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Articles from 2014 In January


Market for stand-up pouches in U.S. sees dramatic growth

Market for stand-up pouches in U.S. sees dramatic growth
PCI Films

PCI Films

The U.S. stand-up pouch market has seen dramatic growth over the past five years, increasing by 50 percent in unit volume terms to approaching 17 billion units in 2013. Beverages and pet food are the largest end use categories, each accounting for one-third of demand, closely followed by human food applications with around 30 percent share.

Stimulating the recent growth in pouches has been the drive to replace plastic and glass bottles and cans, packaging cost reduction and consumer convenience. In its new report on the stand-up pouch market, PCI Films Consulting forecasts that US demand for pouches will continue to grow by around 7 percent p.a. to reach nearly 24 billion units in 2018, at least twice as fast as volume growth expected in the US flexible packaging market as a whole.

Report author Julian Lozowick, comments: "The most significant increases in volume have come only in the last two years, particularly in liquid products within the human foods non-retort category, such as in the packing of baby foods and fruit compote and purees. The use of pouches for dry food products in general has been growing more steadily, but even here some categories have seen rapid recent growth." Future increases in volume are expected to come from a wide variety of end uses - frozen foods and fruit compotes, frozen spirits, cocktails, baby food, shredded and diced cheese, laundry and dishwashing refill packs and soups. Other opportunities are only in the early stages of development but pouches used to pack motor oils, dietary meal solutions and possibly olive oil and fresh vegetables are forecast to grow in volume.

The growing interest in pouches has been satisfied on the supply-side by the expanding infrastructure of toll converters and contract packers as well as advances in pack resealability and slider technologies. Pre-made pouches retain a majority share of the US stand-up pouch market with printed laminate for form-fill-seal applications currently accounting for less than a quarter of total pouch units.

PCI's comprehensive new report, ‘The US Market for Stand-up Pouches to 2018', which follows publication earlier this year of a similar study on the European market, analyses the major factors driving growth in this dynamic market. Based on extensive fieldwork, the report provides details of the current US stand-up pouch market by unit volume; area of substrates used (M²) and value; existing and planned new filling capacities; trends in more than 30 end-use sub-sectors; usage split between pre-made and form-fill-seal formats; and profiles of the leading pouch suppliers. With forecasts to 2018, this market-leading report provides valuable strategic insights into how the US stand-up pouch market is expected to develop over the next five years.

Source: PCI Films




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Eco-friendly water comes packaged in a box

Eco-friendly water comes packaged in a box
Icebox water

Icebox waterWant to change the world? Experts and leaders agree that making a difference doesn't happen overnight. Realistically, changing the world requires that a community make small choices to better their actions daily. Shifting the way communities think and act in the smallest of ways will slowly, yet surely, result in change on a larger spectrum-whether the goal is to harness innovation, protect the planet, or achieve world peace. Icebox is making global betterment their business by providing sustainably sourced spring water in an eco-friendly package!

Mindful matters
One family at a time, Icebox is bringing change to the table with their fresh, safe, and eco-friendly water. Packaged sustainably at the source of a fresh spring, Icebox is making a huge difference in a small way by providing an eco-conscious and healthy product for families nationwide.

Health, value, and convenience are vital when shopping for a family, but it is also important to protect the environment in order to create a better world in which future generations can thrive. How families live and shop makes an impact on the world daily. Make mindful choices at the store by choosing products that come in recyclable packaging, are responsibly sourced, and have a vision to change the world in a positive way.

Make a positive impact
Icebox gives consumers the power to personally help protect their environment from the harmful process of manufacturing PET bottled water, while also protecting their families from products that are harmful to their health. Making the simple switch to Iceboxis a small step with a huge impact. Drink a better water to build a better world-one box at a time!

Source: Icebox




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Heinz closing plants, cutting 1,350 jobs in North America

Heinz closing plants, cutting 1,350 jobs in North America
Heinz ketchup bottle cropped

Heinz ketchup bottle croppedBy Alex Nixon, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

H.J. Heinz Co. announced another round of cost-cutting to its North American operations on Thursday, the latest in a string of expense-reducing moves the company has made since new owners took over the Pittsburgh food company five months ago.

Heinz said it plans to close manufacturing plants in South Carolina, Idaho and Canada over the next six to eight months, a move that will cost 1,350 people their jobs.

The closings follow an August announcement by Heinz that it was laying off 600 office workers, including 350 in Pittsburgh.

"Our decision to consolidate manufacturing across North America is a critical step in our plan to ensure we are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible to become more competitive in a challenging environment, and to accelerate the company's future growth," spokesman Michael Mullen said in a written statement.

Production from the shuttered facilities will be transferred to other plants in the United States and Canada, some of which will see investment and new jobs, Mullen said. The company will add 470 employees across five factories in Ohio, Iowa, California and Canada and improve capacity at those plants.

The company has no manufacturing plants in the Pittsburgh region. It employs about 800 workers here, down from about 1,200 last year.

Heinz was taken private in June in a $28 billion buyout by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, an investment firm run by Brazilian billionaires known for aggressively cutting costs at companies it buys.

It cut about 250 office jobs in the United Kingdom and Ireland in August and said it would close a UK factory.

Analysts had predicted efforts to trim costs in the wake of the buyout by Buffett and 3G, which is taking the lead in managing Heinz and installed one of its partners, Bernardo Hees, as CEO.

Hees joined Heinz from fast-food chain Burger King, where he had been CEO since 3G purchased it in 2010, and was known for shaking up management and cutting costs.

Berkshire and 3G saddled Heinz with debt to make the buyout, nearly tripling its debt from about $5 billion to about $14 billion.

In September, Heinz said it expects about $160 million in severance-related expenses tied to job cuts affecting about 1,200 employees as the company eliminates corporate and field positions worldwide.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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(c)2013 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

Visit The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Top trends for 2014

Top trends for 2014
Dell’s new wheat straw packaging is an example of innovating by improving packaging performance at a lower cost while advancing sustainable initiatives.


Meet the new trends; same as the old trends—but with some twists and nuances.


Packaging Digest tapped into the mind trust of our editorial advisory board to discover what trends some of them see that will have the most impact on their packaging decisions in the coming year (see "Our expert panelists" below). 


Hear what they have to say about sustainability, collaboration, cost savings, competition, health and wellness, authenticity, differentiation and communicating to the consumer.

Our expert panelists
• Oliver Campbell, Director, Worldwide Procurement, Packaging & Packaging Engineering, Dell

• Kim Carswell, Group Manager, Owned Brands Packaging, Target

• Joe Hotchkiss, Director, Michigan State University, School of Packaging and Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability

• Joe Keller, Section Head, Packaging Development, Global Packaging Sustainability, The Procter & Gamble Co.

