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Articles from 2014 In March

Traceability trends converging for food and pharma

Traceability trends converging for food and pharma
Michael Lucas, founder and president, Frequentz

Frequentz, a company in the ePedigree and track-and-trace space, expects the food traceability industry to see rapid growth in the next several years to ensure consumer safety and helping to prevent recalls. Frequentz recently formed a Steering Committee to help customers in the pharmaceutical industry begin taking steps to comply with the Data Quality and Security Act (DQSA), which will impact product packaging and labeling.

In this Packaging Digest exclusive, Frequentz founder and president Michael Lucas shares his views of where things are headed at the consumer safety confluence of food, drugs and technology.

Briefly describe IRIS.

Lucas: Frequentz's Information Repository & Intelligence Server (IRIS) is an event-driven traceability server that provides organizations (manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers and government agencies) complete visibility across the lifecycle of a product. Combining Frequentz's data traceability technology with IBM's InfoSphere Traceability Server, acquired by Frequentz in November 2012, IRIS is a comprehensive and scalable track-and-trace technology.

Why and how was IRIS developed?

Lucas: IRIS was developed to bring visibility to the supply chain and create true end-to-end supply chain security and authenticity across verticals including pharmaceutical / life sciences, agricultural, seafood, industrial (aerospace, automotive, chemical) and retail industries. Subsequently, IRIS satisfies the industry's need for serialization and traceability solutions that track, trace and store all information around product development and supply chain logistics in a central, data repository. 

IRIS addresses the market need for technology that provides greater visibility into the product supply chain. These needs are driven by regulations, business needs, quality assurance, customer engagement, health and safety. For example, in the agricultural industry, Frequentz can track food from farm-to-fork. In the event of a product recall, having IRIS allows food manufacturers to significantly initiate a targeted recall, which in turn reduces the time it takes to remove the product and contact the customer or retailer. Consequently, reducing risk of consumer exposure and containing the potential brand erosion.

Furthermore, IRIS provides consumers and retailers with a safeguard: product authentication and assurance that if there is a problem there is a process and technology in place that seeks to protect the consumer and minimize health and safety risks.

Whether leveraging IRIS technology for the purposes of gaining greater visibility, tracking food from farm-to-fork or reducing risk of exposure, IRIS provides clients real-time access to the complete life history and quality assurance of a product from manufacturing, through distribution to point-of-purchase. This capability is critical in the event of a product recall or suspected fraud and counterfeiting.

Specific competitive advantages include, but are not limited to: The solution is ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) agnostic; aims to solve issues in trading globally by adhering to international standards; serves multiple verticals allowing the technology to take from best practices offered in each; can be offered in two forms:  onsite or in the cloud; and supports the evolution to EPC Information Services (EPCIS) from Drug Pedigree Messaging Standard (DPMS).

Why is the timing good for this solution?

Lucas: Fragmented nature of globalization, the vast size and complex nature of suppliers and the supply chain, international trade and commerce and customer demand has driven the adoption of traceability. Furthermore, the increased prevalence of seafood fraud and concerns around sustainability also driven the adoption and need for traceability. Regulatory bodies have developed policies that mandate authentication and traceability as key approaches to ensuring safety and health and reducing risks, like, for example, the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA) in the pharmaceutical industry. The recent passing of DQSA by the US Senate is a critical and necessary move for large U.S. drug compounders to eliminate drug mislabeling and counterfeit. The traceability legislation raises U.S. standards for drug compounding compliance to improve consumer safety. 

The US lags in the development of traceability regulations vis-à-vis vital economic regions where laws and regulations have already been piloted, if not fully executed abroad, mainly in the European Union.

What’s going on with the Steering Committee?

Frequentz has established a Steering Committee of IRIS-installed customers to collaboratively and proactively work to understand DQSA and anticipate future roll out needs and concerns. The goal of this committee is to help support customer compliance with, and implementation of, requirements from DQSA. 

What can be shared about the 2014 RxTrace Survey Results?

Lucas: Sponsored by Frequentz, the 2014 RxTrace “US Pharma Traceability Survey” reveals industry perspectives on DQSA. 

Enacted in November 2013, the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), which is embedded in DQSA, created new federal track-and-trace requirements for the pharmaceutical supply chain and preempted all state and federal serialization and pedigree laws. RxTrace, a media outlet focused on traceability and the pharmaceutical supply chain, surveyed 78 executives working in, or targeting, the pharmaceutical supply chain to gauge their opinion and state of readiness to comply with the federal mandates 

Key findings of the survey revealed:

  • Most companies will treat the DSCSA and thus DQSA with the same or more urgency and interest than they treated the California pedigree law;
  • While most people believe their company leaders understand all or most of what will be required to meet the requirements, uncertainty still exists in many of the definitions of what is required;
  • Most people agree that EPCIS will be the future technology agreed upon to pass transaction information.

While the survey shows that there is a high level of confidence that most manufacturers will eventually comply to the regulations, it’s clear there remains different interpretations and definitions by respondents.  Meanwhile, what is certain is that there is a date by which to comply looming.  Through the Steering Committee, Frequentz helps partners into making timely and efficient decisions in order to meet the requirements.



New material options for the packaging lifecycle

New material options for the packaging lifecycle
Laszlo Horvath, assistant professor, Virginia Tech

How about using super-strong, Kevlar-like nanocrystals derived from cellulose to strengthen pallets? That’s the kind of alternative, renewable material that Laszlo Horvath, assistant professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, has been researching over the past 10 years. Horvath shares his thoughts on the topic in this exclusive interview, especially toward the use of atypical materials that hold promise for use in boxes, pallets and even gel capsules.

What is your background in packaging and in renewables?

Horvath: I have been working with renewable materials for about 10 years. My Ph.D research focused on the development of genetically modified aspen trees for bioenergy and biocomposite applications. As director of the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, my current research focuses on two major areas:

  1. The development of natural composites for distribution packaging applications; and
  2. To understand the interaction between the components of unit loads that knowledge will help us to better optimize wood pallets and packages that will reduce the fiber consumption used for packaging materials.

 What sparked your interest in these materials?

