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Engine cleaner bottles get powerful update

With the introduction of new packaging for its Penray Performance Fuel Injector Cleaner, The Penray Companies, Elk Grove Village, IL, marry function to design with a packaging structure that offers better handling for consumers. Highly raised ribs on the bottle sidewall enable better gripping, while a redesigned label provides an updated look making the product worthy of inclusion in Penray's most public- facing product-its new installer kits.

 

"By far, our sexiest type of look is our kit packaging," remarks Chris McKenzie, director of marketing for Penray. "You see it when you go to a quick lube, and they say, ‘We changed your oil, but we noticed it's about time for you to flush your power steering fluid, transmission fluid or your brake fluid, etc.'"


By packaging the Penray Performance treatments needed to provide the services in high shelf-impact, glossy paperboard packages, the company helps its service-provider customers, such as quick-lube shops and retail automotive service providers, more effectively market these services. And, there's one common treatment in many of these kits.

 

"The workhorse of our kit line is our fuel injector cleaner," says McKenzie. "It's used in four fuel cleaning kits, and by far, treating a vehicle's fuel system is one of the most underutilized, but potentially effective treatments available." He adds that fuel injection cleaning is an effective offering for services provider customers because it provides an immediate benefit-removing some of the knocks, pings and acceleration losses accumulated by vehicles over the years-to problems that the consumer might not even been aware they had.

 

Using an analogy to which many parents can relate, McKenzie says, "It's very difficult, when living with a child everyday, to see how much they are growing. It's also hard to see how your car is not performing if you're driving it all the time. Fuel injection cleaning can get your car running back to par, and that's why it's such an effective tool."

Because of its importance in the Penray Performance product line, the company embarked on a packaging redesign project early this year.

 

To help develop the packaging structure, Penray commissioned the services of its longtime packaging supplier-Vivid Packaging Inc. "They wanted something custom," Allan Saltz, president of Vivid Packaging recalls. "Basically it had to be a Penray-only design-something no one else has." Vivid's packaging development team, led by account executive Dan Potoczak, began the process by discussing project objectives with Penray and having its in-house industrial designer developed several sketch and line drawings to illustrate these concepts. The number of viable concepts was narrowed down, and Vivid Packaging created computerized three-dimensional (3-D) models of the best packaging candidates in Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks.

 

Using computer-generated 3-D models, says Saltz, enables a customer to virtually turn the bottle and view it from different angles.

 

"Once we get to a design that a client likes best, it takes two days to make a SLA [stereo lithography] model," he explains. "We paint the SLA to the color and the finish of the bottle, so the customer sees what they are going to get. In this instance, Penray really liked what they saw, so there was no need to go back and make another SLA model."

Boasting about the functionality of the bottle's distinguishing hand grips, Saltz adds: "We added those bigger ribs to the side of the bottle. If something gets on the bottle or on a consumer's hands, a bottle can get slip out of their hands. This gripper is a utility feature that is a very good way to handle the bottle. It also gives the bottle a different look, which I think is more appealing to consumers because it has a custom look to it. If you look at a lot of fuel injector cleaner packaging out there, it's the same bottle."

Engineered for performance
Prior to commissioning this proprietary bottle, Penray, like many other fuel injector cleaner manufacturers, was using a standard 12-oz black PET bottle. But even this bottle has offered better dispensing than the packaging originally used for the product. "Fuel injection cleaners have been around a very long time," McKenzie explains. "For a long time, fuel cleaners were in steel cans, like the old-fashioned beer cans."

 

Like autos, fuel treatment cleaners have undergone several improvements over the years, as manufacturers sought better aesthetics and dispensing performance. Many times, consumers found that steel cans wouldn't dispense smoothly, resulting in an effect McKenzie descriptively terms as "glugging." When the industry moved to long-neck PET bottles, it found these bottles so superior at dispensing treatment that long-neck bottles eventually became the virtual standard for the fuel injector cleaner market with 12- and 16-oz stock options available from packaging manufacturers.

 

The proprietary Penray bottle builds upon the long-neck concept. Because of this, the chemical company was able to fill the new packaging on its existing fuel injector cleaner filling line.

