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Articles from 2017 In March

Growth in injectables to be supported by new plant

Growth in injectables to be supported by new plant
Image of Bas Van Buijtenen, president of the Injectables Division of Aptar Pharma, courtesy of Aptar Pharma

Aptar Pharma is expanding its operations in Congers, NY, with new capabilities for manufacturing elastomer components.

Bas Van Buijtenen, president of the Injectables Division of Aptar Pharma, reports that construction should be finalized by the end of the first quarter of 2017 so that Aptar Pharma can anticipate shipping validation batches to customers in the second quarter of this year.

“The plant is designed to meet the needs of the USA market, one of the most demanding markets of the world,” Van Buijtenen tells PMP News. “As a result, the plant will be equipped with the latest technologies. It will house state-of-the-art clean rooms and integrated best-in-class automated vision equipment. This will be used to perform 100% of the inspection of all parts during the finishing process to ensure PremiumVision product quality. PremiumVision is a state-of-the-art production environment ensuring lowest levels of contamination including endotoxins.”

PremiumCoat components are specifically designed for sensitive products. “The majority of our proprietary formulations use specific pharmaceutical grades of halobutyl rubbers,” says Van Buijtenen. “We offer PremiumCoat coating finish for sensitive and fragile drugs (e.g., biologics).” 

The North American market for drugs, and for drugs delivered via injection, continues to see “healthy growth,” says Van Buijtenen. “This growth represents a growth in volume, but also a growth in requirements. Regulatory standards continue to strengthen, and we continue to evolve our product and service offering to meet these needs. And the industry’s supply-chain models continue to evolve, offering an opportunity to suppliers to help customer decomplex their operations.”

Aptar Pharma Congers; image courtesy Aptar Pharma

The new plant is designed to support such growth. “It adds capacity to our network of global plants, it will be equipped with the latest technologies to meet growing quality requirements, and its proximity to our North American customer base improves our service and response,” Van Buijtenen says. “This investment in Congers is continuing our commitment to growing and accelerating our footprint in North America. More significantly, the technology we are introducing will increase our ability to provide world-class manufacturing capabilities to our customers locally. This will provide premium products, shorter lead-times and more responsive service for the U.S. elastomeric components markets.”

Van Buijtenen also sees demand for high-quality components expanding geographically, including more emerging countries. “The growth in biologics and vaccines is leading to greater demand for prefilled syringes, cartridges, and barrier solutions such as PremiumCoat,” he says.

“One of the strong drivers for the growth in the use of prefilled syringes and cartridges is the need for safe and convenient solutions, including the growing market demand for autoinjectors and pen injectors,” he continues. “The industry continues to increase its focus on cleanliness, avoiding contaminations, particulates and interactions. The clean environment, combined with PremiumVision inspection of our components, ensure this plant meets the needs of the industry for the coming years.”

Aptar Pharma met customers, partners, and prospects at the DCAT Week (March 20-23) and Interphex (March 21-23) booth 1734.

AptarGroup is headquartered in Crystal Lake, IL, with manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. To learn more, visit

This article has been corrected to reflect that Aptar Pharma anticipates shipping validation batches to customers in the second quarter of this year, not in the second quarter of next year, as was originally published.


To learn about the "Next Big Thing" in healthcare, check out this conference at the upcoming BIOMEDevice Boston event on Wednesday, May 3

"The Next Big Thing: Collaborating in Research, Design, and Development to Create the Future of Healthcare," by speaker Brian Mullen, Innovation Strategy Manager, Brigham Innovation Hub, Brigham and Women's Hospital

How often are you auditing your own operations?

How often are you auditing your own operations?
John Derek Thompson, lead sterile packaging operations engineer for DePuy Synthes

Audits of quality systems are required in the medical device industry—but are you conducting your own internal audits on a routine basis? Are you including your packaging operations?

Internal audits at planned intervals are expected under 21 CFR Part 820 as well as under ISO 13485. Speaking at HealthPack 2017, John Derek Thompson, lead sterile packaging operations engineer for DePuy Synthes, encouraged attendees to conduct them regularly. He offered a “toolbox of tips” to help attendees be more actively “compliance self-aware.”

Thompson began by explaining that developing an auditor’s eye is “a tool of compliance self-awareness.” For instance, for “every action you do and everything you write down, you should ask yourself, ‘how would this look to an auditor’?” he explained. And then “you must present objective evidence of how the right thing was done and how the risk of not having done it right was mitigated.” 

Thompson said it’s also important for packaging professionals to ask themselves and their team the right questions while generating these documents: validations, SOPs, maintenance records, change control, non-conformance reports, and CAPAs. 

Risk is a core concern throughout all these activities, so Thompson advised packaging professionals to ask these questions as a real-time compliance check:

  • What is the identified risk?
  • How does this action mitigate the identified risk?
  • What are performance indicators to demonstrate that the risk has been effectively mitigated?
  • Is there a system in place to effectively monitor established processes?
  • And is there objective evidence for all the above?

When writing validation reports, professionals should ask themselves and their teams these questions:

  • Are the results immediately apparent? (“Don’t make an auditor search or wait until the end of a report for the final outcome,” Thompson said.
  • Have all identified acceptance criteria defined in your preapproved protocol been met?
  • Does the first page of your protocol summary state the following clearly: the validation activity and the results, the original intent of the protocol, whether acceptance criteria have been met, the major equipment validated, and clear pointers to objective evidence provided?
  • Is all data clear and legible?
  • Have all test methods been validated?
  • Have all measurement devices used been calibrated?
  • Are all training records documented for those recording data or approving the protocol?