Horvath: What is great in renewable materials such as trees and plants that they are continuously reproducible without depleting our natural resources. The packaging industry, especially the distribution packaging side, is heavily using renewable materials. Currently, 92 percent of all pallets used globally are made of wood and the most common shipping unit is made of corrugated board.

However, there are still a lot of opportunities for new developments. Due to sanitary issues, we are using a fair amount of plastic packaging materials that are mainly produced from fossil fuels. Although plastics made from fossil fuel seems like a good idea, nowadays, due to its non-renewable nature, our supplies are limited.

In addition, using fossil fuel-based materials without proper recycling methods could increase the adverse effects of global warming. Besides, the low stiffness of plastic packaging materials create a lot of problems such as unit load and package failure, and unit load instability during the distribution.

Using renewable materials to exchange or reinforce fossil fuel based plastics has a lot of potential. If we generate greater demand for plant based materials then it will encourage farmers to plant more trees or plants that will potentially reduce the effects of global warming.

What kind of work is the university doing in this area?

Horvath: Our department has been researching the application of renewable materials for more than 40 years.

Since the department was established, we have been focusing on the optimization of wood-based packaging materials such as pallets and corrugated boxes. We have multiple projects that are focusing on understanding the interactions between wooden pallets and corrugated boxes. With better understanding ongoing interactions, we will be able to reduce the amount of fiber used for packaging materials.

One of the other areas that we are focusing on is the development of bioplastic films for packaging applications. The most recent material that we are investigating is polylactic acid (PLA) that is derived from the byproducts of corn production. It is a great material with a lot of potential, but it also has disadvantages that need to be worked out such as low stiffness and rigidity.  

We also focus on the development of plant-based gel capsules for drug delivery applications. The development of plant-based gel capsules are important because of the recent concerns related to diseases spread by animals.

In our distribution research center, called the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, we have been working with companies to help them develop and evaluate their pallet and packaging designs.

During the evaluations, we observed that plastic pallets have a major disadvantage and that is their low stiffness and extensive time dependent creep. It is a current trend, to use fiberglass or metal inserts to reinforce plastic pallets; however, there are a lot of concerns related to application of fiberglass in a distribution environment.

To create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable reinforcement for plastic pallets, my research area focuses on the development of natural fiber reinforces plastics where cellulose nanocrystals will be used to reinforce the mechanical properties of plastic pallets. Nanocrystals are derived from plants and have similar properties to Kevlar that makes them an idea candidate for plastic reinforcement.

 How would you characterize the growth of these materials for packaging?

Horvath: The sustainable packaging industry has been growing significantly in the recent years and it is projected to grow to $244 billion by 2018. I’m expecting a lot of exciting developments in the area of bioplastics and the development of new plant based packaging materials. Due to the growing environmental cautiousness of the customers, I am expecting a rapid growth in the use of renewable materials in the next five years.

Which alternative material do you feel is the most underutilized at this point for packaging?

Horvath: Lignin is a chemical in wood that is currently removed during the paper-making process. The resulting material is called black liquor. Currently, black liquor is used to generate heat for the paper-making process. However, due to the unique structure of lignin, it has a potential to be used for a wide range products such as plastics, chemicals products, and even carbon fibers. Lignin currently has a limited utilization in the packaging industry such as using it to improve the barrier and mechanical properties of starch based film or creating biodegradable thermoplastics out of lignin derivatives.

What material holds the most promise?

Horvath: Bioplastics derived from lignin and using cellulose to reinforce plastics has the highest potential.

What alternative material impresses you?

Horvath:  One of the most interesting materials for me is a protective foam cushioning produced from the mix of wood chips and a special strain of mushroom. It is currently produced by Sealed Air and used to package Dell computers (see Bio-based protective packaging  and Think like champions).

Finally, what advice do you have for brand owners?

Horvath: I would advise the brand owners to follow developments in renewable materials. Although the cost of some of the applications is high, there are a lot of solutions that are cost competitive. For example, utilizing molded pulp containers to exchange the plastic container for detergents or utilizing mushroom based foam product to protect high value electronics. New research projects are always underway to create technology that can significantly increase the sustainability of existing packaging solutions.

Laszlo Horvath is one of the speakers at the upcoming SouthPack Learning Labs as part of the SouthPack tradeshow running April 15 and 16. Horvath will present on the topic of New Packaging Materials & Sustainability Considerations for the Entire Product Lifecycle on Wednesday April 16 at 1:00PM to 1:30PM.

Click here to learn more about this and other SouthPack Learning Labs education sessions.

The ins and outs of 3D printing and rapid prototyping

Three-dimensional (3D) technologies and services for rapid prototyping have become more affordable over the last decade.

Now is the time to take advantage of them during the packaging design process. Whether it's with in-house equipment or through outsourcing partnerships, you will want to inspire and communicate to your customers what's possible in a cost-effective and timely manner with these technologies.

There are multiple benefits of using 3D printing and other rapid prototyping technologies to create packaging mockups and renderings:

Speed: You can quickly turn around packaging designs and get them in your hands before they're real. With a simple computer-aided design (CAD) program and a 3D printer, you can design and print with low risk—which means you can also quickly incorporate consumer feedback.

Cost: These technologies are becoming more affordable and relatively minimal investments can be made on a variety of technologies. Some 3D printers out there now start as low as $300. However, depending on your specific needs, you might require a more expensive system that can print in finer detail or produce larger parts.

Design freedom: It's quick and efficient to create multiple iterations of a project, sketch or rendering. Another benefit is that you can maintain your intellectual property if you aren't ready to share your designs with the world yet.

Many 3D printers today are not just used for prototyping; they're also used in production settings. Accurate, production-quality parts can now be printed in hours or days to replace the old machined parts that sometimes took weeks to produce and ship. Some of these 3D-printed parts can be made with the same or like materials, and can push the design envelope compared to traditionally machined parts. Currently, NASA is 3D printing certain rocket parts that would normally have been machined and welded together. This saves the time and expense required in the past for complex forming and welding assembly operations to create these parts.

The graphic below charts how Campbell Soup Co. uses different 3D technologies for internal ideation and package prototyping. From left to right, we move from least finished to most finished, from rapid to functional, from virtual to physical.

Campbell 3D technologies chart

Typically, as you move from left to right, costs will increase. And we tend to use outside services as we move further to the right to help properly validate new designs.

