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Preventive medicine for pharmaceutical producer

CPSC regulations caused pharmaceutical manufacturer Chattem, Inc., to update packaging for its menstrual pain relief products. Line changes included a rebuild-instead of a purchase-of a cartoner to help expedite the switch.
FILED IN:  Machinery  > Filling/sealing  > Capping
Technically the existing packages for Chattem's Pamprin® line of menstrual pain relief products met the Child Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) regulations says Arnold Godwin director of packaging operations. But legal uncertainties prompted this manufacturer of pharmaceutical and personal care products to switch to more definitive child-resistant packaging. "While we met the letter of the law" explains Godwin "we didn't meet the intent of the law." Available in caplets and tablets both Maximum Pain Relief and Multi-symptom formulas of Pamprin came in two sizes of bottles and three sizes of foil-based pouches. CPSC's main concern was with the Chattanooga TN-based manufacturer's pouched version. "They said 'You're legal but we don't think you should be in pouches'" he continues. To comply with CPSC's regulations Chattem began to redesign the packaging of its Pamprin line of products and took the initiative to modify packaging for Pamprin's sister line Premsyn PMS® into bottles
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with CR closures. Changes which were initiated in January 1995 included nine SKUs of product as well as a revamp of Chattem's existing packaging line. First all pouch-style packages would be eliminated. An obvious change was to replace snap-on caps with CR caps. For secondary cartons switching from tucked end flaps to glued end flaps would reduce the potential for pilferage. Adding a fifth panel to the cartons would facilitate pegging and provide additional space for updated graphics alerting consumers to the new packaging. To replace the pouches which are being phased out the number of high-density polyethylene bottles were increased with new 25- 30- and 50-cc sizes holding counts from 10 to 40. Chattem added an induction-seal to the polypropylene screw-on CR closure. Eager to get the product to retailers Chattem anticipated a Spring rollout. But changes to the packaging line were a bit more involved-and were complicated by Chattem's nearing deadline. Although the pouch phaseout allowed the company to consolidate its operations from two semi-automatic lines into a single higher-speed automatic line bringing the line up to speed would take some time. Chattem had already purchased a new unscrambler filler cottoner and capper for the new line. Issues that remained says project engineer Liz Hobbs were that the product would still be manually inserted into cartons and that the cartoner speed needed to be increased by 30% to meet anticipated increases in volume. "Our deadline would have been very difficult to meet if we had ordered a new cartoner" says Godwin. An alternative sat in Chattem's warehouse: a CMV 5 cartoner from R.A. Jones (Cincinnati OH) acquired earlier. Unfortunately the cartoner had been customized for that particular line. After weighing its options Chattem turned to machinery rebuilder Cartpac (Elmhurst IL) for help. The cartoner was sent to Cartpac's facility where it was disassembled and evaluated. "They reconfigured everything back to the way Jones had sold it" says Hobbs. This included replacing all worn parts including cam followers bearings and rod ends as well as restoring the electrical system back to its original configuration. To convert to glued end flaps Cartpac installed a hot melt glue applicator from Nordson (Duluth GA). To replace the previously debossed lot code and add expiration dates Cartpac installed a Videojet (Wood Dale IL) Excel ink-jet system at the exit end of the cartoner. Speed it up Cartpac then installed an R.A. Jones Loadstar bottle loader enabling Chattem to eliminate the manual insertion of filled bottles into cartons. "The bottle loader was a major factor in increasing our speeds" says Hobbs. Cartpac had finished work on the cartoner with time to spare. With the addition of the bottle loader line production soared from 65/min to 100/min. But this was still about 20/min shy of Chattem's envisioned speed. What was necessary-and possible thanks to the reconditioned cartoner operating at full capacity-was a speed-up kit from R.A. Jones. This included new chains and lugs with tighter spacing and mechanisms to shorten the carton feeder's stroke thereby increasing speeds. "I think our cartoner maxed out at one hundred per minute" says Hobbs. "The speed-up kit ups it to [the required] one hundred twenty-maybe more." While Cartpac awaited delivery of the kit the cartoner was delivered to Chattem's facilities to help expedite line assembly. Cartpac technicians installed the speed-up kit at Chattem's facilities-on time-and Chattem met its deadline. A carton half-empty? In addition to time savings Cartpac's conversion had saved Chattem money. "The rebuild was probably half the cost of a new cartoner" says Hobbs. Even so Chattem's new Pamprin line has its pros and cons. "There is a cost savings because we eliminated the manual insertion" says Godwin. "[The new line] allows us to go faster which is a savings in itself." But as the previously used pouches were less expensive Chattem netted an increase in cost. "We save labor" he says "but we went with more expensive components: the bottle an induction-seal cap a carton with glue." Similarly changeover time is probably longer he admits. For the three sizes changeovers take anywhere from 30 min to 1 hr longer when a change bypasses the middle size. However Godwin is quick to point out that the switch wasn't for savings: rather it was for capacity. "We gain in productivity and quality of product" he continues reiterating advantages in a glued carton that thwarts pilferage increased legibility of ink-jet coding and higher production speeds resulting from the bottle loader. Overall it seems that both Hobbs and Godwin are happy with the change initiated by CPSC regulations. "We had an ongoing dialogue with the CPSC" says Godwin. "It's one of those things where it doesn't matter if you're legal or not: if you were ever to have something happen it wouldn't be very good...it would be a public relations nightmare."

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