In terms of designing SOPs, Thompson said it’s important to consider whether work instructions are clear and straightforward so that people who know nothing of a company’s process can follow them. For instance, are there clearly stated steps and output expectations as well as procedures for handling unexpected results?

Maintenance schedules and records for validated equipment are also expected under 21 CFR Part 820, so companies should audit these procedures and be “compliance self-aware” in their design, he said. For instance, is it clear as to who is responsible for executing routine tasks? Are tools or materials defined and available to mitigate risk? Does routine equipment maintenance include a verification step to ensure a return to a validated state? What about standard risk mitigation during unplanned maintenance?

Thompson also urged the audience to consider their procedures for documenting nonconformances and CAPAs. For instance, packaging professionals should ask themselves as they document a nonconformance whether someone unfamiliar with their processes can determine from records what the nonconformance was and who it involved, what the outcome was, and how the issue was immediately contained.

He also told the audience to avoid these indefinite types of words in their CAPA reports: usually, mostly, typically.

Finally, companies should have a “compliance mind” for their procedures in place for validated-system change control. Thompson advised the audience to ask themselves whether there is a process in place to determine the level of system change required (e.g., critical, moderate, or minor) based on the risk to the validated state and what steps need to take place at each level. “Define system levels and change requirements in the original validation,” said Thompson. “You may not be able to capture all cases, but all reasonable ones should be listed with requirements for verification testing or revalidation following changes to them.”

Referring to all these activities, Thompson told the audience: “Remember that in all your documentation, you are giving an account of events that an auditor was not present for. Each document should tell a complete story and leave little or no doubt that the outcome was what was intended and the risk of deviation was mitigated through robust design and effective monitoring.”

He later told PMP News that: “An audit is after the fact. The intention is to maintain an auditor’s eye while you carry out a task, rather than waiting to have it reviewed later for compliance assurance.”

He encouraged the audience to join the Packaging Operations Technical Subcommittee of IoPP’s Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee. Thompson is chairman of the subcommittee. More details can be found at or by contacting Thompson at [email protected]


To learn about the "Next Big Thing" in healthcare, check out this conference at the upcoming BIOMEDevice Boston event on Wednesday, May 3

"The Next Big Thing: Collaborating in Research, Design, and Development to Create the Future of Healthcare,"by speaker Brian Mullen, Innovation Strategy Manager, Brigham Innovation Hub, Brigham and Women's Hospital

Zero-waste shaving cream pods are convenient and travel friendly

Zero-waste shaving cream pods are convenient and travel friendly
With a clear bottom for seeing how much product is left, this standup pouch holds 40 pods of shaving cream and is compliant with TSA airline travel regulations.

Dissolvable film has enabled single-use versions of many non-solid products that otherwise could only be packaged in bulk, including personal care and household products such as laundry detergent and shampoo, and foods like liquid flavorings.

Now shaving cream has been added to the list.

Pacific Shaving Co., a personal care products company based in San Francisco, has rolled out Single Use Minis Shaving Cream. The doses of shaving cream are packaged in water-soluble film from MonoSol LLC. Consumers hold the pod under warm water and rub their hands vigorously to produce exactly enough lather for a single shave.

Pacific Shaving claims this to be the first major innovation in shaving cream since the introduction of shaving gel in the 1970s.

“There has been a great deal of innovation and disruption happening in shaving for razors and blades—but not much for shaving creams and aftershaves,” says Stan Ades, co-founder of Pacific Shaving Co. “We strive to develop innovative and effective shaving care products for men and women, and Single-Use Shaving Cream Minis fit perfectly with that goal.”

The MonoSol film is made from 100% food grade ingredients, says P. Scott Bening, MonoSol’s president and CEO. “MonoSol’s food-grade water-soluble films help deliver precise dosing to personal and beauty care products, making them ideal for travel and waste reduction,” Bening says. “With a quick splash of water, MonoSol’s water-soluble film dissolves in the palm of your hand, providing a luxurious hand wash, shampoo and conditioner—or shaving cream.”

Forty single-serve packets come in a stand-up pouch with a clear bottom, allowing consumers to see how many are left. The pouches, with high-barrier PET film laminated to linear-low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), are supplied by Excel Packaging . Pacific Shaving chose the pouches because of their high moisture barrier, and because “Stand-up pouches are also lightweight and resealable, making them perfect for consumers who are traveling with the product,” Ades says.

Traveling with Single Use Minis is made easier because they’re compliant with the Transportation Security Administration’s airline travel regulations. “Shaving Cream Minis’ size make them ideal for travel as they take up practically no space,” Ades says. “The product falls within TSA’s carry-on liquid and personal care ounce requirements. The entire pouch of 40 shave Minis can be placed in a carry-on bag and pass through TSA [checkpoints].”

Ades says the product is also being positioned for home use, especially on environmental grounds. “The product resonates well with environmentally conscious consumers, as there is no mess and zero waste,” he says. “Single-Use Shaving Cream Minis use a fraction of the raw materials and are a fraction of the weight of traditional shaving cream cans, so the Minis reduce the amount of packaging resources needed and lessen the carbon footprint associated with supply chain distribution.”