This is not necessarily the right way or the wrong way—just the approach we take for packaging at Campbell. And there are other ways to use the available technologies beyond the six shown in the chart.

One of the things that helped us formulate this approach was to make sure that we had a common, internal language when talking about these 3D technologies. We use these technologies to inspire innovation and creativity, and to demonstrate to our customers what a concept could be. You too can use rapid prototyping to inspire what's possible, demonstrate what a concept could be and maximize what it should be.

Rapid prototyping is fast, iterative and inexpensive. At Campbell, we use this as a build-to-learn tool to inspire internal innovation.

Functional prototyping gives you that fit, form and function of a package or part. We use this as a build-to-confirm tool to refine the details and predominantly focus on validating the performance and specifications.

Creating the soup pouch
For example, when we decided to use pouch packaging for some of our new soups, we didn't have the ability to create a physical mock-up right away. So we started using Adobe Photoshop for our early renderings to give our teams new design concepts to consider and evolve during the label development process.

We took pictures of blank pouches and then mapped graphics onto them. This allowed us to work with our teams and refine the design multiple times before we ended up with the final Campbell's Go soup packaging design. We used these renderings to look at different shelf sets using various designs. We even took the renderings to different places in the store, taking pictures of non-traditional soup shelf sets and then adding these just to see what it would look like in locations other than the soup aisle. All of this was done virtually, with collaboration between both internal and external partners.

These renderings helped to play a big part in the decision making process for us. Just like with 3D printing, you can iterate quickly and with little risk. This allowed us to incorporate internal and external consumer feedback before these packages were even created.

Finally, having a physical mock-up capability for us was one of the toughest challenges. With so many different formats out there for packaging nowadays, how could you best represent all of them?

Our solution was using pressure-sensitive labels as a cost-effective and convenient way to get graphics onto many different packaging formats. These labels gave us the ability to print eye-catching graphics on a variety of different prototypes. We can actually fill these and put them in front of consumers so they can get a feel for the physical pouches, how a bottle shape might fit in their hand or to give us feedback right away on the label design process. It's fast and affordable, much less costly than buying a high-tech printer and a pouch former to try and create these from scratch.

People say a picture is worth a thousand words. I like to say a physical mock-up is worth a million.

We use labels on paperboard as well. We're able to create die-lines and graphics, adhere these to a blank piece of paperboard and then fold it into whatever carton, tray or display we want to visualize. All of this is done without cutting dies, production print runs or separations just to get that physical mock-up in your hands—so it saves a lot of time and money.

We can use this process to create small quantities of mock-ups, but when we need larger quantities or different capabilities we look to our outside vendors and partners for help. They give us the agility we need when a job falls outside of our internal capabilities.

One of my favorite terms is what we call "Frankenstein-ing." This is where we take part of one package and part of another package, chop them all up and mix them together to see what we come out with that's new and usable. We can take 3D-printed parts and existing packages and meld them into something different—just to get the creative juices flowing. Usually we use these in small, breakout teams early in the innovation stages just to see what can potentially be possible.

Some of our Frankenstein-ed mock-ups range from combinations of metal cans and plastic 3D-printed parts, to paperboard and 3D-printed parts, and a variety of flexible and rigid packaging formats that we've "mashed up."

At the end of the day, you want to be able to maximize what's possible, inspire your consumers and validate the function as quickly and economically as possible.

Today, 3D technologies and their processes are readily accessible by all. If you're not using them in some way, shape or form, then you're behind.

John McComb is program manager of the structural packaging group in Campbell Soup Co.'s Global Research & Development organization. In this role, he is responsible for creating functional and innovative packaging concepts across aseptic, hot fill and retort platforms for soup, beverage and simple meals. Over the past five years, McComb has worked to bring a variety of in-house prototyping capabilities to Campbell, which include 3D printing, rendering, scanning and animation.

In or out?
What are the pros and cons of bringing 3D technologies in house vs outsourcing the capabilities? Are you in, are you out or are you a combination of the two? How do you decide? Some key questions to consider:

Does it make sense to invest now? Will the technologies be useful one year, two years, even three years from now? Is it worth the investment in a printer when technology is changing so quickly?

How much do you use, or would you use, these capabilities?

Which capabilities do you need and which can you live without?

Outside partnerships are important to cultivate to ensure your total capabilities are well-rounded. You can partner with outside design firms, prototyping companies and contract service groups that provide CAD operators, as well as design and industrial engineers. This approach can help lower your initial investment as well.

In or out, cost is always going to be a factor. But the benefits of having some capabilities outweigh not doing anything and miss the opportunity to be innovative.

Affordable: Some basic printing systems are as low as $300.

Speed/Agility: You can speed up the design process. What used to take days and weeks, now takes hours or even less.

Design freedom: If you do buy a machine, you'll likely find you use it 10 to 15 percent more regularly, as a general rule, now that you have the technology. For instance, now that you have the capability in house, you'll find things to print that you might not have printed before-just to experiment.

Low risk: Keeping your designs in-house enables you to better protect your intellectual property (IP).

Printing can be costly, depending on the equipment.

Space: You'll need room for the system and materials to run on it.

Resources: You need someone to actually run the system. If you are just starting out, you can contract with someone before you actually hire them full-time to ensure they have the right capabilities. Or you can make this role part of your intern program, which Campbell has started to explore.

Maintenance/upkeep: Like any other piece of equipment, an in-house system will need support.

Limited materials: You can potentially limit yourself to just one material, based on the printer you buy.

You pay for only what you need.

One-stop shop: Outside firms offer a range of capabilities, from designing an initial concept to printing it.

External perspective: A fresh set of eyes on your ideas can be helpful. You can forge valuable partnerships with different companies and tap into a greater range of capabilities and expertise.

Broader materials: You can try new technologies and different materials without committing to only one.

Expensive: Partnerships can be costly depending on what you buy and the services you choose.

Resources: Even if you do go completely outside, you still need someone in-house to manage the process on your end.

IP risk: There is a greater risk that you could lose proprietary info if your partners don't maintain confidentiality.

Available technologies and products
Here are some 3D printers:

• Replicator 2 from MakerBot ( This 3D printer is about $2,400 for the company's newest version. It offers a higher quality of print and a larger build window vs prior machines.