 

Ingenuity saves bucks
The ability to use its existing filling and packing line is a large cost savings for Penray, especially considering the line's footprint-blending, filling and case-packing of the fuel injector cleaner take place over the span of three large rooms. By design, the highly flammable product is blended and filled on opposite ends of the building.

Blending is done by a specially trained employee called a master blender in a room that is located near the company's raw material storage tanks and the rail line used to bring some of the chemicals in. Several metal pipes then carry product from the blending room, across the depth of the building, to the 32-head Horix rotary filler at the filling and capping area.

 

Corrugated cases containing more than 200 bottles/each are staged in this area, where workers manually depalletize the bottles into a hopper. A New England Machinery Inc. unscrambler orients each bottle for placement on the single-lane conveyor. The bottles move to the Horix rotary filler, which uses a mechanical spacer system for adjusting volumes dispensed into each bottle. Filled bottles are conveyed to a Resina U40 capper, which screws on caps, supplied by Rexam PLC, which have PS-foil inserts to be sealed onto the bottles later.

 

Bottles exit the capper for transport out of the filling room and into the induction sealer, labeling and case-packing area. Before exiting the room, each bottle passes a wall-mounted Ametek Drexelbrook counter.

 

Capped bottles then emerge on the other side of the wall and into the labeling and filling room. The first station in this part of the packaging line is the induction sealer. For this application, Penray uses its water-cooled Enercon induction sealer versus the air-cooled sealers used for some of its other applications. Penray's Elk Grove plant manager Tony Mengarelli notes that water-cooled induction sealing systems don't require much maintenance. "It's maintained every six months," Mengarelli remarks, "with just a system flush with vinegar, like you would do with a coffee maker."

 

Because heat can sometimes loosen caps, the bottles then are conveyed to a second capper. Penray, which McKenzie says prefers to spend its operational dollars on product formulation and manufacturing, purchased a used retorque capper. The machine was not operational at time of purchase. Penray was able to integrate the machine into the line because it has a highly skilled and experienced plant engineering staff, including Mengarelli, who fitted the machine with a second, new motor to drive the capping heads.

 

This is not the only instance of cost savings resulting from homegrown packaging machinery ingenuity. In addition to bringing the retorque capper back to operating condition, Mengarelli fashioned a multistation Takex America Inc. sensor-based system. This system enables packaging line workers throughout the multi-room line to respond appropriately to bottlenecks that might be far from their fields of vision.

 

The packaging line also has an accumulation area before the labeling and case-packing stations. From the accumulation area, bottles are brought back into a single lane for conveying to a Quadrel Labeling Systems Versaline labeler. Penray purchased the labeler used, and it had an integrated Norwood Marking Systems hot -stamp date coder. This ended up being a boon. "It takes a whole 2 min to change the code," Mengarelli explains. "With inkjets, you have to wait 5 min." Front and back labels are applied to each bottle in addition to the date code.

 

Good looking and bilingual
The Fuel Injector Cleaning labeling also has been updated. "For a long time, we had everything designed out of house," McKenzie says, "and we decided it was time to bring everything in house. So we brought in our own graphic designer, and we decided to give all of our Penray brand lines a different look."

 

Because Penray Performance Products are marketed to automotive services providers and not directly to the public, the line previously concentrated only on the functionality of the labeling versus the aesthetics. "The Penray brand has undergone a huge change," McKenzie explains. "They used to be all black bottles with all black labels. They all had the same look; you could barely differentiate between them. But that was OK because they are not going into a retail environment. Then, the world changed and look became very important."

 

"The look had to be a lot flashier," he adds. "It had to be a lot more eye-catching and very, very colorful. In this case, we used bright red and bright yellow on our fuel injector cleaners."

 

McKenzie credits Penray graphic designer Heather Dee with bringing a heightened awareness of shelf impact and the concepts behind building shelf presence. "We've learned about how long you have to catch someone's attention," he remarks. "Consumers won't read every bottle as they are walking down the aisle; packages have less than a half-a second to catch their attention with something flashy and bright."

 

Armed with this knowledge, Penray is ready to increase the marketing impact of its packaged products and those of its private-label customers.

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