However, home users of Single Use Minis will be asked to pay a substantial premium. It is now available only at Target and Amazon. At $5.89 (Target) and $8.99 (Amazon) for 2.8 ounces, it comes to $2.03 per ounce at the Target price, $3.21 at Amazon’s. This compares to between 14 and 17 cents per ounce for shaving cream in aerosol cans at the prices on Target’s website. (In April, Single Use Minis will be available at CVS Health and other retail outlets.) [3-27-17: SEE UPDATE ON PRICING BELOW]

Pacific Shaving did the graphics in-house. “Our graphic design is intended to reflect innovation and be aesthetically proactive, while invoking a modern nod to the products sold by traditional apothecaries years ago,” Ades says.

He says he expects the product to be a significant advance in shaving.

“By taking cues from adjacent market categories with respect to form, function and packaging, Single- Use Shaving Cream Minis are at once completely new and completely familiar to consumers,” Ades says. “Like laundry and automatic dishwasher single doses, we expect the Minis to change the way people shave, particularly in a world striving for convenience.”

Pan Demetrakakes began his trade publishing career in 1992 by covering packaging, which he has done for several publications over the years. Other areas of coverage in his career include the food supply chain from production through retailing, as well as specialty coffee retailing, gift and housewares retailing, and industrial coatings.

[UPDATED 3-27-17: Pacific Shaving Co. wanted to modify the pricing information we provided. Stan Ades, co-founder of Pacific Shaving Co., provided information on cost per shave and how this compares to other mainstream shaving products in the market.

"Consumers estimate they get about 40 shaves per can of shaving cream. Some will make it last longer, others will surely overuse, but the assumption is about 40 shaves/can. This amounts to about two months of shaving for someone who shaves five days/week.

"Here's what I can find that will help, and I'll refer to Target available products so that everything remains apples-to-apples. On that note, I took prices as they reflect today [3-21-17] on [see individual links below]. In our case, that means it is reflecting a higher price than originally reported in the article. Even with that, I think you'll see we're competitive on the price/shave."

Pacific Shaving Co. single-use shaving cream minis: $6.69 or $0.167/shave

Gillette ProGlide Shaving Gel (almost all mainstream aerosol cans contain gel, not cream): $4.99 or $0.125/shave

Other mainstream shaving creams sold in tubes:

Bull Dog: $7.29 or $0.182/shave

Cremo: $6.59 or $0.165/shave

Bevel: $14.95 or $0.374/shave

Van Der Hagan: $5.99 or $0.15/shave

Harry's GEL: $5.99 or $0.15/shave

Budget shaving cream:

Barbasol original: $1.37 or $0.034/shave]


Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at the new Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland event (Mar. 29-30; Cleveland, OH). Register today!

What bounty comes from the sustainable packaging tree?

What bounty comes from the sustainable packaging tree?
Like a tree, sustainable packaging gives so much. And it continues to grow and branch out into new areas.

Sustainability in packaging is like a tree. No, not because it connects to the environment. And no, not because most trees are also “green.” But because, over the decades, it has (metaphorically speaking) branched out into new areas and established an anchoring root system.

Sustainability in packaging is more sophisticated now, more complex. And it is also making a bigger impact on so many levels.

Adam Gendell, associate director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), guides us on this nature trail and points out how sustainability in packaging is continuing to grow.

Adam Gendell

Why does sustainability in packaging continue to grow organically like a tree, with its multiple branch formations and subterranean root system?

Gendell: The sustainable packaging community is always learning, while packaging is always changing. The entire notion of sustainable packaging is fairly young, too. Many of the concepts in our field are less than 20 years old. An area like responsible fiber sourcing, for instance, has become fairly mature and created a good understanding of responsible forestry practices, but more interest is building around use of alternative fibers for paper and novel biomaterials for plastics.

Do the lessons learned from forestry practices translate to cover the growth and harvest of other plants? Some concepts, maybe—but at a macro level, no. New work is needed. As one branch matures, another sprouts.

Continuing with this metaphor, what is it that best represents the trunk? That is, what is the solid foundation of sustainability in packaging?

Gendell: I’m going to go with public expectations of corporate responsibility from brands. Here’s my thinking: other factors change—regulations, legal risk, costs of feedstocks, activist group activity—but companies must always operate with a firm understanding of what the consumers expect from brands, and in 2017, a brand is expected to operate with a compelling sustainability story. I don’t see that changing.

Once a company makes a promise to make decisions with sustainability in mind, it can’t renege. It takes something colossal—the metaphorical equivalent of a lightning strike or forest fire—to bring this down.

What new nodes (areas of interest) have sprouted recently and why?

Gendell: The most interesting conversation today, in my opinion, is the question “what’s the ultimate goal of making packaging more sustainable?”

One way of thinking says it’s most important that we strive for circularity, recovering a maximum amount of the environmental investment embodied in packaging at its end-of-life and creating new packages using only recycled and/or biobased inputs.

Another way of thinking says it’s most important that we drive down measurable environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions, water emissions and solid waste. The two lines of thought have more similarities than differences, but for today’s decision-making, they are often at odds, because it’s hard to do both.