• Peter Macauley, Director, Global Packaging & Sustainability, Abbott Laboratories

• Michael Okoroafor, VP-Packaging R&D/Innovation, H.J. Heinz

• Ron Sasine, Senior Director of Packaging, Private Brands, Wal-Mart

Dell straw pulp box

Packaging Digest: What market trends are you seeing and how are they impacting packaging?

Campbell: In the tech industry, we see more demand for sustainable or green packaging among our customers. Ernst & Young has a recent statistic that the largest category of shareholder proxy activity is for sustainability, at 38 percent, and that is up about three times from several years ago. I'd say that's a market trend around sustainability—as well as a societal trend that we see in government regulation from Australian packaging regulations and Canada take-backs. 


The trend in sustainable packaging is being backed up by investment in research and new factories. The industry is walking the talk. It makes me feel good about the future.


Continued supply chain efficiency is another trend within Dell. For packaging, it's is how can we get smaller packages while maintaining quality and providing a better customer experience.


One final trend is the programs being structured around 2020 initiatives. Dell just launched our Legacy of Good Initiative. We have 20 different 2020 goals focused on the environment, communities, and people. Our zero waste packaging for 2020 is among those. What that means is all Dell packaging by 2020 will be either recyclable or compostable, plus it has to be sustainably sourced.

Keller: I'm in hair care now at Procter & Gamble. It's a fairly fast-paced category. We're seeing a lot more competition on every level in our businesses. So we're continuing to look at how to use packaging to differentiate our products—whether that's through more sustainable packing options or decoration techniques, those types of things.

Where's the additional competition coming from? Is it local or global? What are the drivers?

Keller: The competition is more new start-up brands. They wouldn't necessarily be global, but sometimes they are. Even local, small brands are trying to offer something new to the consumer. 


As P&G, we need to continue to show why we are different, what do we bring to the consumer—and packaging obviously is a key driver in that because it's right there at the shelf.

So you need to show the value proposition of your products. How is that going to translate on the packaging side?

Keller: Our advertising channels have changed vs where they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. That will drive more importance on making sure we stand out on the shelf. It helps to communicate the quality proposition we have to the consumer. It's pushing us to rely more on the packaging to do that.


The need to differentiate still drives a lot of packaging projects. Mike, Heinz recently came out with a new plastic bottle to better differentiate on the shelf. What can you tell us about it?

Okoroafor: The consumer motivation for redesigning our bottle was twofold: to differentiate and to provide better ergonomics. 


Since Heinz came up with upside-down bottle, everybody has copied us. So when you look at the store shelf for ketchup bottles, they look the same. Packaging should be your biggest media. If everybody looks like you, there's no differentiation. 


We wanted to design a plastic bottle that would maintain the iconic impression of the Heinz glass bottle, but offer better differentiation on the shelf. The new bottle is called the thunderbolt design, like the Thunderbird car that Ford came up with. 


We also wanted to design a bottle that everybody can hold and squeeze without any difficulty. The new ergonomic design allowed us to reduce the weight of the bottle without sacrificing the strength. In a compression test, the top load is actually slightly better than the original one because of this smart design.


When it comes to packaging design development, while we address emerging markets outside of this country, we also have to address emerging channels in this country. People who immigrate to the U.S. become an emerging channel. Near Lancaster, PA, one of the biggest restaurants is a Peruvian restaurant. Why is that? A lot of Latino people from Peru are in that area. Which means we have to think about how we'll deliver the food or the beverage-and your delivery vehicle is your package.

What is the implication for packaging because of emerging channels? Is it using a structure that they're familiar with? Is it graphics? Is it all that?

Okoroafor: It is all of that. But the point you make about structure is critical because that way you can make it more affordable. For instance, I can offer you ketchup in a plastic bottle or, same quality, in a pouch. In the emerging market, like Brazil, they love the pouch. So for them, it doesn't mean less quality. As long as your shelf life is the same and we try to do that through science.


But you also have to think about merchandising. Your package has to do more than just to protect. That merchandising means that you have to come up with winning graphics.

Carswell: From a retailer perspective, health and wellness is definitely a trend. And when it comes to packaging, we are continuing to push the envelope in a sustainability space more. We expect to keep doing that because the consumers in the store are looking for that more than they were five, 10 years ago—and will probably look even more for it in the future.
The things that we've done in the past that we know are good for the environment—like less packaging, make it more recyclable, make it recycled content-are understood by consumers. The things they might start to understand are use of renewable materials and other second-tier improvements to the package design.

Okoroafor: Sustainability is here to stay. Obviously, people don't want to be asked to pay for sustainability, but it is your key to the consumer's door. Without that, you're not entering.

Sasine: Where we're really making a good deal of progress is linking our sustainability efforts farther up into our supply chain. We began eight years ago with a great deal of effort around sustainable packaging and made some large commitments and were able to deliver on those earlier this year. (See www.packagingdigest.com/Walmartgoal.)


What we've found is we can make similar progress with suppliers of all the products we sell and not just in packaging-by putting out some tools that people can use, particularly our buyers as they make decisions about products. Our sustainability index is now rolled out across all of our categories and buyers are using it as they analyze products. 


It's had an interesting impact on us in packaging. It's creating additional visibility into cost and—by packing and shipping more efficiently—how we can drive costs and continue to maintain that sort of customer-focused cost reduction that Wal-Mart is famous for. For us, sustainability has always been an objective and we've always strived to connect sustainability to our ability to deliver everyday low prices. We're starting to see that come to fruition in a lot more of our categories in a very meaningful way. It's been an opportunity to do the right thing and cut our costs at the same time.

Macauley: I would echo a lot of the same items when we talk about sustainability, but I will take a different tact and talk more about healthcare. Think pharma, think med devices, think nutrition. 


Healthcare hasn't had the same kind of sustainability pressure points as the CPG brands. It's starting to get a much better awareness and push. We're seeing sustainability drive more design efforts. A lot of that can simply be, within a hospital setting, how do we increase our ability to recycle? 


From a packaging designer's point of view, we are starting to look at how we can help our customers separate the packaging for reuse or for recyclability. 


A second trend we've had for a while is an increased amount of collaboration. Ron pointed to it, as well—going upstream. We are clearly working better across our overall value chain and generating more aligned sustainability metrics, which is still a missing link.

Hotchkiss: One of the emerging issues you're going to hear more about is the role of packaging in food waste. The issue of how much of a product doesn't get sold for whatever reason is becoming a day-to-day driver.


I use the analogy that packaging is like bridge building. Anybody can design a bridge that absolutely guaranteed will not collapse. The problem is that no one could afford to use it. A good bridge builder builds a bridge that just barely doesn't collapse. That's the optimum. And that's the same thing in packaging, getting the right amount of barrier so the product shelf life is just right.

