We began our search for such products at the Web site of Equipment Express (LaPorte, IN) at www.equipmentexpress24.com. Like most suppliers' Web sites, this one makes ample use of product photos and explanatory text for applications ranging from entry- level to automatic.
Unlike most other sites, however, this one actually lists prices. For example, fully automatic liquid filling equipment is shown for less than $20ꯠ. A completely automatic packaging line from filling to capping to labeling can be had for less than $43ꯠ, according to the site.
For true hands-on applications, a one-head liquid filler is shown for as little as $3꽤.
Another positive about this site was the "truck demonstration" page. By filling out an on-line form, visitors can request a visit from the supplier's demo truck, which is purported to contain a live liquid packaging line that can run your product on-site--well, at least in your parking lot.
Another vendor that caters to smaller companies is Package Automation (Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada), which showcases a variety of bagging equipment at its site, www.pacauto.com. The site shows vertical and horizontal bagging machines for filling and sealing pre-made bags. Entry-level baggers are shown for applications requiring throughputs of seven to 10 bags/min. (The site also displays machinery capable of up to 80 bags/min.) Form/fill/seal machines are shown, too.
Another vendor, Accutek Packaging Equipment Co. (Vista, CA) showcases economical packaging equipment at its site, www.accutekpackaging.com. The site shows a variety of entry-level filling and capping equipment. Indeed, a semi-automatic timed-flow volumetric filler is shown starting as low as $2껻. The site also features manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic cappers, among other equipment.
For hands-on labeling and taping applications, a slew of automated dispensers are shown at www.startinternational.com, the site of Start Intl. (Carrollton, TX). Included is a carousel-style tape dispenser that allows up to 20 pieces of tape to be cut and placed on a carousel from which multiple people can select.
At the other end of the spectrum, purveyors of high-end packaging "intelligence" will be sure to want to add to their bookmarks the site of consulting firm George O. Schroeder Associates, Inc. (Appleton, WI) at www.gosassoc.com. Far more than a commercial for consulting services, the site is rich in detailed packaging information. At the time we visited, all the information on the site was free; but the site was expected to begin charging $79/mo by late summer for access to the real goodies on the site.
Those include, first and foremost, the current and back issues of Schroeder's insightful Inter-national Packaging Letter, normally $1귔 for a year's subscription on paper. The newsletter contains thorough coverage of high-end R&D efforts of suppliers of news-making technologies. A plus: By clicking "InSITE Site Search," you can perform a full-text search on the entire site, which includes all back issues of the newsletter.
The site also contains at least two other valuable sections:
* PACK.DAT(TM)--For the numerically inclined, a generous helping of packaging statistics from the likes of SPI, Frost & Sullivan and others. Similar data is promised for plastics.
* Granted Patents--This is a brief description of recently filed packaging-related patents. It's ideal for packaging types who need to keep one eye planted firmly in the future--or for suppliers who want to spy on their competition.
The consulting firm really pushed the "bleeding" edge of Internet technology by "Webcast-ing" its recent "Oxygen Absorbers 2000 and Beyond" conference held in Chicago in June. [Editor's note: This conference was partially sponsored by Packaging World.] The entire conference was broadcast via the Internet to several paying customers, some in the U.S. and at least one in Europe.
The broadcast consisted of a video feed of the presenters, an audio feed and the contents of the PowerPoint slides. Also, it wasn't just one-way communication: At least one cyber-attendee submitted a question to the presenters via an on-line instant feedback feature.
The 14 hours of live broadcast over a two-day period "generally went very well," says Schroeder. "Some of the PowerPoint presentations were difficult to read because of trying to put too much information on any one slide, which is something we always caution our speakers about." However, the Internet attendees, who paid the same $750 conference fee as those who attended in person, received the conference book beforehand, which contained some of the slides.
PW spoke with two cyber-attendees, both of whom gave a thumbs-up to the concept, acknowledgingat the same time minor technical snafus.
"Overall, I would give it a 'B,'" says Don Greenwood, who manages the packaging department at Tropicana in Bradenton, FL. "Once we got the bugs out of the transmission, it went fairly well. What it did for us was allow me to have a larger attendance from my group and still have people able to be here, skip in and out, and do their daily work, and try to learn some things at the same time."
Another attendee that really used the Web to cut travel expenses was Kai Sondergaard, R&D manager of flexible packaging converter Danisco Flexible Scandinavia. Logging in from his offices in Denmark, he "viewed/listened to nearly the entire presentation," he tells PW in an e-mail.
Both Greenwood and Sondergaard were quick to point out the one thing the Internet can never replace: "I missed the personal contact with people," says Sondergaard. "An important--and maybe the most important--part of any conference is the personal contact to people in the corridors, at the receptions, et cetera." Greenwood expressed similar sentiments.
But despite the lack of occasions for informal contact, both attendees felt this is a technology that's worth keeping an eye on. "I enjoyed the virtual attendance as a convenient way to gain state-of-the-art knowledge of the area despite the few technical deficiencies," says Sondergaard.
Concludes Tropicana's Greenwood: "As the technology gets better, we'll be doing more of it."
Heard of interesting packaging web sites? Tell us at webplus@ packworld.com.