Packages with the lowest impacts are often made from virgin materials and not recyclable, while the more recyclable packages usually can’t offer the lowest environmental impacts. Which is more important? There’s no clear answer. It’s a fascinating question.

Any pruning needed? If so, where and why?

Gendell: Sure, though usually more reprioritization and rebalancing of concepts as opposed to wholesale dismissal of past ways of thinking.

Lightweighting is the classic example. Reducing packaging used to be viewed as the chief pursuit, but then product protection suffered and it became clear that it had been taken too far.

Now, we have very compelling narratives on the relative importance of food waste and the ability of packaging to prevent that, so there’s even more reason not to go overboard with packaging reduction. It doesn’t mean that it’s totally lost its importance, but the context of weight optimization has become more robust.

Two more candidates for evolution: fiber certification and recyclability.

For fiber certification, we’re working with our members and the American Forest Foundation to understand why more forests aren’t certified, and we’ve learned that many uncertified woodlands are being operated with responsible practices but the family ownership is unlikely to pursue certification. So we’re working to uncover new ways of providing assurance of responsible forest management. Certified fiber will always have its rightful home in sustainability conversations, but the conversation will be augmented.

Recyclability has confused everyone. Ever since the Federal Trade Commission first developed language around what can and cannot be considered recyclable, the discussion has hinged on “access” (that being shorthand for the FTC’s now infamous phrase “access to facilities that recycle the item”), and the understanding of “access” has hinged on whether or not recycling programs say that they take the item. This is an insufficient view of recycling.

Today, we recognize that recycling is a sequence of elements: collection, sortation, reprocessing and finally use in the manufacture of a new product or package to offset the use of virgin material. It matters much more whether the package in question has a substantial likelihood of completing each stage of recycling—that is, to know that if it’s put in the recycling bin, it will get recycled. We’re still curious to know what communities tell consumers to put in the recycling bin, but it’s now viewed as a less substantial piece of the puzzle.

The partnerships we’ve seen develop over the years across the supply chain represents, to me, a strong base, like the root system of a tree. What more needs to be done to nourish sustainability in packaging?

Gendell: Partnerships are crucial, and not just across the supply chain—NGOs [non-governmental organizations], government agencies, communities…industry has the capability to engage in meaningful and constructive collaboration with many different stakeholder groups that touch packaging in consequential ways. We’re seeing a lot more of this.

Our brand members’ engagement with family forest owners is a partnership that will help both parties. Our respected colleagues at The Recycling Partnership are connecting industry resources with on-the-ground community practices, giving industry the means to enable forward progress in recycling. The Carton Council has done a wonderful job of working with paper mills, recyclers and communities to further carton recycling.

The 21st century has connected us all and the packaging industry has leveraged that to its advantage. At the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, we consider our organization to be a hub for collaboration—a sort of mothership with many docking ports (if you’ll forgive the straying from our tree analogy). We want to help industry connect with more distant stakeholders and foster dialogue!

Speaking of supply chain, the program for the upcoming SustPack 2017 conference (Apr. 24-26; Scottsdale, AZ) focuses on the Inputs, Outputs and Impacts of Packaging in Supply Chain Sustainability. What new sprouts might come from the sessions and/or networking at this leading event?

Gendell: There will be a whole bunch of sprouts.

One of my favorite aspects of SPC conferences—and what I feel makes SPC conferences unique—is that wide range of subject matter touched by our sessions. Aluminum sourcing, streamlined life cycle assessment, restricted substance lists, food waste prevention, bioplastics, design-for-recycling…the list goes on.

It’s safe to say that every single attendee will not only learn something new, but have their existing knowledge challenged. Our tree will grow!

I’ve got more for our analogy: cross-pollination. We often hear that the presentations and panel discussions are helpful, but it’s the interactions with other attendees that provide the most indelible takeaways. Whether it’s across value chain positions, product sectors, areas of expertise or primary materials, our audience is diverse in many dimensions, and it’s a venue for discussion unlike any other. We hope you’ll join us!

Photo credit: Designed by Freepik


See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at the new Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland event (Mar. 29-30; Cleveland, OH). Register today!

Why you now need a strategy for ecommerce packaging

Why you now need a strategy for ecommerce packaging
Learning how to optimize the size of your ecommerce shipment is just one of several tips for a successful ecommerce packaging strategy.

As we see most ecommerce fulfillment being done by third parties such as Amazon rather than by product manufacturers or brand owners, there is a ripple of new challenges being faced by packaging and supply chains. With Amazon proving to have the most authority on what needs to be shipped, when, how and in what quantity, brands are having a difficult time fitting into its ecommerce model.

Standard packaging lines are set up for pallet-load distribution, and traditional shipping quantities to brick-and-mortar outlets; however, these traditional shipments are not in quantities that are seemingly required by the “Amazon model.” For example, traditional shipments from brand owners are in quantities to stock shelves and sell through standardized retail channels. The new ecommerce model, though, requires an “each” approach rather than the “stock” model.

As online consumer buying continues to grow exponentially across industries, it has become critical that companies and industry organizations work together to increase efficiencies in all aspects of the supply chain, in packaging and then to perfect the last leg of distribution.