Okoroafor: One of the biggest trends we see is...You have to design for affordability. But affordability doesn't mean cheap. You have to make sure your packaging is affordable for these consumer demographics: the struggling, the middle class and the affluent. 


It means you have to rethink how you innovate. You have to innovate for growth and productivity so you can make your product available at the lowest possible cost while you still make your margins.

Macauley: As we strive for new innovation, there's sometimes going to be a cost impact. Do consumers understand that?


A missing link is, where is new technology in terms of its lifecycle to provide new solutions? Take biopolymers, for example. Biopolymers have been discussed and are rolling out, but are they at the level where we feel they should be today vs what we thought they were going to be five years ago? To provide those sustainability solutions—if it's not a reduction; if it's more renewable type materials—there's sometimes going to be a cost impact. Can we pass that on to our consumers or not? The feedback so far is "not." 


Keller: There is more pressure to drive costs out of the system and be especially conscious of capital and making that stretch as far as it can. We only have certain amounts of money. Sometimes we're going to choose to put it towards packaging or capital and sometimes we're going to choose to put it in other places. I haven't seen any major shifts from what I'm seeing on costs other than just the increase in focus on it.

Campbell: At Dell, we're focused on cost reduction primarily through innovation. As a tech company, innovation is part of our DNA and we tap into the resident brainpower in the company to come up with smarter solutions. The use of the term cost reduction is almost a disservice because if you look at innovation through the lens of value creation, you get to different points. Can you do the same thing at lower cost or can you do something better at lower cost, which is an improvement in value for our customers? A great example of where we're doing something at lower cost but better performance is our new wheat straw packaging. Our supplier just dedicated a $50 million plant in China [in October 2013]. Yes, investments are being made where they're smart and yield better customer value.

Keller: One of the things we're looking for, too, is what we consider "platform" ways to reduce costs. What we look for from suppliers is, how can we leverage technology across our different products and not just in one specific area? That's something we always look to leverage given the focus on resources with our company and trying to be more efficient with not only our money, but our people.

Carswell: If you can share your strategic views early to inform and influence your supply chain partner's direction in their capital investment, it's huge. Maybe certain projects could advance or other ones could be quickly killed. That helps with the cost equation vs thinking it's about the pennies on the unit you're talking about.

Campbell: That's a good point. We tied our wheat straw back into a social trend in China. This is what's made it so compelling. A lot of the air pollution in China is from burning of agricultural waste, such as rice and wheat straw. Now we're creating an application which creates a market for what was formerly waste. When you do those types of things, and it saves money, it becomes much easier to justify the capital investments.

Sasine: One of the things Wal-Mart has been spending a good deal of time looking at over the past few months is the revitalization of American manufacturing. As the market for manufactured products and consumer opportunities grows in the U.S., there's also going to be an upstream demand for packaging, components and other materials that go into providing that finished product. A good deal of capital investment opportunity will be tied to that. 


It's encouraging more local supply for product as manufacturing comes back into some of our communities. Lots of towns were known for what they made. That sort of community-centered manufacturing is set for a rebound in the U.S. That ties back into cost. Clearly the cost of transportation is a critical part of what's eventually paid at the checkout by consumers. The cost of labor in many of these markets around the world is also a part of that component. When all of the pieces get added together, we're seeing that local manufacturing in many parts across the U.S. is becoming more competitive. That makes it an important time to consider packaging reinvestment.

Hotchkiss: Cost reduction is always a driver. But people are looking at it much broader because it's not just the cost of the primary container that you've got to focus on. You've got to focus on logistics, supply chain, all of the costs that go with distributing products. You've got to focus on costs in terms of product loss. You've got to focus on costs of your consumers. If you put a cheaper package out there but it drives 10 percent of your consumers away, you haven't done the company any good at all.

Okoroafor: [Going back to trends,] an emerging trend I see is consumer interactivity—using mobile devices to communicate with the consumer. 


That interactivity encompasses everything from personalization to communicating directly, one-on-one with the consumer. And packaging becomes your trigger for that virtual communication. 


Look at the emergence of NFC, near field communication. You could be walking down the ketchup aisle and a package would tell you "I'm now zero calorie" or "Please buy me. I'm on sale." The packaging is triggering it because of printed electronics. Goods can interact with mobile devices. I see this trend going into the future for a long time. Watch out for printed electronics.

Do you think printed electronics is going to be done at the supplier level, or do you see it as something that brand owners are going to do online, on the fly, to get additional levels of personalization?

Okoroafor: The initial idea of going into printed electronics was so people can deliver it online quick, easy, low cost. Ultimately, I think brand owners will be doing it. Because I want to be able to do personalization as fast as my current mass production. And that is a reality with printed electronics. It'll be just like printing with your inkjet printer.


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Tyson Foods debuts the first 100 percent recyclable stand-up pouch

Tyson Foods debuts the first 100 percent recyclable stand-up pouch
Tyson Recyclable PE pouch


Tyson Recyclable PE pouchPackage recyclability is a major driving factor affecting purchasing decisions by both product manufacturers and their customers. Not only does product packaging account for a significant space in landfills, but many of the current disposal methods contribute to air and water pollution.

These factors have fueled a heightened awareness for advancements in sustainable packaging. Film suppliers and packaging engineers are becoming more innovative in the materials they select and the production methods they use for packaging, and the carbon footprint they leave.

Advancements in technology are making recycling easier for consumers, waste processing plants and salvage facilities.

Tyson Foods sells consumer products and food service goods worldwide including in Mexico, where the brand has a robust product line available to consumers in grocery stores, club stores and convenience stores.

Tyson Mexico's current freezer packaging for chicken is made with a blend of polyethylene (PE) and PET. Frozen food packaging has typically demanded multi-material films to meet specialized requirements including high-tear strength, puncture resistance, cold-temperature tolerance and barrier properties, while still delivering eye-catching graphics. Unfortunately, resin blends containing these materials are less likely to be recovered in the recycling stream.

Tyson Mexico received help and expertise from Printpack, a converter of flexible and specialty packaging, and the Latin American Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics team, to create a more sustainable frozen chicken package. Together, they developed the first 100 percent PE stand-up pouch with a PE reclosable zipper. Dow's ability to establish a film formula suitable for freezer conditions in a 100-percent PE format laid the groundwork to develop the stand-up pouch structure.

Using only PE, this structure demonstrated performance equivalent to that of multi-material films. The new stand-up pouch is a completely recyclable package making it a better option for the environment.


Printpack, Dow and Tyson Mexico collaborated to develop, qualify and commercialize the new frozen chicken stand-up pouch, which launched in Mexico in May 2013.

Stand-up pouches are a consumer-friendly form of packaging that can be used in a variety of markets. Pouches give creative retailers more flexibility and new opportunities to display products in customized racks or innovative pallet displays. This form of packaging also offers consumers convenience as they are usually fitted with reclosable zippers, or some other form of open/close fitment.

