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Bringin' 'em back for more

Engineers from two packaged goods manufacturers, one based in Illinois and one in North Carolina, found more than enough at Pack Expo 2000 to bring them back in 2002.

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Production engineers and managers who find what they need at one Pack Expo are likely to attend the next Pack Expo two years later. Prime examples are the folks at Wix-Dana and Xactdose.

Headquartered in Gastonia, NC, Wix-Dana is a leading manufacturer of automobile air filters. Among its plants is the one in Dillon, SC, where case packing of RSC shippers had been identified as a problem in the year leading up to Pack Expo 2000.

“It was a combination of two things,” says process engineering manager Chris Loafman. “The case packer was somewhat unforgiving and there were slight inconsistencies in the corrugated case blanks. The end result was too much machine downtime.”

So it was off to Pack Expo 2000 to find a solution. “After visiting the show, we identified a great list of potential vendors,” says Loafman. “We narrowed the list down to just a few and asked for quotes. Finally it was down to just two candidates, and Schneider won out after we visited their facility.”

The wraparound case packer supplied by Schneider Packaging Equipment (Brewerton, NY) now smoothly produces 12-count single-layer cases at peak speeds of 150 filters/min. Some filters are simply shrink wrapped, while others are cartoned.

The shrink wrapping, a brand new initiative at the firm, was driven partly by retailers who see it as a cost-savings compared to cartoned filters. The wrapping is done on a Capra system from Arpac (Schiller Park, IL). Cartoning is done on the same machine as was used in the past. Low-friction tabletop conveyors from Nercon (Oshkosh, WI) divert filters into either the cartoner or the shrink wrapper. Additional Nercon conveyors take product out of the cartoner or out of the shrink wrapper and into the Schneider case packer.

Adding to the mix at the case packer is that the firm’s filters come in four different heights. The end result of all these variations is that six different case varieties are required. Changeover from one case to another is done with no tools and takes about 5 minutes.

Loafman says the footprints of the new cases are smaller than the cases that have been replaced. And the 32 ECT corrugated is lighter, too. So a “significant” material cost savings has been achieved. No wonder Loafman plans to attend Pack Expo 2002.

“This time I’m not going alone,” he adds. “I’m bringing two engineers with, and we’ll be looking for carton erectors and print-and-apply labelers, as well as semiautomatic case packers for some of our slower lines.”

Bulk pharmaceuticals

Also looking forward to Pack Expo 2002 is Scott Starbuck, production manager of Xactdose in South Beloit, IN, a leading repackager of bulk pharmaceuticals in the United States.

“We package approximately 800ꯠ cases of pharmaceuticals each year, so efficient production lines are essential. We went to Pack Expo 2000 seeking the latest in automated technology and to compare a variety of systems we’d identified before the show.”

Xactdose re-packages bulk liquid prescription drugs into unit dose plastic cups or syringes for hospital use, saving valuable time by eliminating the need for doctors and nurses to measure specific doses.

At the top of Xactdose’s shopping list for Pack Expo 2000 were labelers, leaflet inserters, and taping machines. To save time at McCormick Place, the team researched potential suppliers in advance and selected three companies to visit for each piece of equipment.

Seeking to replace a manually driven case-labeling unit with an efficient, automated system, Xactdose visited several suppliers, conducting test runs with blank labels to compare performance. After evaluating results, Xactdose purchased two Brute 350 labelers from The Joseph Manufacturing Co. (Overland Park, KS). One system was delivered straight from the Pack Expo show floor to Xactdose’s plant.

The labelers apply pressure-sensitive labels measuring 12” x 8” x 4”, complete with bar code, product name, and storage instructions, meeting all requirements established by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “By investing in these labelers, we significantly increased output and cut production costs by 25%,” says Starbuck. “We were also able to redistribute responsibilities of our workforce, making their time more valuable.”

Leaflet inserter for shippers

To automate the process of inserting FDA-required leaflets into corrugated shippers, Xactdose once again visited with several different suppliers at Pack Expo 2000 and provided blank shippers to validate the equipment and compare performance. Xactdose purchased two Model MFT 250 friction feeders from Multifeeder Technology (St. Paul, MN).

Multifeeder’s leaflet inserter adjusts to accommodate various leaflet sizes and allows quick changeovers. The system also features ample memory, allowing storage of numerous barcodes.

“We package our products in three different case sizes. Multifeeder’s system ensures every package contains the proper leaflet with the correct barcode,” explains Starbuck. “The system is extremely accurate, ensuring the biennial audits conducted by the FDA will go smoothly.”

The final item on Starbuck’s Pack Expo shopping list was a case taping system to increase productivity and eliminate human errors. After comparing systems from several different manufacturers, Xactdose purchased two Model BEL 252 automatic uniform case tapers from Belcor (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada).

In addition to automatically sealing the top and bottom of corrugated cases, Belcor’s case tapers also fold the major and minor flaps of the package, a production step that was previously accomplished by hand. Belcor’s case tapers also allow for tool-less adjustments, allowing operators to easily and quickly make changeovers.

Starbuck considers Pack Expo a mandatory event for every packaging engineer. He intends to return to Chicago this November to research high speed filling and sealing equipment for liquids and to review the latest packaging technologies.

“Xactdose is always seeking innovative solutions to improve its operations,” said Starbuck. “Pack Expo provides a unique opportunity to speak with technical experts and see the newest trends and developments.”

See sidebar to this article: Ameristars

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