Defining unwritten rules

What is clear in the uncertainty of the ecommerce boom and “Amazon model,” is that the rules are yet to be written, and standardization is yet to be established. With that, there is great opportunity in paving a path to efficient and productive channels from brand to consumer, and eventually, back. Until then, distributors like Amazon continue to lose capital on shipping, and brands continue to feel the burden of labor, processing, packaging and distribution.

There is no doubt that the capital and labor implications for companies are highly impactful, and we should also see continued growth in co-packing and more custom service providers to segment primarily for ecommerce service. Many companies though, are still assessing if the ecommerce service model should be managed by internal resources or if they should be seeking a co-packing or partner provider to take over this growing segment. Meanwhile, distributors like Amazon will likely try establishing guidelines for packaging that aligns with their internal systems (such as Kiva robots, racking systems, automated and manual order picking, and autonomous vehicle design).

Many companies will be hesitant to make any type of investment until the industry begins to structure and establish standardized guidelines. As the burden begins to shift towards these brands though, we should also see more industry-collaborative and organizational/trade association initiatives to define the rules of ecommerce to create mutually beneficial practices in packaging and distribution.

Challenges and opportunities

As ecommerce continues to develop and the models become more complex and demanding, manufacturers and distributors are struggling to solve the cost of consumer expectations and turnaround times, while trying to develop complimentary labor profiles, determine where/how assets need to be allocated and how new technology such as autonomous vehicles may play a role. Already invested in the recognition of the growing burden of ecommerce, companies are starting to peel back the layers of complexity to find resolutions.

One of the most strenuous asks by the consumer and distributor is for product to be shipped in smaller cases, but with the same quantity. One resolution is to use compression methods to ship items such as diapers, which would not be damaged by proper methods of compressed packaging. However, this type of standardization and reduced pack size competes with branding and marketing efforts, which are critical to packaging.

Another challenge arises from required diversification in products and brands—for example, an order containing diapers and wipes from one brand, and tissues and towels from a competitor. Here, companies are looking to capitalize through marketing and brand engagement as a solution. Through data analytics, brands would be able to better understand buying habits and essentially build bundle packages for consumers of their own products, similar to those the consumer has requested of competitors, at either a reduced rate or shipping cost.

As a way to encourage repeat orders or reward loyalty for bundled orders, companies may use tote bags rather than cases, which consumers would then return for free to be refilled. This would allow more product to fit in a given shipment, create loyalty for returns and increase branding opportunities.

Benefits to this challenge, of course, include the acquisition of consumer profiles and big data analytics. Companies will be able to not only better service their consumers, but better understand their buying needs and preferences, which would ultimately allow for greater consumer experiences, increased brand recognition and loyalty. The longer a company can service any given consumer over time, the better able the brand becomes to offer more integrated marketing efforts, as ecommerce is just one (rather large) aspect driving the revenue stream.

The ecommerce strain on packaging will also force companies to reevaluate current practices. Over time, we’ve seen run quantities decrease as stock-keeping units (SKUs) have diversified and increased; however, many companies have not changed how they approach packaging. This has been a slow evolution that ecommerce may force into a quicker pace. Overall, companies will likely benefit across many operations by addressing inefficiencies and ultimately helping their bottom line.

Preparing for ecommerce

The first step for most brands will be to start benchmarking. Companies should look for non-traditional collaborations to determine industry challenges, options in manufacturing and varied channel outlets. Opportunities might include co-mingled shipments, shared distribution, exposure to new or alternative equipment and processing methods—at the very least, a lesson in best practices. As ecommerce continues to streak across the global marketplace, companies, organizations and associations are going to have to start working more collaboratively in this highly competitive market.

Companies will then need to look introspectively and build a strategy. Where do you think your labor, processing, third-party partnerships, equipment and technology assets are headed? In the next five to 10 years, what will this look like? Here, you’ve created at least a point of reckoning when the ecommerce market stabilizes. Then build out your roadmap by creating scenarios to establish strategies. For example, maybe you outsource all of your packaging, maybe partner with a co-packer, or perhaps it makes sense to build packaging and fulfillment centers in-house. Explore your options before you’re in a position where you don’t have any.

Like it or not, companies cannot hide under a rock on this one. And as a first step in preparation, companies should build packaging business strategies that look at long range and utopia options, then begin building realistic roadmaps with trigger points for activation.

Louis Pasteur once said that "Chance favors only the prepared mind."

It is time to be prepared for ecommerce.

Phil McKiernan, vp, consulting solutions, packaging, at HAVI, has more than 20 years of new product development, productivity enhancement and process oriented business leadership. Previously, he led packaging organizations at Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Sweetheart Cup Co. As a leader in the creation of new products and packaging, McKiernan has guided cross-functional teams in the development of multi-year product and intellectual property plans, leveraging consumer insights, technology trends, and qualitative and quantitative research. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Packaging from Michigan State University, with additional MBA graduate level studies at the University of Baltimore. He regularly speaks at Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) student chapter meetings and mentors students from MSU and Rochester Institute of Technology packaging programs.


See a host of new ideas in machinery, materials and more for ecommerce packaging at the new Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland event (Mar. 29-30; Cleveland, OH). Register today!

Easy-to-open packages preferred by nurses and medical technicians

Easy-to-open packages preferred by nurses and medical technicians
Image of a nurse opening a package by NIK/Shutterstock

Nurses and technicians were quite vocal as they opened medical device packages submitted for feedback during HealthPack’s annual “Voice of the Customer—Nurses & Technicians” panel. Ease of opening and prominent labeling information were key concerns, and recycling seemed to be of interest, too.