An added benefit of the stand-up pouch is that it can reduce the amount of packaging material used by replacing the outdated bag-in-box format. A decrease in material also means less weight to transport and less volume to store, making significant cuts in energy consumption. With the development of Dow's 100 percent PE film resin, which can withstand the challenges of freezer storage and is also completely recyclable, the stand-up pouch can be a better choice for many markets.

Source: Printpack

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Woodbridge Winery bulks up production and takes up boxing

Woodbridge Winery bulks up production and takes up boxing
Woodbridge Winery depal


Woodbridge Winery depalUnlike wine, packaging lines generally do not improve over time by themselves. Along with regular maintenance, they need periodic upgrades to keep things on track. No one knows this better than the bottling managers at Woodbridge Winery in Acampo, CA, which is part of Constellation Brands, a wine, beer and spirits company with more than 100 brands in its portfolio, sales in approximately 100 countries, operations in about 40 facilities and approximately 6,000 employees. 


Located about 30 miles south of Sacramento, the winery's 50 acres of property include 350,000 square feet of bottling and warehousing surrounded by 200 acres of vineyards.


For 32 years, this has been an expansive work home for Larry Schneider, now director of bottling. He grew up a surfer amidst the iconic southern California beach scene during the 1960s and recently fulfilled a long-time ambition to parachute. That may imply Schneider is a risk taker. But when it comes to bottling decisions, he and Mike Battaglia, the director of bottling maintenance who has 25 years of packaging proficiency, are experienced, analytical and, above all, thorough in their machine selections. 


They have to be: The bottling lines operate at rates in excess of 600 750mL bottles per minute as in the case of Line 1. Across three lines, the plant produces an amazing 80,000 to 125,000 6-,12- and 24-count cases daily. 


Schneider and Battaglia do their homework in an environment that leaves little margin for any inefficiency and where every line boasts industry-leading brand name machinery associated with high throughput and quality and top-notch reliability, according to these managers. 


"Companies choose how they run their businesses," says Schneider. "The way we've chosen to run ours is speed."

The need for speed


That high-output, high-efficiency output mandate extended to the most recent plant upgrade when the operations converted from dedicated reshipper operations to handling glass in bulk. 


The reshippers were unloaded either manually or using a robotic system that required three support workers and could only handle a less common style of reshippers where the bottles were pointed upward rather than upside down. Over time, lines speeds were increased to the point that the semi-manual lines could not keep up.


The project-which also includes box erectors, partition inserters and case packers-began with depalletizers. That led them to look to glass suppliers for advice "because they have the most experience at handling bulk-packaged glass," observes Schneider. 


After months of research, he and Battaglia concluded that "Emmeti machinery came out on top for installation, longevity and service. We'd seen the machinery at tradeshows but, for most of that time, bulk operations weren't even on our radar."


The depalletizers would set the pace for the infeed process and therefore for the entire line. The decision was dictated by the need for speed and rapid changeovers.


"We selected models that could surge higher than our line demands," says Schneider. "We are also able to run a lot of different bottle shapes without having to make mechanical changeover on the Emmetis. That was huge because we bottle more than 17 different brands with multiple bottle shapes." These include Tapered, Hock, Claret and Burgundy styles in 187-, 750- and 1,500mL size bottles.


Three Emmeti Model MT 565 systems, one per line, were added starting in August 2011 when the first was installed on Line 1. A year later in August 2012, another Emmeti was installed on Line 2 along with an Emmeti MT 565 Octopus depalletizer on Line 4. The first two systems accept 750mL and 1.5L bottles received in bulk, the Octopus on Line 4 is capable of handling 187mL (airline size) bottles that arrive in reshippers and, in the future, that same size in bulk. 


Another major requirement was that the Emmeti systems offer low-level discharge at the required speeds.
"It was important to bring the bottles to floor-level conveyors without some type of lowerator or other mechanism," explains Battaglia. "We have a short distance into our filling processes and also use tapered bottles that are prone to tipping." 


"It makes for a faster transition from bottle unloading to our filler infeed conveyors," adds Schneider. "We did not have to make any alterations to our line-it was seamless into our process."


The incoming glass arrives on pallets unitized by various packaging materials that must be removed prior to entering the depalletizers; materials include shrink wraps, stretch wraps, bags and various patterns of plastic strapping. The incoming load varies by vendor and even by plant.


On Line 1, the removal or undressing of the pallet is done by a robotic unwrapper/unbagger system from FleetwoodGoldcoWyard that was installed in 2011 with the depalletizer. The robot is equipped with a heat gun to cut through films, and a cutter for strapping and bagged loads. The removed material is subsequently recycled as part of an on-going company-wide program for zero materials to landfill. 


Usually a truckload of pallet loads, which last for an entire shift, are unitized in one way or another. "The robot is programmed for that and away it goes," says Schneider. A changeover takes five to 10 minutes and is basically the flip of a switch, he adds.


The undressed pallets are conveyed into the Emmeti depalletizer where bottles are removed layer by layer. A bottle layer is clamped to maintain positive control before the top layer immediately above is swept off by a sweeping head onto a layer transfer plate that moves up or down to match the height of the layer receiving table onto which the bottles are pushed and released.


The system picks and places the top wood frames and tier sheets to their respective dunnage magazines using a set of pinching metal grippers for the former and suction cups for the latter. Those materials will also be reused or recycled.


One operator is capable of operating any of the three Emmeti systems.


Schneider is impressed by how much the machines can compensate for load shifting during transportation from glass vendors in the western U.S. and Mexico. He feels that the Emmeti's engineering and the way it captures, handles and moves the pallets and bottles is "awesome-there's very little room for anything to fall out or fall down. And it does that over and over, all day long."


Schneider appreciates that, as simple as it sounds, that the machine does exactly what Emmeti said it would do. "It's repetitive and consistent all day long," he says. "They have been durable machines."


But he says the best feature of the machinery is that it saves wear and tear on employees. "It speeds production and will for any operation with enough buffering conveyors," he states. 


In addition to the cost savings in going to bulk, another major benefit has been a reduction in inventory and warehouse space.


One of Battaglia's roles was to specify the controls package, which centered on Allen-Bradley brand human-machine-interface displays and components including variable frequency drives and A-B Kinetic 600 drives, all from Rockwell Automation. Battaglia likes that the HMIs are intuitive, that moving parts are color coded and that safety is secured using pins, locks, guarding and fencing. "When we run their machine, we know it's safe," he notes.


Woodbridge added extra grippers and photoelectric sensors as well as HMI machine start/stop areas where operators can undress the pallets, fix shifted loads and make final checks before the loads are released to the depalletizer. That was about the only aspects of the depalletizers, which were shipped from Italy, that were "customized" from an off-the-shelf system.

