It's a new era at Bissell Homecare Inc. An upgraded packaging line runs the company's new concentrated carpet-cleaning products that are packaged in new containers. And it all takes place on the same site as Bissell's new Innovation Center.
Since 1876, Bissell has been a world leader in manufacturing and marketing a broad line of quality home and floor care products—sweepers, deep cleaning machines, vacuums and cleaning formulas. The company is best known for its line of mechanical carpet cleaners, which predate electrical vacuums by 50 years and continue to defy obsolescence. In the process, Bissell has pulled ahead of Hoover to take the number one spot in North America for floor-care sales.
In 2008, Bissell spent more than $9 million to renovate an existing factory in Walker, MI outside of Grand Rapids into its spectacular new Bissell Innovation Center, simultaneously making upgrades to it. Bissell renovated more than 35,000 sq ft of existing space, constructed nearly 5,000 sq ft of new space and completed a 5,000 sq-ft- patio.
New construction began Octover 2009 and was competed August 2009. The entire renovation was a two year project.
New bottles have many advantages
The company also upgraded a packaging line on the site to run its new concentrated carpet-cleaning solutions in seven bottle sizes ranging from eight- to 60 fl oz. The cleaners are twice as concentrated as the solutions they replace. Bissell worked with creative agency Product Ventures to redesign the previous packaging.
This included the bottles, caps and labels. Product Ventures created structural packaging for the new line of 2X concentrated formula, as well as incorporating optimized ergonomics and dispensing features, to improve the overall consumer experience. The new formulas and the nearly half-size bottles provide the same cleaning power in half the packaging of the non-concentrated formulas, which ultimately reduce the burden of plastic on the environment.
These new smaller bottles use less shelf space and make it easier for consumers to carry, store and pour the products. This new design, with a built-in measuring cap, creates a simpler, greener way to clean deep-down dirt in carpet and upholstery.
Like all Bissell deep cleaning formulas, 2X concentrated products carry the EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) certification, which is recognized for safer chemistry. By partnering with the DfE program, Bissell is taking part in a national effort to improve the human health and environmental profile of chemical-based products.
You can read about this in more detail in the November 2009 issue of Packaging Digest, page 6.
Bissell forms its own HDPE bottles, which it stores in large bins. During PD's visit, the line was running the 60-oz bottle. To start the operation, workers manually place the rectangular bottles on the packaging line. A Videojet Excel inkjet printer from Videojet Technologies Inc. applies the lot code and production date to the bottom of the bottles as they are conveyed to a 16-head net weight, gravity filler from Serac Inc. A feedscrew at the inlet of the filler meters the bottles into a starwheel that, in turn, places the bottles onto the 16 individual platforms of the filler. Because of the off-center necks of the bottles, the starwheel maintains very precise positioning on the filler platforms to ensure that the open tops are beneath the fill nozzles.
To achieve the filler's extreme accuracy, each platform incorporates a loadcell that weighs the bottle as it enters the machine, after which the industrial-PC controller opens the fill valve. When the weight reaches the set weight of product, it closes the valve. In addition to handling these netweight calculation for each bottle, the control system on the filler records processing and filling data for every bottle run and provides statistical production feedback.
For example, it will monitor run times, present a statistical fill-weight average and standard deviation for any period of production selected, monitor the tare weight of incoming bottles and alert the operator if a bottle is outside of the acceptable range, and list the number of under- and over-fills with the cause of each. When changing from one bottle to another, the operator only has to select the new bottle from the menu in the computer, and the PC will set fill and operating parameters automatically.
Bottles leave the filler through a starwheel and travel to a five-head rotary capper from Fowler Products Co. LLC. Bottles are metered into the continuous-motion capper through a feed screw and then travel around a star wheel onto label plates on a center platform, which transports them around the capper. The caps are loaded into a floor hopper and carried up to the overhead cap hopper by a cleated elevator.
The caps drop into a rotary sorter that orients them in an open-side down configuration and delivers them into the cap track, where they travel down into the capper. Because these tapered measuring caps have a height larger than their diameter and tend to nest, Bissell is using Fowler's Universal Series sorter, in which the caps fall into pockets in a rotating disk.
The pockets pass over a selection area where caps that are in the pockets with their open side facing up are ejected back into the bowl. Caps that are properly oriented discharge into the cap chute that transports them down into the capper.
The caps are picked up by a rotating cap-transfer starwheel. This unit rotates and presents the cap to the chuck in the capping head, which grips the cap and descends onto the bottle. The Bissell caps have smooth tapered sides and tend to drop out of the chucks, so the chucks at Bissell use vacuum instead of mechanical grippers to hold the caps in place.
After the cap is placed on the bottle, the vacuum is released, and the chuck turns until it reaches the set torque, at which time it releases the cap. If a bottle-pocket in the capper does not contain a bottle, the unit does not release a cap.
The same-size tapered measuring cap is applied to all sizes of bottles that don't use spray caps. The measuring caps are produced by Gem Plastics.
Caps are retorqued
Bottles discharge through a starwheel and are conveyed to an inline capper from Kaps-All Packaging Systems that was installed to run bottles with flat caps, which the plant occasionally runs on this line. The capped bottles pass through an induction sealer from Pillar Technologies, an ITW Co.
The bottles then travel through an inline ACT-8 automatic eight-spindle capper from Accutek Packaging Equipment Co. Inc. that is used to retorque the caps after the induction sealer to ensure tightness. Each of the eight tightening spindles can be adjusted on the fly to ensure maximum torque accuracy, decreasing disk wear and closure scuffing, and allowing the machines to adapt to a variety of containers types, sizes, and shapes.
