An industry leader in custom-die-cut, photodegradable, low-density polyethylene multipack carrier systems for cans and bottles, ITW Hi-Cone (www.hi-cone.com) is perpetually researching new ways to improve carrier design and application efficiencies and tap broader marketing opportunities for its customers.
ITW Hi-Cone runs continuous webs of carrier rings for various multipack counts. For its more traditional multipack carriers, the company had been using small, wipe-on labels, with the labeling head mounted to operate in conjunction with an ITW-made unwind/rewind/inspection system. But throughput speeds and label positioning consistency were lagging behind the company’s objectives. In addition, the label space on the ring carriers was limited in terms of its ability to allow the inclusion of promotional information.
MPC flexes marketing muscle
The Merchandising Panel Carrier (MPC) system is an innovative approach to multipack carrier labeling that allows marketers of multipacks much greater latitude in carrier ring labeling. When ITW Hi-Cone was developing this new, broad-panel carrier labeling concept, CamTron Systems, Inc. (www.camtronsystems.com), an authorized distributor of Label-Aire (www.label-aire.com) labeling equipment, was at the ready to assist in finding the optimum labeling equipment to accomplish the task.
Mike Ahern, president of CamTron, personally contacted ITW Hi-Cone and established a communications link between Label-Aire and ITW. It was determined that the Label-Aire 3135 Wipe-On labeling system would be highly functional in terms of both application speed and placement accuracy for MPC applications, which involve pressure-sensitive, single-ply labels up to 5-in. long. These labels can bear a variety of product information, such as brand names, bar codes, and special sales promotional messages, including fanfolds and instantly redeemable peel-off coupons.
As ITW Hi-Cone plant manager Mike Small explains, “Our customers are free to design the label artwork. The particular label template determines the area available to develop artwork. We recommend keeping the layout simple and uncluttered. But we can offer new latitude and flexibility with the larger label panels, making the overall package more attractive and alluring on the store shelf.”
Already, reports ITW Hi-Cone, numerous clients (primarily for soft drinks, bottled waters, and beers) in North America and Europe are using the MPC carrier system. The carriers are available for cans or bottles, typically in 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12-packs. Small notes, “Our customers appreciate the flexibility of using MPC, either every day or on-demand for special promotions where quick turnaround is needed.”
Efficiencies all around
ITW Hi-Cone applies the labels to the multipack carriers at its plant. Label-Aire built the customized carrier conveying system that presents the carriers to the label heads for application. Small points out, “Carriers generally do not convey easily. But this custom conveying system meets our needs and enables label application speeds in excess of 200 feet per minute.
“ITW Hi-Cone relied heavily on the expertise provided by Label-Aire and their distributor CamTron to assure the best available system. Installation and start-up were handled by a combination of ITW Hi-Cone and CamTron technicians with support from Label-Aire via telephone.”
After the carriers, which often incorporate convenient carrying handles and container release zippers, are labeled, they are shipped to the location where the multipacks are being assembled. This prelabeling helps minimize disruptions and slow-downs on the can or bottle packaging lines.
At the bottle or can packaging facility, the MPC carriers are automatically applied using ITW Hi-Cone equipment. Depending on the machine model used, typical multipack carrier application speeds range from 1,200 to 1,500 bottles/min or 2,000 to 2,400 cans/min.