Smooth installation


The start-ups were as smooth as the company's wines. "The systems are huge, bigger than what we originally thought," Battaglia says. "Emmeti worked with our mechanical contractors and the systems went in smoothly.

Emmeti's technical coordinator [Luis] probably conducted one of the most in-depth and comprehensive training sessions with my mechanical mechanics I've seen. He went into in-depth electronic training with encoders, explained how to set and reposition settings, everything. The start-up support was excellent. I'm also fortunate to have a highly skilled group of staff here including three PLC technicians. We rarely need outside help."


Schneider says the experience with Emmeti was great from the get go: "They were one of the best groups we'd ever worked with on installing equipment."


The managers also give a great deal of credit to the Barry Wehmiller Design Group, which supplied all project management for the entire upgrade-as it has done for several plant upgrades over the years-from mechanical and electrical integration to programming to installation services to commissioning and training. 


Making a case for DIY


The other half of the conversion to bulk handling was the installation of box-making and partition-inserting equipment, five machines of each type.


The cases-to-be arrive as blanks that are flat, not folded, thereby taking up minimal space; Woodbridge receives 750 case blanks on a pallet provided by about a half dozen different suppliers. 


The day of our visit to the plant, Woodbridge was producing boxes for several brands, including Rex-Goliath, one of the company's most popular brands.


The blanks supply five box formers from DS Smith. Battaglia believes they may be the only operation in the United States to have this type of box-making capability. He feels that these machines, which operate with 16 servos, are probably the highest-tech box makers around. "And they are very reliable," he reports. 


The machines produce at high speeds an RSC case, though it is formed by wrapping the blank around a metal mandrel. Versus opening a knocked-down (KD) case, this process assures that the blank conforms precisely around the mandrel to yield a perfectly squared-up case.


A bad case causes double the trouble downstream because the packers fill two cases at once.


"We had a lot of experience with bad cases before, so we knew what we wanted out of a case and we knew that we wanted to manufacture it ourselves," explains Battaglia. "With KD cases you're still driven by what the manufacturer of the case has done." 


Battaglia points out that the servo-driven, solid metal-frame mandrel permits them to quickly switch out the end plates and program in the XY axes adjustments for a box changeover. 


Case weight and costs cut


The company also realized corrugated savings in converting from a 26 pound EC case to a 23 EC case due to the in-house ability to tightly control case manufacturing. "It's easier and cheaper for vendors to produce a flat and not a glued KD case," says Schneider. They also cut out the middle man, the distributor, to further shave costs, he adds.


Erected cases are conveyed to one of five partition inserters from Wayne Automation. These high-tech machines are servo driven, which means quick changeovers. That allows Woodbridge, directed by customer requirements, to use virtually any size of partition. Those range from 7- to 9-inch-high partitions that also have to be glued into cases when destined for Canadian markets. As with the DS Smith box formers and case packers downstream, Mondavi relies on Nordson hot-melt adhesive applicators.


Like the box-makers, the servo-driven partition inserters can changeover with a simple adjustment, says Schneider. 


All told, the plant produces 19 different cases for 27 different brands. 


While Schneider cannot disclose specifics, he acknowledges that the savings in going to bulk handling have been "astronomical," which is about as high as it gets and underscores the fundamental reason they went in this direction.


A distance downstream and after bottle filling, the winery installed Standard-Knapp Versatron case packers. Schneider compares the high-speed packing of the bottles into cases to "dropping a bag of cement," but the Versatron's "Soft Catch" technology makes the process a break-free cinch. 


A two-axis servo system allows the Versatron servo case packer to "catch" the product while it descends into the case. The lift table moves the case to the "up" position and waits for a full grid of bottles. When the grid is full, the riding strips shift to the side and initiate the bottle descent. The lift table moves the case downward on a velocity curve to match the conveyor speed of the cases.


The two-case pace is mandatory because speeds for 750mL bottles can reach 65 cases a minute and at times surge to 100 cases a minute, explains Battaglia. He believes that packing two cases at a time is uncommon for wines simply because few operations are running at these speeds. 


"With this technology, you don't break bottles," Schneider says. "There's a reason you pick Standard-Knapp."


Best-in-class selection


It's the same reason the operation selects any equipment for its lines: best in class machinery.


"All of the equipment that we selected represents the top brands," says Schneider. "There's nothing here that's cheap. So we did our homework and chose equipment that shares the traits of high speed as well as performance, quality, reliability and service. We considered many vendors at the start."


Their selection also extended to what the vendors offer in spare parts, adds Battaglia. "All parts should be non-proprietary, off-the-shelf parts, and that includes bearings, shafts, proximity sensors, drives...all these things and more." 


Schneider says they don't just purchase machinery from vendors, they partner with them. A prime example he points to is their Krones fillers-one for each of the three lines-and labelers. "They make awesome equipment that runs for years," he states.


It isn't a case that they only use proven equipment, just proven vendors. In one example, the plant installed on Line 1 more than 10 years ago the first four-tier Dynac vertical accumulation system from Hartness that remains a reliable workhorse. "We have built a lot of accumulation into our lines," says Battaglia.


Not all of its improvements involve major pieces of machinery-sometimes it is for a small, but critical component. In one example, that can come down to having an efficient way to turn a case using an Intralox conveyor section installed on Line 4 just downstream of the Emmeti depalletizer. Using a laser to detect cases that need turning, the compact system reorients cases at a 90-degree conveyor section with the narrow edge leading ahead of a case inverting conveyor section that leads to an A-B-C Packaging uncaser. 


Another key aspect of the "all out" production throughput is to keep the filler running, and that means speeds into and out of the filler. In essence, the entire operation from bottle unloading through palletizing must remain at high efficiency.


The attention to machine selection has paid off. According to Schneider, their failure rate is very low and their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is high, as measured using TrakSYS software from Parsec they have used since 2007. The OEE for all three production lines remains in the 90+ percent range.


Woodbridge monitors Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on all equipment on all three lines and records stoppage lengths and causes. KPIs are reported by machine, shift, operator and more, allowing line-to-line and even bottle-to-bottle comparisons. The interface also permits operators to input comments and notes.


"It's a great, Big Picture tool for upper management because most of our sites have this and we compare metrics site-to-site," notes Schneider. 


It also serves the bottling managers in their procurement processes. "It helps validate our justification for capital expenditures," he explains. "We can quantify our return-on-investment by showing what the current machine is costing versus a brand new machine."


The managers expect to upgrade from OEE software based at operator workstations to a networked web-based version sometime in 2014.


The high speeds also compel an atypical mindset. As Schneider explains, "There are different problems at high speeds that aren't seen at 100 bottles per minute, including bottle weight and balance. We're constantly redesigning packaging and bottles because while they may work for 99 percent of companies, they may not work for us."