• A6LT from MakiBox ( The A6LT printer starts at about $300. You can buy and add on different variations and options that will increase the price, but the base model is the least expensive printer I have found to date.

• Objet30 Pro from Stratasys ( This one machine can print seven different materials and starts at just under $20,000. Multi-material machines are starting to become more mainstream.

• Form 1 SLA from Formlabs ( This printer starts at about $3,300. I think this is the first stereo-lithography machine for the masses. It can create layers that are as thin as 25 microns, which is about 75 percent thinner than the ABS from the initial MakerBot series.

3D scanners help us to replicate models of our own designs so we don't have to redraw them from scratch. You can scan in a part and create a working CAD file with little effort upfront.

• 3D scanner from NextEngine ( This starts at just under $3,000 for the scanner, and uses partial-scan technology, which scans multiple images and sews them together for one final part.

Z Scanner 800 from Z Corp. ( This handheld scanner is just under $50,000. It eliminates the need to sew together multiple scans as with the partial-scan technology. You can walk around the part and scan it all in one piece, which can save quite a bit of time.

• Scanners from Artec 3D Scanners ( These scanners range anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000, in handheld and stationary units for both continuous and partial-scan technology.

Some companies offer 3D CAD rendering technologies that Campbell Soup Co. has recently brought in-house to help us inspire our internal and external partners:

• SpaceClaim ( This costs roughly $2,500 per seat. There are also subscription services and updates at additional costs. You can pretty much sketch up and free-build a part and then create 3D models from it. It lets you draw what you want, where you want it and how you want it.

• KeyShot ( The company has partnered with SpaceClaim for an all-in-one CAD/rendering package. This takes 3D models and you can go directly into rendering. There's an additional program you can also get with KeyShot for animation-so you can spin, explode, rotate or do whatever else you want to do with the parts. This additional package is about $500.

• Maya from Autodesk ( This is a little bit more expensive—about $4,000 or $5,000 for a seat. This rendering program can be also used for animation. You can show shelf sets, fly bys, opening packages, reclosable features and more.

• Additional programs include: Illustrator and Photoshop from Adobe ( These have been around for quite some time and allow us to create realistic pictures without needing a CAD file for the original part. They can have a hand-drawn appearance or a little bit more realistic view of what you're looking for with colors and graphics.


Blog: 5 sustainable packaging trends to look out for in 2014

Blog: 5 sustainable packaging trends to look out for in 2014

Issues of global environmental instability and climate change are becoming nearly impossible to ignore these days, and consumers have taken notice. With demand for sustainably-conscious products and product packaging constantly increasing, it’s no wonder that firms have taken charge at creating sustainable, environmentally-friendly, “green” products to satiate the ever-growing consumer desire to be able to conveniently decrease their environmental impact. With the new year underway, here are five of the most exciting and innovative trends in sustainable consumer packaging to look out for in the next twelve months.

Plant-based plastics
Plant-based plastic production is on the rise, and companies like Renmatix and Virent are helping to lead the way in showing the industry that efficient production of plastics from renewable sources is possible. One example comes in the form of a partnership between some huge brand names like Coca-Cola, Nestle and Nike and the World Wildlife Fund in establishing the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA), a collaboration aimed at setting standards for and guiding the development of plant-based plastics derived from feedstocks like corn and sugar cane. Formed late in 2013, BFA and other sustainably-minded companies exhibit a tidal wave of hope that virgin plastics and less sustainable materials will be gone from packaging and product manufacturing in the coming years. BFA and similar bioplastic trends show a lot of potential in the coming year, and may help prove that our dependence on petroleum-derived plastics isn’t as hard-set as we once thought.   

“Greener” coffee pods
The market for single-serve coffee pods is massive across the United States and Europe, amounting to a multi-billion dollar industry. While convenient for consumers, the waste they generate presents a huge problem, as the most common coffee pods are comprised of plastic, an aluminum lining or lid, and a filter – a product that cannot be easily recycled. Thankfully, coffee and tea pod producers are helping to solve the problem by designing more eco-friendly products that can even be composted. Biome Bioplastics is one such company, designing coffee pods comprised of plant-based materials and resources that meet international composting standards. Other company products, like Canterbury Coffee Company’s OneCoffee pod, or a tea pod developed by Republic of Tea, are paving the way with more biodegradable solutions to this huge waste stream. 2014 is sure to see a surge in the popularity of these more environmentally-conscious products as more firms begin to realize both their environmental and marketing value. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is estimated that nearly 9 billion single-serve pods are sold annually, which highlights just how huge the waste stream is and continues to grow ever year.

Less is more
Manufacturers have been phasing out glass packaging for rigid plastic alternatives for quite some time now. But consumers and manufacturers alike want to go one step further – to make product packaging even smaller, lighter, and made with fewer materials. For years already, innumerable bottled water brands have been making the shift towards lowering the amount of plastic contained in their 16.9-oz water bottles, and more brands and products are following suit. Heinz introduced a 10-oz pouch of its tomato ketchup several years ago, lowering both the cost of production and cost to consumers. Even Triple Crown whiskey recently made a shift, introducing smaller pouches of the alcohol which subsequently cost less to consumers. New innovations in packaging design allow manufacturers to save on material resources, while passing on those savings to consumers. We can expect to see more firms jumping on the “less is more” train soon in the coming year.

In 2012, MIT researchers and engineers unveiled a simple, yet revolutionary development in food packaging: LiquiGlide. LiquiGlide is a food-safe, slippery coating that can be applied to the inside of nearly any condiment, food, or viscous liquid-containing product bottle, allowing consumers to get every last drop of food or other product from their respective bottles. Videos surrounding the unveiling of the new technology showed researchers pouring ketchup out of a glass bottle coated with LiquiGlide with no visible ketchup residue remaining in the bottle. Considering the EPA found that in 2011 only 4 percent of food waste was diverted from landfills, this new technology presents an incredible opportunity to reduce some of the most basic sources of global consumer food waste. Not only is LiquiGlide food-safe, but it has been approved by the FDA and is completely nontoxic. Now that the slippery coating has had time to prove itself, 2014 is sure to see more brands showing an interest in partnering with LiquiGlide.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: On Mar. 31, 2014, Packaging Digest received this CLARIFICATION from LiquiGlide: "LiquiGlide is not FDA approved, but LiquiGlide's coatings for food are only made from materials that are already FDA approved."]