Held March 8 in Denver, the panel was led by IoPP’s Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee. Participants opened packages in a separate room while on camera, and then afterward came onto the HealthPack stage for a live question-and-answer session with attendees.

Panel participants reported liking “easy-to-open packaging with no chance of contamination,” reported one. Another said an “expiration date” should be included on every packaging “layer.” When opening one package, for instance, one professional said that “the lot and expiration date should be in large letters. It’s great to have on a package.”

One panelist expressed preference for double sterile barrier packaging: “I like that second chance—if there’s another sterile envelope inside,” she said.

When opening packages, a few of the nurses and technicians demonstrated the “dumping” technique in which packages are opened and the contents are dropped into the sterile field, rather than being presented to another professional. Another explained that scrub techs often set up sterile supplies alone.

When one was opening a large tray, she said the base felt “too wide to grasp on the bottom.” Another said that if “a tech had to open it alone, it would be difficult.” One used her arm to hold it underneath, preferring to hold the heaviest part of the package closest to her body when peeling back the lidding.

It is hard “to find the grip point or area on the bottom, which could be problematic if the nurse has a short arm,” added one participant.

When opening a long package, one professional said that “anything long is awkward to do, and we use our arms as braces.”

Another package featured carded instruments in a header bag, which one participant liked because she could “clearly see the sharps,” she said. “Having a visual is important, and they’re secured in there well.”

However, one said that “we don’t like these,” referencing the header bag. “There’s not as much control.”

“It’s almost like you are cross-contaminating when you go back and forth to open,” said another.

One participant said it “was easy to remove devices from the card. It is better that it doesn’t jump off the table.”

A few of the nurses and technicians did mention concerns about waste. “We get packaging with foam and corrugated plastic—it’s like a present within a present—and the device is little,” said one.

Another said that she recycles what she can before introducing supplies into the sterile field. “Packaging in the field before the patient comes gets recycled,” said one.

 “The more we can open ahead of time, the more we can recycle,” added one professional.

“We complain a lot when we don’t have recycling,” said another. Her facility “stopped recycling when oil process dropped.”

And “when they tell us that we saved 20 pounds from a landfill, it’s nice. We feel like patting ourselves on the back,” said one.

One package alternative featured a “strip” intended to be zipped open rather than peeled open and back over technicians’ hands. One panelist said she liked the package. Another commented that “if it had to be put into the sterile field, it would be hard to do with the package.”

Participants reported that it is “standard to look at packaging in the light to check for integrity.” One said that “if it looks suspicious, we get rid of it.” Suspicious packages are “crinkly” or have “droplets or discoloration,” one said.

As the nurses and technicians panel discussion neared conclusion, one professional stated that a “hospital buys the cheapest package. If we had the choice, we’d choose easy to open.”

HealthPack 2018 will be held March 6-8, 2018, in Kansas City, MO.

Here are some past articles on previous nurses panels at HealthPack:

HealthPack 2016: Users prefer time-saving packages

Medical device packaging put to the test at HealthPack 2015

Focus on the end-user

Double-barrier packaging still ideal, nurses report at HealthPack


4 options for in-line 100% seal inspection

4 options for in-line 100% seal inspection
Example of a Class III medical device seal that contains a hair that is undetectable to the human eye. Image courtesy DWFritz Automation Inc.

For sterile medical devices, it’s critical that the seal on the package be completely intact to maintain product sterility. Seal defects can include voids, wrinkles, dust, random particles, or hair—all of which threaten the integrity of the seal. Inspecting seals after they’ve been formed has traditionally been a manual, visual process, done on a sample basis. Destructive package integrity testing may also be used, but this results in the package being discarded and the contents being rehandled on the production line for repackaging.

When producing Class III medical devices, a sampling strategy leaves room for failures to escape into the field, since the samples qualify an entire lot, rather than a specific item. Manual inspection can also be unreliable: humans get tired, get distracted, or get confused with borderline defects. As a result, lots that should be reworked might end up being shipped instead.

But technology is changing. It’s now possible to ensure the quality of the outgoing product by integrating inspection into the production line for 100% non-destructive inspection. Using carefully constructed and calibrated machine vision algorithms gives users more reliable inspection results than can be obtained manually, and individual failures can be caught even within high-quality lots, without slowing production.

A range of inspection technologies are available for integration into the production line. Suitability depends upon the application—in particular, on the type of packaging and the size of defect that needs to be resolved.

Following are four 100% non-destructive technologies that could be used for inspecting seal integrity:

  • Visible-light imaging: This comes in two forms: area imaging, which uses a conventional camera, and line scanning, which uses a one-dimensional array of charge-coupled device (CCD) light sensors. Both of these approaches rely on at least one of the packaging materials to be transparent.

              *Area imaging uses one or more cameras to capture pictures from all or a portion of the area to be inspected. Multiple images from one camera or images from multiple cameras may be stitched together to form a larger, more complete image. A single area image captures more information than a single line-scan image, and it can provide high resolution—down to 11 µm. It can be harder to light a full area uniformly; if that becomes an unresolvable problem, line scanning may be a better solution.