Schneider is also willing to share one trick of the trade they implemented first in 2008, which was the first installation of the Robo-Cylinder Bottle Guide System provided by Barry Wehmiller Design Group, and subsequently six more. The Robo-Cylinder evenly splits bottle positioning when dividing mass flow and directs flow to one machine if another in parallel is slowed or stopped.


Battaglia describes it as "an electrical-pneumatic-mechanical positioning rod that allows us to control our populations and our mass within the conveyors. It's not rocket science, but it works."


It helps enable them to run tapered bottles perhaps faster than anyone, as Schneider states. 


As my Dad used to say, "If it's a fact, then it ain't boasting." There is much to boast about here, where the savvy bottling managers and their decisions made across the years have yielded the production of many hundreds of thousands of cases of wine, packaged quickly and with high efficiently.


To watch a video of the Woodbridge operations, see www.packagingdigest/woodbridge.

A-B-C Packaging Machine Corp.,
800-237-5975
www.abcpackaging.com


Barry Wehmiller Design Group
314-862-8000
www.bwdesigngroup.com


DS Smith Packaging Systems
+33 (0)1 49 01 48 48
www.dssmithpackaging-systems.com


Emmeti USA
814-466-2183
www.emmetiusa.com


FleetwoodGoldcoWyard, a Barry Wehmiller Co.
630-759-6800
www.fgwa.com


Hartness Intl., part of ITW
864-297-1200
www.hartness.com


Intralox

888-414-2358
www.intralox.com


Krones

414-409-4000
www.krones.com


Nordson Corp.

440-892-1580
www.nordson.com


Parsec

714-996-5302
www.parsec-corp.com


Rockwell Automation
414-382-2000
www.rockwellautomation.com


Standard-Knapp

860-342-1100
www.standard-knapp.com


Wayne Automation

610-630-8900
www.wayneautomation.com

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Carlsberg launches ground-breaking ‘upcycling' initiative

Carlsberg launches ground-breaking ‘upcycling' initiative
Carlsberg DraughtMaster keg

Carlsberg DraughtMaster keg
Global brewer Carlsberg Group has invited packaging suppliers to participate in the Carlsberg Circular Community, a unique and ambitious upcycling program designed to eliminate packaging waste.The inspiration behind the Carlsberg Circular Community is the Cradle-to-Cradle design framework. A platform for business where products and materials are defined according to how they are used, such as the right materials in the right place at the right time. The result: Resources are suitable for re-use instead of being wasted.

Under this initiative, Carlsberg aims to assess new products for upcycling potential using a Cradle-to-Cradle analysis, which will reveal if the products contain any chemicals or additives that would reduce the value and quality of the materials.

Jørgen Buhl Rasmussen, president/CEO of Carlsberg Group, says, "We want to build our resilience and prepare for future growth in an environment of increased resource scarcity and we want to develop solutions that benefit not only our business, but also the environment and the societies in which we operate. The packaging initiative and the cooperation with suppliers are a big leap forward. By cooperating with our suppliers, we can achieve far more than each of us can do alone."

The first stage in this process will be for Carlsberg to conduct assessments of products to identify potential for optimizing the products according to Cradle-to-Cradle principles. Carlsberg's target is to cooperate with a select number of partners and to launch three Cradle-to-Cradle certified products by 2016.

One of its suppliers, Petainer, supplies Carlsberg with DraughtMaster preforms, high-quality lightweight PET material that cost less than 10 percent of the price of steel kegs, while also offering a range of environmental and performance benefits. Petainer has been invited to participate as a founding member and the only current PET packaging supplier.

Unlike steel kegs or other plastic variants, single-use DraughtMaster kegs do not have to be cleaned, so there is no need for the water, chemicals or energy usually associated with the cleaning process. Every DraughtMaster keg saves approximately 12 liters of water, mitigating "water stress."


All DraughtMaster kegs use sophisticated barrier technologies to restrict oxygen ingress and reduce CO2 losses. There is no taste taint, since no aluminium or other metals are present to affect the flavor of the product stored.

Annemieke Hartman-Jemmett, group commercial strategy director at Petainer, says, "To be asked to take part in this programme by Carlsberg is recognition of our ability to respond to a challenging innovation like the DraughtMaster. PET kegs are the future; they are shaking up the market and allowing brewers and other drinks suppliers to deliver beverages anywhere in the world offering great commercial advantage and with greatly reduced environmental impact. It's wonderful for these efforts to be recognised with the invitation to join the Carlsberg Circular Community."

Hartman-Jemmett adds: "We've worked really closely with Carlsberg to optimise the design of the DraughtMaster keg, so it's exciting to see them including this product as part of the Carlsberg Circular Community."

Additionally, Carlsberg Group has also joined forces with O-I, the world's largest glass container manufacturer, in this landmark packaging sustainability initiative.

O-I will provide its extensive sustainability expertise to assess current glass packaging and will work closely with Carlsberg and its CCC partners to launch Carlsberg's first Cradle to Cradle-certified glass packaging solution by 2016.

"We are pleased to be sharing our sustainability expertise with Carlsberg and the Circular Community partners to deliver real benefits to consumers, society and our shared environment," says Erik Bouts, president of O-I Europe. "We believe that collaborating throughout the value chain will bring new and innovative packaging solutions." 


Glass is made from widely available natural raw materials and is infinitely recyclable, making it a suitable Cradle to Cradle packaging material. In addition, O-I says it is continuously improving its manufacturing processes, driving energy efficiency and optimizing packaging designs for its customers. One of the company's sustainability goals is to increase the amount of recycled glass used in production. In Europe, some of the company's 36 plants use up to 90 percent recycled glass.

O-I's Glass Is Life movement promotes the widespread benefits of glass packaging in key markets around the globe. For more information, visit www.o-i.com or www.glassislife.com.


The Carlsberg Circular Community is also expected to create other benefits beyond sustainability, through new partnerships and closer co-operation throughout the value chain.


Source: Petainer


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Walmart: Lessons learned from a commitment to packaging reduction

Walmart: Lessons learned from a commitment to packaging reduction
Ron Sasine


Ron SasineThe results are in. Last year, we reached a goal we set back in 2007—to reduce packaging in the products we sell by 5 percent by 2013. This success was an exercise in collaboration and perseverance as we worked closely with suppliers, manufacturers and distributors to find new solutions and ultimately reach our goal. 


Achieving this milestone involved a number of multi-year initiatives to eliminate unnecessary packaging components, reduce the mass of the remaining packaging materials and optimize the performance of the packaging we use in each product category. As we worked to reduce packaging, we found that our greatest successes came when we optimized packaging. This approach not only consider the volume of the material used, but the integrity, portability, recyclability, reusability and overall life cycle of the materials we use to deliver products to our shelves safely and efficiently. The result is a more holistic approach that considers the environmental and economic impact of packaging throughout our supply chain. 