Corporate responsibility
Over 80 percent of consumers are mindful of how sustainable the products they buy reportedly are. This has massive implications for companies and firms aiming to target the broad appeal of consumers across numerous industries, and further highlights the importance of true corporate responsibility  when it comes to being environmentally and sustainably-conscious. A driving example of perpetuating corporate responsibility, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition – operated by nonprofit GreenBlue – started the How2Recycle Label project, allowing for brands to voluntarily sport How2Recycle Labels on their products. The labels not only detail what each component of a product’s packaging is made of, but also if each material can be recycled, and special instructions for materials not widely recycled in communities. The Kellogg Company, Minute Maid and Ziploc are among many companies that are willingly partnering with the program, and in 2014 that list is expected to only get larger. As consumers continue to demand more sustainable products, corporate entities will be pressured into following efforts similar to the How2Recycle project in order to show their consumers how environmentally conscious they really are.

Author Tom Szaky, founder/CEO of TerraCycle, has won more than 50 awards for entrepreneurship, also writes blogs for Treehugger and The New York Times, recently published a book called "Revolution in a Bottle" and is the star of a National Geographic Channel special, "Garbage Moguls."

Helping to JumPPstart careers in packaging and manufacturing

Helping to JumPPstart careers in packaging and manufacturing
Matt Jones, Dorner Mfg. Corp.

Let’s be honest—who didn’t like field trips when they were a kid?

On field trip day there was always an air of excitement, a certain buzz swirling around us knowing we were going to see something new. While we had a general idea of what we were going to experience, whether it was a trip to a museum, a farm or a visit to the state capitol, we never really knew what to expect until we got there.

I see that same sense of wonderment in the eyes of high school and college students when they come to Dorner for a tour. Whatever preconceived notions they might have had about manufacturing seem to fade when they see what an actual modern-day plant looks like.

But to start breaking down those preconceived notions means you have to get young people inside the plant—and that’s what the JumPPstart program is all about. Manufacturing has taken a hit as fewer people are considering the industry as a career choice. However, programs like JumPPstart can begin turning the tide by showcasing the job opportunities and benefits offered by careers in manufacturing.

Getting a jump on JumPPstart

JumPPstart is an initiative launched through the Education and Workforce Development Committee of PMMI, the trade association of the packaging, processing and converting industries. The mission of JumPPstart is to increase the awareness and interest in packaging careers among middle and high school students, technical and four-year college students, as well as college graduates.

This isn’t a national program, but rather an effort among local PMMI members in the Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago areas. For the effort to succeed, JumPPstart needs to be a collaborative effort between schools, business and the local PMMI members – that was our vision when we created the program last year.

The group hopes to replicate other similar successful events targeting young people, such as the week-long summer tour last year that brought college students to packaging plants in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. For most students, this PMMI-hosted tour was their first opportunity they’ve ever had to step into a plant. The benefits were many, including giving students the chance to meet with employees, ask them questions about their jobs and see how the equipment operates – all of which help break the stereotypes of manufacturing being dirty, hot, boring jobs. A second tour of PMMI-member plants in Minneapolis and Alexandra, Minn., is planned for college students this summer.

Additionally, some of the events we’re planning this year include plant tours of PMMI-member companies; setting the foundation for partnerships between local business and high schools, technical schools and colleges; and begin fostering a culture of communication to showcase the career opportunities available in packaging.

Addressing the skills gap

The reason why we need programs like JumPPstart is to help fill a skills gap in manufacturing. Some organizations have estimated there are more than 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in the United States. That’s quite a startling number, considering the rather high unemployment rate we still have. What that tells me is that there are jobs out there waiting to be filled, but people don’t have the right skills needed to perform them. So how do we go about closing this skills gap within the manufacturing industry?  We feel a good place to start is through education.

The goal of the Education and Workforce Development Committee is to build interest in the packaging machinery industry. One of our main strategies to accomplish that is to educate people about all the career opportunities the packaging industry has to offer. We all work in packaging and know firsthand that this industry is a destination career with great prospects for advancement. The problem is that many people don’t…and that’s where the committee comes in. Our aim is to raise the industry’s profile to help ensure it remains a healthy, strong and growing sector of our economy. 

Image repair

That leads into another part of the committee’s charge moving forward – public relations. Manufacturing isn’t a sexy industry. Young people today aren’t clambering to get into the industry, and that’s because it has an image problem. The perceptions for some is that a career in manufacturing is a consolation prize; an industry that accepts people who couldn’t cut it somewhere else. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Manufacturing today is a high-tech industry that requires its workers to possess skilled training. Long gone are the days that people could walk in off the street and get a job. Equipment is state-of-the-art and requires skill and knowledge to operate. Plants aren’t dark, dingy and dirty, they’re bright, vibrant and alive with activity. They’re filled with engineers, electricians, operators, skilled trades, sales and support staff. Manufacturing is an industry with promise.  

To help training the employees of tomorrow, a number of technical schools and colleges across the country offer programs with curriculum tailored to packaging. Michigan State University, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin-Stout are just a few of the schools partnering with PMMI on this effort.

PMMI coordinates educational initiatives as well, such as The Amazing Packaging Race, an event that has packaging students perform various tasks while visiting exhibitors at Pack Expo. Scholarships are also available to packaging students, including the Richard C. Ryan Packaging Education Scholarship. Ryan, Dorner’s former president and CEO, passed away in 2012. This scholarship was created last year and designed to help a student enrolled in a two- or four-year packaging program at any of PMMI’s partner schools.  


The long term solution to closing the skills gap in manufacturing will be through education and awareness. PMMI is doing its part to promote manufacturing and packaging, but the onus also falls on business to step up and make its contribution. Ultimately, we need to be encouraging young people to look at manufacturing in a different light, and when we do, I think the skills gap will start to close. Manufacturing has a good story to tell, we just need to do a better job telling that story. Change won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen unless we as an industry take action. And that’s what we’ve set out to do.