               *Line scanning records a single line of visual light; multiple lines are stitched together to form a larger image if needed. It requires less processing and is easier to illuminate than area imaging, and so it can be a better choice when area imaging becomes too complex or hard to light. Resolution is on the order of 500 µm.

  • Thermal and Infrared lighting: Heat signatures can be detected in the infrared range. Thermal sensing relies on the passive emission of infrared radiation from the package. One benefit of in-line inspection is that the amount of heat being radiated may be higher right after sealing, providing a stronger signal. Infrared imaging is similar, except that the scene is lit with infrared light and the reflections are imaged. Resolution for both technologies will depend on the image sensor. This approach is effective with aluminum, PET, polyethylene, and paper packages.
  • Opposing lasers look for variations in thickness by shining two directly opposing laser beams on the package seal. This allows the thickness of the package to be measured and for deviations to be flagged. This can be done on any material, with resolution at the micron level.

  • Ultrasonic approaches resemble the laser methodology, but, instead of measuring light reflections, they measure transmission of the transmitted ultrasound signal through the package. If the seal is intact, most of the signal makes it through to the other side. Gaps and particles, however, will cause significant internal reflections, reducing the transmitted signal. Resolution is poorer at 2 mm. It’s effective on Tyvek, paper, foil, film, aluminum, and plastic packages.

These technologies are listed together in the below table for comparison:


Above: Comparison of inspection technologies.

Below: The same Class III medical device seal captured with an area camera using an image algorithm.

Any of these technologies can be included in an automated system that implements 100% in-line inspection with no loss of throughput. But, when planning an integration project, it’s important to understand the material implications and the required resolution early so that the appropriate inspection approach can be selected and successfully integrated.

Bhaskar Ramakrishnan is Technical Sales Engineer for DWFritz Automation Inc. He may be reached at [email protected].

Be sure to visit DWFritz Automation at ATX East 2017 at Booth #2305 in New York City June 13-15.  

Where, how and why ocean plastic is being used as packaging feedstock

Where, how and why ocean plastic is being used as packaging feedstock
More brand owners are finding uses for plastics that are recovered from the ocean.

For those of us working in the sustainable materials management space, we’ve understood for a long time that plastic pollution in the world’s oceans has been a serious problem. But, for many, the concern reached a zenith when the World Economic Forum shed light on the projection that, by weight, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050, as cited in the New Plastics Economy Report.

After a little more than a year since the report’s publication, we’ve seen a flurry of activity among consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies involving ocean plastic. CPGs have developed numerous initiatives to source recovered ocean plastic as an input for packaging. And several apparel companies have engineered ways of using ocean plastic in textiles for clothing and shoes.

Both strategies have important challenges worthy of examination, but also show how multinational companies are interpreting circular economy principles in new and more diverse ways.

Parley for the Oceans is one organization that has served as a bridge—from stakeholders concerned with threats to marine biodiversity and conservation, to the private sector, responsible for both generating plastic material that escapes into the environment and providing demand for recovered ocean plastic as an input for new products and packaging.

One recent partnership has been between Parley for the Oceans and Adidas—where they designed the Adidas UltraBOOST Uncaged shoe made with a knitted upper comprised of 95% recovered ocean plastic and 5% recycled polyester. While the first 7,000 units were released on Nov. 15, 2016, Adidas Group Executive Board member Eric Liedtke explains that, “We will make one million pairs of shoes using Parley Ocean Plastic in 2017—and our ultimate ambition is to eliminate virgin plastic from our supply chain.”

But Adidas isn’t limiting recovered ocean plastic as a feedstock material for footwear. The company also worked with Parley to create the first jerseys made of 100% ocean plastic for football teams Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Munich player Xabi Alonso (left, in red) highlighted that, “Wearing a [jersey] that is made from recyclable ocean waste is something I’m very happy about as it’s a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness about the need to protect and preserve our oceans.”

Indeed, raising awareness about sustainability in general and ocean plastic pollution specifically is a chief benefit of using recovered ocean plastic in new products and packaging.

Method, People Against Dirty, was one of the first companies to use recovered ocean plastic in its soap bottles in 2012 and highlighted the importance that social awareness was to the packaging design. Parham Yididsion of Envision Plastics, method’s recycling partner, explains that it was a project where they could actually make a difference—and make a point.

This emphasis on awareness and activism emerges in method founder Adam Lowry’s discussion of the project as well. He elaborates that, “We know that only a small amount of plastic will be taken out of the ocean through all of these bottles. We know that’s not the solution. But, we also know that we can have a much bigger impact if we start to change people’s mind about their role in protecting our oceans.”

Much like method’s conventional soap bottles that use 100% post-consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the ocean plastic bottles designed out the need for virgin plastic, reducing the carbon footprint by 70%. Since method first broke ground in sourcing ocean plastic to produce plastic bottles, the industry has been innovating to increase the percent of ocean plastic in a given resin mix.

Procter & Gamble, for example, is releasing a limited run of Head & Shoulders shampoo bottles this summer in France at Carrefour stores. P&G’s black high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is unique in that, unlike many other ocean plastic packages, other polymers from the beach plastic have been sorted out. In addition, P&G has raised the proportion of ocean plastic in the formulation up to 25%. More generally, the CPG company announced that by the end of 2018, it will have half a billion packages in Europe with at least 25% post-consumer recycled content, among its hair care portfolio, including Head & Shoulders and Pantene.