When we began our effort six years ago, the first obstacle we faced was finding a standard for measuring the amount of packaging we use and developing a procedure to track it over time. There weren't any packaging reduction metrics commonly used across the packaging or retail industries, so we collaborated with packaging manufacturers, consumer products companies and a group of government entities and NGOs to create the Walmart Packaging Scorecard, a methodology for measuring and improving the environmental impact of the packaging we use. 


Here are just a few recent results from the grocery category:
Packaged salads: We cut plastic resin by an average of 40 percent, amounting to more than 1.2 million pounds of plastic film.
Bottled sauces: We made the packaging in a line of bottled sauces 44 percent lighter, improving our shipping efficiency.
Dairy: We reduced the amount of wood fiber used in the corrugated shipping cases for a line of dairy products by 18 percent.
Processed meat: We eliminated 26 percent of the corrugated used in shipping a line of processed meats by redesigning the shape and style of box.


As a result of these efforts, we not only reached our goal, but we were able to reduce the overall greenhouse gas impact of our packaging by an average of 9.8 percent in our Walmart U.S. stores, 9.1 percent in our Sam's Clubs in the U.S. and 16 percent in our Walmart Canada stores. Our achievements in this area demonstrate the power of collaboration and the power of sustainability as a driver of innovation and business improvement. It's at the heart of who we are and part of our mission to deliver everyday low prices to our customers.


With the new focus on optimization, we've created a framework for driving progress that can positively impact the business, cut costs, reduce waste and ensure product integrity through the entire product lifecycle—from transport to store shelves to customers' homes.


But it doesn't stop there. The next step in this process is the rollout of our Sustainability Index. Now being used in select categories, this index helps us evaluate packaging as one piece of the bigger puzzle of product sustainability. The index will help us keep a spotlight on those categories where packaging has been identified as an area of key environmental and market concern. At the same time, it will allow us to raise the visibility of other issues impacting supply chain sustainability and apply our size and scale to find broader solutions.


To learn more about Walmart's global sustainability efforts, visit The Green Room.

 

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Next-gen interactive codes heighten fun-ctionality

Next-gen interactive codes heighten fun-ctionality
Colorbit design options

Visualead QR Evolution

 

Bar codes and similar have their place, but there's new players in town that look to make a bold impact in packaging. And that's literally a bold impact using graphics that are as colorful and distinct as they are functional. The utility of these new-generation codes leverages for packaging brand owners the most popular devices in the world whose growth continues to accelerate: smartphones and mobile devices, the former of which as of 2Q2013 saw a 50 percent plus growth rate vs 2012, according to IDC (www.idc.com).

 

If you thought the quick response (QR) code was the ultimate on-package consumer engagement vehicle, you better think twice. This report highlights two intriguing technologies that push past the square or linear worlds of QR and bar codes by layering in another aspect over functionality that's lacking in most coding symbologies: visual appeal.

One way this is done is the Visual QR code (shown above)  being offered by Visualead. The tech takes the square and ubiquitous, if not unappealing, QR code and stands it on its head as a high-interest visual element that can complement a package design scheme.

 

The company's patent-pending image processing system creates QR codes that convert any image or graphic into functioning, aesthetically pleasing codes designed to engage consumers. Creating a Visual QR Code with the use of the company's Visual QR Code Generator is promoted as easy and fast, taking less than a minute. The company has introduced the Gen 2 version of its code and is planning further refinements that increasingly immerse the code within the graphics design.


According to Nevo Alva, the company's CEO, the timing is ripe for the technology.


"It's becoming clear that there's a growing need to connect the offline physical world to the online mobile world," Alva says. "Once this problem is solved, brand owners can enjoy endless opportunities for reaching out to customers and increasing their engagement and loyalty. We provide a Do-It-Yourself web platform-based on our proprietary technology-that allows any business to quickly merge QR codes into any design or advertisement with just a few simple steps. This creates a new branded and effective Visual QR Code that can be read by any existing QR code reader."


Alva, who notes that close to one billion users have already downloaded a QR reader into their devices, feels the company's tech can build on consumers' familiarity with the standard QR code.


"When you add in the creative aspects and branding opportunities that arrive with Visual QR codes, you realize that we've created the most effective bridging solution that exists today," he offers.


The technology is already gaining traction: Visualead's platform is being used by familiar brands and for Server Message Blocks (SMBs, which direct their device toward an online location)-more than 200,000 SMBs to date-to lead potential customers to an optimized mobile experience.


Visualead can handle mass production solutions to create millions of unique Visual QR Codes at once, a capability that is highly appropriate to the packaging industry, Alva believes. 


"We have several customers that have been using these solutions as part of their packaging and delivery, such as snacks packaging, delivery packaging [Customer www.healthfirst.com generates branded Visual QR Codes en masse]. We definitely see the packaging segment as an emerging market for customer interaction and engagement."


As one example, Alva points to Danone, which has more than 60 million unique QR Codes on all of their products (see www.Packagingdigest.com/danoneqr).

 

Functionality that's upgradeable


The tech offers much in the way of upgradeable functionality. "Each and every Visualead QR Code gets a new form and brand and can become a symbol or indicate information about the product or delivery," Alva explains. "Also, we can track the codes and gather a lot of valuable information about the scanning location, operating system, time of day, etc. Furthermore, our clients can manage their campaigns in real time, change the content of the codes and conduct A/B test performance."


From the beginning, Alva recognized packaging as an important and unique step in the interaction between brands and customers with incredible potential. He feels that Visual QR code application can be used to attract, extend and amplify the engagement between the consumer and the brand. "Visual QR codes are easily created and merged into the packaging design and are great space-savers as they eliminate the need to have separate space for the design and the code," Alva adds. 


Graphics options are extensive. Brand owners can create a Visual QR code of any size, with the only limitations related to minor considerations such as the code's minimum size (1 inch) and for texture or surface distortion. The Visual QR Code supports the regular QR code standard and does not require any special app to be scanned.
Alva sees the hurdle to adoption as educational rather than technical.


"The current restriction in this market is convincing the customer to scan the QR code and, thus, connect with the brand," Alva says. "The success of this step depends on two main questions:
"One, what incentive does the brand have for its customers to scan the code?
Two, how does the brand demonstrate to its customers what they should expect to receive from scanning the code, especially when on-packaging real estate is limited?


"Once brands understand the importance of finding effective solutions for these questions, customers will be encouraged to scan more and their loyalty to the brands will increase."


Whatever the future holds, Alva has more confidence in the increasing viability of packaging as the vehicle to deliver an interactive experience to the consumer than he does print magazines, another popular landing place for QR codes.


"I believe that a package, as opposed to magazines, will always exist because people will always consume products and those products will always have to get to them somehow," he says. "I predict that, in the near future, product packaging is going to be the main contact point of the brand with its customer. I believe that this will be a critical point of contact with the customer and the brand's goal will be to catch the customers and lead them into the online world, as well as continue to communicate with them through social networks and other online services. Our goal is to provide these brands with the ability to create a memorable and compelling point of contact with the customer that will also be an effective bridge to the online world-all with the use of standardized solutions."