Matt Jones, director of channel sales for Dorner Mfg. Corp., is also a PMMI Education and Workforce Development Committee Member. He can be reached at 262-369-1346262-369-1346 or [email protected].

Smarter packaging rooms start with ‘start’

Smarter packaging rooms start with ‘start’
Jeff Harrow, senior consultant at Matrix Technologies Inc.

As packaging machine control evolves, packaging engineers are able to create more cohesive, smoother running packaging lines that are also more efficient.

Jeff Harrow, senior consultant at Matrix Technologies Inc., outlines the benefits packaging production operations can experience when they embrace open control systems, such as PackML. Matrix Technologies Inc. is CSIA Certified control system integrator. The Control System Integrators Assn. (CSIA) is a global non-profit professional association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration for the success of members and their clients.

Harrow leads a team of experts in machine control, and MES (manufacturing execution systems) and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems to create standardized, reproducible control solutions for complex packaging processes. With more than 20 years of experience integrating high-speed packaging equipment for Fortune 500 clients in the food, beverage and consumer products industries, Harrow’s focus extends beyond the plant floor, developing powerful reporting and decision‑making tools for Operations Management. Contact him at [email protected].

Q: What is the main trend in controls for packaging automation, and how is it affecting/improving packaging operations?

Harrow: When discussing the future of high-speed, high-volume packaging rooms, it can be beneficial to understand where it started. Historically, packaging rooms have merely been a collection of highly specialized, though sometimes disparate, pieces of OEM equipment, each being controlled by a proprietary control system. These proprietary control systems are sometimes referred to as “Black-Box Systems” in that they are seldom accessible or manageable by the end user or the end user’s System Integrator (SI).

There is usually limited interfacing between these specialized machines, and it generally only consists of “Running” or “Not Running” interlocks that are implemented through hardwired I/O points between the machines, thus providing a simple cascaded startup and shutdown.

Our clients, consisting mainly of end users, are starting to move toward creating “smarter” packaging rooms. One step in achieving these smarter rooms is to demand more open control systems from the OEM equipment suppliers to make their packaging rooms more fluid and efficient.

This openness in these OEM-supplied systems is crucial to being able to integrate the equipment within a packaging room to a level in which a real-time model can be developed. Our clients are then leaning more heavily on their SIs or OEMs to provide an overall supervisory control architecture. This supervisory architecture should not be thought of as a separate controls hardware level, but more of a ground-up design methodology that provides both control and reporting at the procedural level of the standard PackML model.

These supervisory control architectures can then be tasked with everything from overall packaging room coordination to product flow control to real-time process scheduling based on available packaging equipment and assets—all the way through to direct and seamless integration into the plant and MES and SCADA systems. This level of control can provide the end users with a real‑time and dynamic model of their packaging rooms and, subsequently, provide overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) measures. These OEEs are a measure of availability, performance and quality for each component within the room, as well as for each packaging line within the room.

Q: What are the challenges of implementing this trend?

Harrow: There are numerous challenges associated with the implementation of these smarter packaging rooms:

• The initial cost can be a major hurdle, and can be hard to justify.

• Even though the PackML standard is a mature standard, there are limited examples of complete implementations of it across an entire packaging room; therefore, success stories showcasing the potential benefits of going forward with the initial investment are few and limited.

• Smaller-volume end users do not always have the capital to make such investments and/or the internal resources to analyze and fully benefit from the increased amount and finer resolution of packaging room operational data.

• Providing reporting information for all tightly integrated systems is inherently more complex than simple isolated machines cascaded together. It can sometimes be a challenge to find end users with enough foresight and vision to realize that the added benefits far outweigh the added complexity created in their packaging rooms.

• During some recent attempts at creating smart packaging rooms, end users will use a single OEM to provide all the equipment hoping for a smooth and seamless implementation, but fall short on specifying the final acceptance criteria. The result is an OEM being contractually held to acceptance criteria based on the performance of the individual equipment and not the packaging room as a whole. As a result, the overall control system may be tilted to make each individual machine run optimally and not necessarily make the entire packaging room run optimally. In the end, the OEM may provide an overall system that has all the characteristics of a well-designed PackML system, but underperforms because they were strapped to the machine-based performance criteria. Also, the additional benefits of providing real-time data back upstream to the process side as well as to the MES and SCADA systems may be completely overlooked. Identifying and specifying a complete packaging room solution and, ultimately, implementing that solution is not a trivial matter. And having the insight of an experienced packaging integrator working with end users and OEMs can sometimes make the difference in realizing a completely integrated packaging room solution.

Q: How can those challenges be overcome?

Harrow: Experienced packaging integrators realize that the development of a complete packaging room solution starts with extensive stakeholder engagement to identify and account for system requirements that extend well beyond the individual machine level—to include plant floor production requirements as well as informational requirements for operations management and future capital planning.

By insuring everyone involved is aware of what the true key performance indicators (KPIs) are for determining a successful capital investment—and including the reporting of these KPIs into the base system specifications—it is possible to specify systems that, in essence, document their own return on investment (ROI). This will also allow the packaging teams to celebrate their successes, as well as build on them through future capital investments. When correctly designed and implemented using an established set of standards, these successful packaging solutions can be easily replicated across the entire supply chain, thus reducing the cost of future implementations.

Q: What are the benefits to packaging operations that embrace this change?

Harrow: One benefit this trend toward smarter packaging rooms for packaging operations is the ability to provide the supply chain with a clear and precise understanding of their operational capabilities. They are better positioned to commit to and deliver on the changing demands of the overall business model. This will allow for more timely and accurate supply responses.

Also, in the event yield and capacity suffer on a given packaging line, the root causes are no longer subjective. The ability to determine a true and accurate OEE for all the equipment encompassed by the packaging room and the ability to pass that information through the correct model provides the end users with the objective data needed to identify and address bottlenecks, as well as accurately estimate potential returns associated with overcoming these bottlenecks. Providing this data is part of the overall packaging solution and provides packaging operations with a more focused and objective approach to continuous improvements and capital investments.

Another benefit is the ability to feed accurate, real-time data back to the upstream process, which can be a tremendous asset, especially when a process can dynamically react to what particular packaging lines are under- or over-utilized.

