That’s the intent of the adhesive supplier’s $1 million investment in its North America Packaging Center of Excellence, which had its grand opening at the company’s headquarters in St. Paul, MN, on April 29.
“The center has been created to drive the industry forward and help customers protect their assets and brands as well as find new ways to reduce costs,” stated Steve Ringsdore, vp, Americas and Converting, H.B. Fuller.
In short, this effort and investment is meant to improve:
- Speed to market;
- Project collaboration;
- Getting the project right the first time.
The lab includes the following systems:
Refurbished-as-new Krones labeler that offers speeds to 1,000 labels/minute or more;
Mid-speed WePackIt model 310E case erector.
Among the portable glue applicators that can be used on the above equipment:
Graco InvisiPac Tank-Free hot melt delivery system;
ITW Dynatec Dynamelt S Series adhesive supply unit;
Nordson tankless Freedom system;
Valco Melton Model D4-e Gear Pump hot melt unit;
Robatech “Concept Diamond” adhesive melter/applicator.
During the event, Packaging Digest conducted a one-on-one interview with Ringsdore:
How does the opening of the Packaging Center of Excellence (PCE) affect your customers?
Ringsdore: One of the key aims to the Center is to speed up the pace of innovation and to provide solutions for customers. Now when customers are looking to change substrates or changing cartons, we can simulate how that will run using the PCE to see if there are any issues with bonding that substrate or running the substrates on the machinery before they put it into production.
How did the idea for the Center originate?
Ringsdore: Definitely from feedback from customers that the speed to provide solutions and the need to provide innovative solutions quickly when there is an issue; getting something quickly that they knew would run the first time was a common trend we were hearing from our key customers. That’s why we decided to move quickly and put this into place. And we had experiences of our [three] other Centers of Excellence in other parts of the world that reinforced the conviction that this adds to value for our customers.
What kind of projects are expected?
Ringsdore: Basically, when customers that want to change something in their process. That could be changing the substrates, machinery or speeds they are using. But they can now simulate that in the PCE before they run on their line. Downtime on a typical production line costs $150 a minute so, without risking any downtime, customers have the ability to test that change first in the PCE. That is one of the key things our customers are going to use this for.
By customers, I mean those who package something, as well as some converters in flexible packaging market. They range from large multinationals to small privately run businesses.
What’s the current status for the PCE?
Ringsdore: We have a team that is dedicated to managing the lab, we have an established process to log in customers and coordinate those visits. We also pin down with our sales and technical teams exactly what the customer wants to achieve before they arrive using a detailed checklist. We also confirm with them their objective before we begin a productive one- or two-day in-lab time to satisfy their project needs.
We’ve already had several users, but that was before we had all the equipment installed and the processes in place. Once customers heard we had this capability, they immediately wanted to use it even before we had everything in place.
We expect that we’ll have two to three customers a week in the lab. There’s definitely a pent-up demand for this kind of work. And not just for Research & Development; the other kind of project work that will be conducted is for machinery companies and the substrate companies. We’ve had great interest from some of our allied suppliers like carton, ink and coating manufacturers, because they also want to make sure before they launch their products that their customers will be able to glue them.
There have been specific examples where companies have spent millions launching a new product only to find that they couldn’t glue it effectively.
So having this facility not only for customers, but also for our partners in the industry, is also creating a lot of excitement.
What is the lead time for use and costs to customers?
Ringsdore: We have technicians dedicated to the use of the lab who are experts in the machinery to ensure we can simulate the customer’s conditions. The beauty of the lab is that we can run at the same speeds as the customer’s equipment and put their substrates on it.
The lead time depends on the customer. We have a field team at their facility to clearly understand what their parameters are.
In most cases, there is not a cost, we offer this as service to our customers.
If we can help them get it right the first time, if we can help them reduce costs, that’s the kind of value we add for our customers.
We can fit in customers on a minute’s notice if there’s an urgent need. Typically, we’re talking two to three weeks’ lead time so that all the requirements are correctly documented.
This will be for your North American customers?
Ringsdore: The majority will be North American customers, and we are making it available to our Latin America customers. We’ve already had a customer from Mexico use the facility. We do have multinational customers who can see that we offer the same type of service here as in our other facilities around the globe.
Anything else you’d like to mention to our audience of packaging professionals?
Ringsdore: As CEO Jim Owens said in his presentation today, the key issue here is collaboration. We are not trying to sell glue to customers on a price per-pound basis; we want our customers to understand that we are here to partner with them.
And not just partner with them, but with their other suppliers as well.
One thing we are trying to do is prevent customers from dealing with projects one supplier at a time—one meeting with glue supplier, one with machine supplier, another with board supplier—but to put us all in one room. And also help them not only with our facility, but with other suppliers’ facilities as well and to get a project right the first time.
That’s what this is all about: The key issue is speed, and making sure through innovation and testing that things are done the right the first time, which is a huge cost advantage to the customer.
For more information, see H.B. Fuller invests in Packaging Center of Excellence, published Sept. 19, 2013.