Next the bottles pass through an inspection system from Teledyne Taptone that checks each container for leaks. The unit is suspended over the conveyor and as each container passes through the unit, belts on both sides of the conveyor compress the head space of the container. A sensor takes a measurement at the discharge of the unit and if the measurement is outside of the acceptable range, the bottle is rejected.
Shrink-sleeve label on cap
From the inspection system, the bottles are conveyed to a Model 35pw p-s labeler from Accraply, a div of Barry-Wehmiller Companies Inc. that applies front and back labels. The unit features a variable speed conveyor to accommodate different size bottles with servo-driven speed-following label heads, all accessed by the touch-screen HMI. An air-assisted, contour-following label peeling system optimizes label wiping on the rectangular bottles. Operating parameters are stored in the unit's memory and can be recalled at a touch.
Next, the bottles travel to an Axon LLC shrink-sleeve applicator that applies a clear shrink-sleeve label over the cap. The film is pulled from a roll, passes through a motorized film unwind system and is pulled over the top of the machine and down into the application chamber.
It passes through a series of guide rollers and is then pulled over the bullet, where suction cups pull open the tubular film. In this operation, two stepper-driven rollers work in conjunction with the print-registration system to ensure that the correct length of film is advanced.
The print-registration system, which utilizes Smarteye photoelectric sensors from Tri-Tronics Co., is located at the top of the film mandrel and includes both vertical and horizontal adjustments. When the photoeye senses the container, the vacuum is released from the suction cups, and a plunger pushes the film onto the container. Once the product has cleared the application area, a new label is dispensed through the pullroll assembly.
This label is then held in place by a set of suction cups, where it is cut using a guillotine-style blade. Once the film has been cut, the gripper arms return to the their home positions opening the film for the next product.
The bottles are conveyed through an Axon steam tunnel that shrinks the film around the cap. During the shrink process, the lower edge of the film actually shrinks around the bottom of the cap.
The bottles then travel past a Label-Aire Inc. pressure-sensitive spot labeler that applies small spot labels for specific occasions. This unit was not running during PD's visit.
Servo-driven case packer
Next, the bottles are conveyed to a case packer from Hamrick Manufacturing & Service Inc. The bottles enter the unit single file and are separated into multiple lanes by a servo-controlled lane divider that helps achieve consistent lane accumulation and prevents lane jams. Bissell was splitting the 60-oz bottles into three lanes, although the machine can run up to six lanes, depending on the bottle size and configuration.
The D designation in the model number indicates that this is one of Hamrick's most advanced case packers that incorporates an onboard servo-controlled lane divider. Machine control is derived from an internal software-based sequencer and the lane divider and case packing are under constant control from a PLC with a preprogrammed selector switch and programming pad.
Other features of the machine include a high-speed, surge-controlled container conveyor that automatically adjusts its speed to fill the lanes, speeding up and slowing down as needed, and variable-speed container and case conveyors with the speeds set automatically by the computer.
Product changeover is expedited with up to 20 separate sets of timing values that are in the PLC and up to 255 unique lane positions in the servo-controlled divider. Operating parameters for every container are maintained in memory and can be selected by the operator through the HMI.
The corrugated cases are erected by a machine from Southern Packaging Machinery Inc. and enter the Hamrick case packer traveling in the same direction as the bottles, which are on the conveyor above them. The packer loads two cases at a time, so it releases two cases from the backup and a flight bar pushes them into the loading zone.
Simultaneously, the machine releases enough bottles to fill the two cases and they also travel into the drop zone and are held back by a gate. Once both the cases and bottles are in the proper positions, a plate opens beneath the bottles and they drop into the case. The case is lifted and has just started back down as the bottles are released, thus cushioning the impact of the drop.
Cases then travel through a top taper from Highlight Industries that features adjustable side belt drives that automatically fold the flaps and provide accurate, consistent tape application. The taper is followed by inkjet units that print date and lot codes on the cases. These include a unit with ProSeries print heads from Foxjet, an ITW Co. and an Anser™ unit from Inkjet Inc.
The cases are palletized by a floor-level palletizer from Lambert Material Handling. The pallets are then stretch wrapped by a Freedom 6500 rotating arm machine from Highlight Industries, which applies film under the edge of the pallet for increased stability.
Bissell has standardized on controls throughout the line and has installed integrated controls to maintain smooth operation. Thus, the conveyors on the line feature 24-in. zoned accumulation sections that will stop and start as bottles back up. The machines on the line communicate with each other and sensors located along the line sense bottle backups and adjust the speeds of the individual pieces of equipment accordingly.
Accraply, a division of Barry-Wehmiller Companies Inc.,
Accutek Packaging Equipment Co., Inc., 760/734-4177.
Axon LLC, 800/598-8601. www.axoncorp.com
Fowler Products Co., LLC, 877/549-3301.
Foxjet, an ITW Co., 800-369-5384. www.foxjet.com
Gem Plastics, 616/538-5966
Hamrick Mfg & Services Inc., 800/321-9590.
Highlight Industries, 616/531-2464.
Inkjet Inc., 800/280-3245. www.inkjetinc.net
Kaps-All Packaging Systems, 631/727-0300. www.kapsall.com
Label-Aire, Inc., 714/449-5155. www.label-aire.com
Lambert Material Handling, 800/253-5103.
Pillar Technologies, an ITW Co.,
Product Ventures LTD, 203/319.1119
Rockwell Automation, 414/382-2000.
Serac Inc., 630/510-9343. www.serac-group.com
Southern Packaging Machinery Inc.,
Teledyne Taptone, 508/563-1000. www.taptone.com
Tri-Tronics, 800/237-0946. www.ttco.com
Videojet Technologies Inc.,