There is also the ability to feed this information up through MES and SCADA systems, as to particular packaging formats that may be a struggle at any given time. This same information can also be passed to sales and customer service to make the sales and backorder processes more efficient.

Need food and beverage packaging ideas and solutions?

Need food and beverage packaging ideas and solutions?

Then plan to come to Chicago in July to The Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit, which returns July 15-17, 2014 at the Chicago Hyatt Regency. A new hybrid format will connect production & engineering with marketing & brand management.

The Summit’s two-day/two-track conference program has been redesigned with in-depth, peer-to-peer case studies that can directly translate to improved ROI for existing and re-designed packaging systems.

Topics include: updates on leading consumer trends, flexible packaging, global regulatory developments, sustainable & ethical packaging, lightweighting, innovation in strategy, materials science, smart packaging, PCR, global market opportunities, printed electronics and more.

Senior representatives from PepsiCo, MillerCoors, TetraPak, Campbell Soup Co., Target, Tampico, Amcor, J.M. Smucker, Mondelez Intl., Bacardi, Avery Dennison, Landor Associates, ConAgra, Cargill, General Mills, MWV Corp., TricorBraun, Mintel, and others will take the stage.

Dan Balan, President of Fastraqq Inc., will conduct a pre-conference workshop on  July 15 Mastering the Food & Beverage Supply Chain: How to Drive End-to-End Performance.

An early-bird discount will save you $100 if you register by June 13.

Modeling optimizes blow-molded PET bottles

Modeling optimizes blow-molded PET bottles
Experiment on an instrumented, marked PET bottle prototype allowed a perfect synchronization between force, displacement and pressure measurements of the stretching and blowing stages of the bottle blowing process.

Engineers at Queen’s University model the injection stretch blow molding process for PET bottles to improve bottle production and performance—and to cut costs.

If something can be modeled, it can be studied, optimized and tested as needed via simulation without trial-and-error methodologies. This speeds development time and cuts costs.

For more than two decades, engineers in the Advanced Materials and Processing group based in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, have explored almost everything that happens when a plastic bottle is created—and identified which parameters are most critical in ensuring that the end result is an optimized bottle.

As Packaging Digest readers know, there are ongoing pressures to use less material, produce stronger containers and redesign plastic bottles according to customer demand and consumer desires. As a result, the University’s specialized skillset remains in demand by leading multinational companies around the globe.

“The challenge our industrial partners face is to make a bottle with as little material as possible, yet still have the proper end-service performance requirements,” explains Dr. Gary Menary, senior lecturer, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “The problem is that the process continues to rely to some extent on trial and error. Even now, we hear of engineers who come up with a new bottle idea and bring it down to the shop floor to manufacture different shapes while guessing the proper design and production conditions. It’s still a bit of a black art all around.”

Beginning in 1991, the group received funding from the U.K. Research Council with the objective of removing all the trial and error from the injection stretch blow molding (ISBM) process.

"This started as a three-year project, but 20 years later we're still working on it, though with a far more sophisticated toolset," Menary points out. “As we get ever closer to numerically describing and predicting the blowing process from start to finish, we are beginning to be able to optimize the design, and even the manufacture, of just about any product configuration.”

The primary simulation tool for Queen’s all along has been Abaqus Finite Element Analysis (FEA)  software from Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA (see A primer on nonlinear FEA, below). As the group’s analyses of the ISBM process grew increasingly sophisticated over the years, so did the software’s capabilities.
Menary’s vision is to link everything together with simulation, from bottle and preform design and process conditions, to thickness distribution and mechanical properties.

Menary reports that their group typically interfaces with senior engineers from companies’ research and development teams who are responsible for computer-aided engineering (CAE) within their organization. Besides optimizing new bottle designs, their tools are also used for troubleshooting.
Here are more responses from Menary and his team.

Why do companies come to you?
Queen’s University: At the quantities that the typical large-scale converter produces bottles (an average of 2 billion annually), taking even a single gram out of a bottle translates into 2 million kilos (4,409,245 pounds) of material, or about $3 million saved per year. At the same time they are lightweighting a bottle design, the converter also needs to ensure strength and durability. We offer highly sophisticated simulation and testing tools that enable our customers to optimize their bottle designs faster and more cost-effectively.

What do you offer that can’t be found elsewhere?
Queen’s University: We have unique expertise and testing equipment in characterizing materials, and the process. Using this information, we can develop and validate our simulations. There is no one else in the world offering the type of services we provide.

What are the main factors that influence the ISBM modeling process?
Queen’s University: The ISBM process is a complex process that depends on many process parameters and that is why I believe simulation is a vital tool. The major parameters for the process are the preform design, the material (the behavior of which is highly dependent on temperature and time), the stretch rod displacement and the pressure.

One of the key challenges for the simulation is to obtain accurate enough input data that is representative of the process. This is one of the main reasons why instrumentation is one of the main themes of our research. We have developed specialist tools including an instrumented stretch rod and the THERMOscan device that enable us to obtain this critical data. THERMOscan is a patent-pending device for preform temperature monitoring sold by our spin-off company Blow Moulding Technologies to several leading brand names and converters.

These tools were initially developed for our simulation purposes but are now sold commercially and are currently being used by the industry to provide quantitative data that they can use to better control and scale up their processes.

What polymers can you work with?
Queen’s University: We have mainly worked with PET, though more recently we have been working on characterizing and modeling some new materials for stretch blow molding. Unfortunately, I cannot go into the details.

What about renewable biopolymers?
Queen’s University: We’ve got a pretty good handle on the behavior of PET right now. Next, we may turn to modeling the newer plant-based plastics. One of the advantages of our approach is that we can apply the same methodology that we currently use for PET easily to other materials and have an Abaqus FEA simulation of the process running very quickly, giving us a powerful tool for optimizing the preform design and the process conditions.

What have been the key findings over the past months?
Queen’s University: We’ve learned that what goes on inside the bottle during inflation is much more complex than earlier work had estimated. As the PET material expands, pressure inside the membrane is not uniform: it changes over time, depending on the rate of air flowing into the system as well as the expansion of the membrane. By first observing what happened to a bottle being inflated outside of a mold, we could fully visualize what was happening and use that data to more finely calibrate our latest computer models of what is going on inside the mold. We have developed specialist instrumentation and methodology for characterizing the process to obtain this information from stretch blow molding machines.