 

Colorbit design optionsColorbit: A colorful code replacement

 

Colorbit is a color-based automatic identification technology developed by B-Core Inc. of Tokyo. Using the patented code configuration and decoding software, it is possible to read using a color camera up to several hundred tagged items simultaneously by capturing a single image, with sub-second decoding speeds. The solution is suitable for inventory management, asset management, quality assurance, anti-counterfeiting and other applications, particularly on difficult-to-label surfaces and in environments where using traditional bar code labels or RFID tags may be challenging.


One of the differentiating features of the Colorbit technology is its flexibility when it comes to design. Colorbit strings are made up of areas, elements or "blobs" of three different colors, typically red, blue and green. The shape and dimensions of these elements are flexible. The elements can be arranged in lines, spirals, zig-zag patterns or whatever else suits the needs or creative urges of the designer. 


"We allow for the use of any contiguous elements where their size remains within a 1:10 ratio," explains Chris Anderson, managing partner of Colorbit. "A Colorbit string could be made up of a line of colored ducks, a line of dots, a line of differently shaped flowers or nearly anything else you can imagine. Our requirements are simple: the elements must touch, and the line that is created with them cannot branch or cross."


The use of whites, grays and blacks and colors that fall outside the RGB hues makes it possible to provide the effect of branching and crossing without actually rendering the string unreadable, opening up yet more possibilities.
A Colorbit string can be printed with any three-color printing technology. Most commonly used are on-demand or continuous inkjet and color laser printers, but thermal transfer, offset or any other printing technology may be employed. 


"The resolution of the printer is not critical as it might be with other encoding technologies because we apply no special metrics to lines or spaces or other marks within a Colorbit identification string," says Anderson, who sees the advantages of Colorbit encoding as fourfold:


1. Colorbit isn't nearly as fussy about the quality of the marking as are most other encoding technologies. It does not depend upon any line/space ratios. And it can readily cope with a great deal of distortion caused by packaging that isn't "flat" and images degraded by scuffing in transit;


2. It has the ability to read many codes in one shot. Colorbit has demonstrated the ability to read several hundred codes in one-third second with an inexpensive web camera and cheap laptop. Where packaging or master pack lists can be provided within the view of a camera or smartphone, Colorbit save a great deal of time reading bar or other codes individually. In that respect, it is similar to RFID but better as the next attribute indicates.


3. The tech can identify by visual feedback on a PC monitor or smartphone the exact location of any specifically requested item within the field of view-something that cannot be done with RFID; and


4. It provides far more flexibility in design; the form and design of a Colorbit code needn't look like a code at all. It provides a great deal of leeway in design that appeals to industrial designers.
This last item provides a clear benefit from an aesthetics standpoint, and also allows for embedding codes in ways so as to make the code disappear into the overall package art design.


One hurdle is that the technology requires a "captive" environment, and therefore is relegated to "controlled" secondary packaging applications. Because the Colorbit code depends upon access to a color camera of some sort, primary packaging at point-of-sale has yet to adopt the technology, Anderson acknowledges. However, they have had interest in primary packaging for non-retail identification purposes. 


"As one example, where serialized product is involved, the use of Colorbit-encoded serial numbers makes possible some interesting anti-counterfeiting and gray-market detection solutions," Anderson says. "I can envision a smartphone application for field sales reps using Colorbit where spot checks of inventory in the distribution chain are greatly simplified."


He feels that widespread adoption at retail would be a huge tipping point for the technology.
"Were that to occur, we're only some firmware away from being able to replace or augment the entire UPC/EAN bar code marking scheme," he says. "Since Colorbit is equally capable of delivering the same set of digits to the back end of a system, it's only a matter of being able to decode color in a Colorbit identifier."


Anderson relates that Sato (www.sato.co.jp) has taken the lead in Japan as a licensee heavily involved in the country's labeling business. Nippon Express is employing the technology to prepare special labels for packages using the one-shot reading to simultaneously read codes on many packages at once. He reports that, for the time being, secondary packaging remains the main focus-there is an increased interest in marking directly on unbleached paperboard/corrugated in the secondary market. The incentive in this submarket is that users have been experiencing some difficulties with traditional coding due to lack of contrast of black ink on a brown substrate that they believe may be improved by use of this color-coding technology.


The application requires what Anderson calls a "wrapper" around the decoding technology found using a Colorbit-supplied software development kit (SDK) for the customer's preferred platform. It provides the "hooks" between the user interface, and possibly a connectivity interface, and along with the company's image capturing and decoding algorithms. 


According to Anderson, most applications fall into one of two categories: either the user will be capturing any and all codes found within the field of view, or will be looking for a specific code within the field of view. He maintains that it as easy to capture 200 Colorbit codes and store or transmit them as it is to have the Colorbit decoder locate one Colorbit code within a group of 200. In both cases, the application will typically highlight the desired result on the screen to provide positive visual feedback to the user. Auditory feedback can be used as well.


The choice of hardware also depends upon the use model. The technology decodes the Colorbit strings that it encounters in a video image. A smartphone with camera or a PC with a high-resolution web camera can serve as the "reader" portion of the system. The infrastructure required is no different from that of other identification technologies. The numbers generated from Colorbit strings will be treated in the same manner as if they were those being decoded from an Interleaved 2 of 5 or UPC bar code. The ancillary hardware involved is the same. The only difference is that instead of using a typical bar code scanner or RFID reader, Colorbit uses a color camera to gather the encoded information.


Currently, Colorbit is supplying a demo application for iPhone/iPod platforms that can demonstrate the capabilities of the technology. 


Where is this heading?
"Ah, that we knew!" responds Anderson. "Rather than telling the marketplace where this technology can best be employed, we've found that the marketplace has been telling us. One of the more remarkable successes has been in the library industry where the Colorbit marking of book spines is saving endless hours of reviewing the stacks for misplaced books. The Colorbit encoding allows a staff member to sweep entire stacks with a smartphone in minutes, rather than manually reading the individual alphanumeric codes one by one. That is just one example of an application that ‘came to us,' rather than the other way around. 


"However, we continue to focus on the advent of color image capture at point-of-sale. If this comes to pass, the end-to-end capabilities for packaging are unlimited. We believe we have a superior encoding technology that is both more robust than others, but will definitely appeal to the industrial designers who tell us that they hate having a bar code interrupt the flow of their artwork! The ability to discreetly embed Colorbit codes in nonobvious ways has been met with enthusiasm."


Colorbit USA

303-437-7938

www.colorbit.jp/en/


Visualead

+972-77-2348890

www.visualead.com

 

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