slaymaker. "When we first purchased labelers delivery lead time was crucial. We needed them fast and GEI delivered" he says. "The PPM labelers are performing well and the service we get from GEI is terrific."

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