What’s ahead?
Queen’s University: Linking it all together with simulation, from bottle and preform design and process conditions, to thickness distribution and mechanical properties. Then transferring the data from the ISBM simulation to virtual packaging tests where you can see how the preform design affects things like bottle drop, top-load performance or even shelf life. This can all be coupled together with optimization software to pinpoint best process or minimum material—whatever is the goal.

Blow Moulding Technologies, +44 28 9097 4780

Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA

Queen’s University
+44 2890 974780
[email protected]

Tech at a glance
Queen’s Belfast University ISBM
TARGET MARKETS: PET containers (of any size) used as Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)
STATUS: Available for industrial applied research and commercial products
LEAD TIME: 12 weeks

A primer on nonlinear FEA

Frankly, with little to no experience reporting on Finite Element Analysis much less nonlinear FEA, this reporter asked our contacts for help, and here’s what we were told:

“Nonlinear finite element analysis is a way of using computer simulation to look at the multiple effects that different loads (such as stress, strain, pressure and temperature change) have on an object being studied. It’s called nonlinear because it demonstrates effects that go beyond just simple load-and-response. Nonlinear FEA shows how an object deforms over time as the result of a load being applied, or how different temperatures affect the response of a material to a load.

“Once a computer model (computer-aided-design/CAD) is made of the object, and then prepared (meshed into tiny elements) for FEA, it can be virtually subjected to any number of stresses, such as heating, stretching and dropping. This gives engineers insight into how to improve their designs to make the finished product lighter, stronger and longer-lasting. They can alter their designs on the computer and then re-run the FEA to see the changes in how the design stands up to different loading scenarios. Once a design has been “proven out” through FEA, it is validated with real-world testing. FEA has become highly accurate and predictive: with computer models that agree closely with test results, engineers can use the models to virtually test designs before prototyping, thereby reducing the amount of real-world testing.”

Oxygen-scavenging containers made from nanoparticle blends

Oxygen-scavenging containers made from nanoparticle blends
Flow chart showing where a platinum group metal solution is introduced into a reaction vessel with standard mono­mers.

Graham Packaging’s patent published in early February relates to making a polymer composition having dispersed nanoparticles (e.g., average diameter of 5 nm or less) of the platinum group metal (palladium is singled out) that act as an oxygen-scavenging catalyst.  The technology is aimed at preserving the shelf life for oxygen-sensitive packaged foods.

This caught my attention for three personal reasons: these past months nano-anything is fascinating  to me, oxygen scavengers have always been of interest and some years back I visited Graham’s impressive bottle production facility in York, PA, for a story.

In any event, the food or beverage containers made from such polymer compositions exhibit high clarity and high oxygen-scavenging properties. In a large section that has many of the aspects of a lengthy chemistry lecture, something I’m vaguely familiar with from my college days, one aspect shows the complexity of this technology:  “In order to optimize the oxygen scavenging reaction where hydrogen and oxygen react in the presence of the oxygen scavenging catalyst, it is preferable to include a hydrogen-generating material in the container or as part of the container.”

Controlling the scavenging rate via the specialized closure

As explained following the oft-used phrase found in these patents, “in an exemplary embodiment,” is that a closure may comprise the needed hydrogen-generating material that can be selected from among a smorgasbord of materials such as sodium, potassium, zinc or aluminum. It is noted that providing this in the closure allows this rate to be better controlled than if in the container wall.

The main section also identifies the container sizes ranging from 1 mL to 100 L (~26 gallons), which is an astonishingly large range, especially the maximum, to the point it almost seems a typo, which we can presume it is not.

As a possible point of interest to this particular filing is that it is unusually scarce of drawings—just two—which is as few as any I can recall over the past 18 months that I’ve been monitoring packaging-related patents. Although drawings are a crucial part of patent filings, it may be that nanoparticles--or their manufacture as shown in the above image--simply don’t lend themselves to substantive artistic depiction.

During some web-sufing research, I found that Graham is a patent-prolific bottle manufacturer:  The company holds or has applications pending for more than 1,015 design and utility patents. It also claims that 80 percent of its products utilize proprietary technology.

That’s an impressive amount. If your company operates in the packaging market and has more than 500 patents, simply post your comment below or let me know via [email protected]


Exceldor opts for eco-friendly packaging for fresh product line

Exceldor opts for eco-friendly packaging for fresh product line

Exceldor's line of fresh products is now offered in EVOK packaging from Cascades. The packaging is made from 25 percent recycled material and is the first polystyrene foam food tray in North America to hit grocery shelves that is comprised of recycled materials.

The foam trays are intended for packaging meats, poultry, fish and seafood, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. This innovative technology from Cascades is one of many that look to reduce the consumers’ environmental impact. Not only is the product innovative and eco-friendly, it has attained a UL Environment claim validation for its recycled content. The recycled material used to produce EVOK trays is also approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The Québec-based company has decided to use EVOK packaging for all of its polystyrene foam-packaged products. Like Cascades, Exceldor is dedicated to providing consumers top quality products while promoting responsible consumption. Choosing the right type of packaging is part of this commitment. Simply by opting for EVOK, Exceldor is reducing its environmental impact.

"We are very proud to be using the new EVOK trays from Cascades. At Exceldor, we always strive to do more, and our commitment to the environment is no exception. It was only natural for Exceldor to choose EVOK packaging, and to offer a responsible alternative to our customers," says Isabelle Drouin, vpt of communications and marketing at Exceldor.

In addition to offering food packaging that is just as efficient as traditional polystyrene foam trays, the substitution of a portion of the virgin material with recycled content has reduced the environmental impact of this type of packaging.

"By incorporating 25 percent of recycled polystyrene into our products, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 20 percent compared with our traditional polystyrene foam trays," says Luc Langevin, president/COO of Cascades Specialty Products Group.

"Cascades is proud to offer this innovative product, thus reaffirming its leadership position in the green packaging industry, and at the same time, allowing Exceldor, a local company, to reduce its environmental footprint," he adds.

This modification will allow Exceldor to lower its annual greenhouse gas emissions by close to 37 tonnes, or the equivalent of the yearly emissions produced by 15 compact cars.
Source: Cascades Inc.