One downside to packaging that uses recovered ocean plastic is that the plastic’s color often results in a dark grey when processed. From this point, many companies will then use dark or black colorants to make the package appear more uniform and provide more juxtaposition with competition on-shelf. However, when on the sorting line at a materials recovery facility (MRF), the near-infrared (NIR) sorting technology is not able to distinguish between black polymer types. The Assn. of Plastic Recyclers (APR) illuminates in its authoritative Design Guide that, “There is no mechanical property inherent in black HDPE that makes it unrecyclable. The problem lies in sorting and the physics behind polymer identification.”

The same NIR sorting challenges affect black PET but, unlike HDPE, opaque colored PET does not have an end market, even if sorting challenges were overcome.

Another challenge that P&G’s vp for global sustainability Virginia Helias highlights is the limited quantity of beach plastic and much higher expense due to the complex supply chain of its collection and processing. Critics of ocean plastic use in plastic packaging will point out that this elaborate supply chain also likely means that the environmental toll of transport involved negates some of the benefit to the material recovery.

Yet, conservationists are quick to counter that if the material is being collected by volunteers from beaches or waterways already, a second-life as a package or textile is certainly a better outcome than a landfill or incinerator.

Nevertheless, companies using recovered ocean plastic in large quantities, like Adidas, incentivize efforts to continue removing plastic from the ocean as it helps to coalesce a reliable end market for the material.

Dell, which is using 25% ocean plastic in its 100% post-consumer recycled content laptop trays, stresses this is a deliberate aspect to its sustainability initiatives. Dell describes the initiative as the “first commercial-scale global ocean plastics supply chain.” Moreover, the computer technology company, “will convene a working group to address ocean plastics at scale.”

In due course, more companies will likely continue to incorporate ocean plastic as a feedstock once a reliable and larger stream of plastic is being recovered from waterways. As Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch clarifies, “At this point, it’s no longer just about raising awareness.”

Charlotte Dreizen, now a project associate for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, joined GreenBlue as an intern in March 2016, focusing on the development of compost-related programs. Assisting with the creation of the Sustainable Composting Collaborative and research efforts to quantify the value of compostable packaging, she contributes experience from leading food waste research efforts, as well as supporting residential and higher-ed composting programs.


Learn about the latest developments in sustainable packaging at the new Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland event (Mar. 29-30; Cleveland, OH). Register today!

New induction sealing technology eliminates most coil changeovers

New induction sealing technology eliminates most coil changeovers
New inFinity induction sealing coil is almost universal in its ability to handle just about any container.

Billed as a “game-changing development” in terms of uptime and productivity, the new inFinity tunnel induction sealing coil can handle nearly all types of containers without the typical time-consuming coil changeover.

According to manufacturer ITW Pillar Technologies, the proprietary technology has the built-in capability to seal 100% of all tunnel coil applications (including all double-neck bottles) and 80% of all induction cap sealing applications. Additionally, the inFinity coil has a tool-less design, offering either knob or motorized adjustment.

Rory Wolf, business unit manager, ITW Pillar Technologies, explains: “This is a two-coil system—meaning there are two different size inFinity coils that cover the waterfront in terms of being able to seal all container types/shapes/styles required of these tunnel-type coils without having to change out the coil. Previously, and with other competitor products, there is typically an individual coil required for each SKU [stock-keeping unit], and which must be removed by a tool.”

Here is an example of some of the long neck and dispensing containers the system can handle. (Photo courtesy of Silgan.)

Users can get the inFinity coils on Pillar’s compact iFoiler induction sealing system; the new coils cannot be retrofit onto any other existing systems.


See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at the new Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland event (Mar. 29-30; Cleveland, OH). Register today!

Form-fill-seal system easily handles aerated product

Form-fill-seal system easily handles aerated product
Huber fills a powder product into 10-kilogram polyethylene bags on a form-fill-seal machine at 150 bags per minute.

A new sophisticated de-aeration technique allows multinational engineered materials manufacturer J.M. Huber Corp. to be the first to package precipitated amorphous silica on a form-fill-seal machine into polyethylene bags instead of paper bags. The new compact package stacks better to make pallet loads more stable, cuts packaging costs and is recyclable.

Precipitated amorphous silica is used in a variety of consumer and industrial applications in the dental, food, feed, paints and coatings, paper and pharmaceutical markets. The low-density white powder is a good anti-caking and thickening agent but that same absorptive characteristic, as well as the amount of air contained in the particulate, makes it difficult to package.

Huber has installed two new form-fill-seal machines from Concetti North America Corp. that remove air from the product, making it possible to fill 10-kilogram bags (about 22 lbs) at speeds of 150 bags per hour (at a density of 7.49-lb/ft³). The new package costs less, is more secure and produces cleaner, well-presented bags.

Riccardo Concetti, sales and marketing manager at Concetti Group, gives us more details about the Huber installation.

Riccardo Concetti

Can you explain exactly how the system was designed to reduce trapped air? Please describe the complex densification screw feeders, including a double air evacuation process.

Concetti: The Huber install consists of two complete form-fill-seal machines each with a gross weigher and complex densification screw feeders, including a double air evacuation process to reduce the amount of air in each bag. Both packaging machines are transporting filled bags to a four-column robot palletizing machine.

Each FFS machine is equipped with a receiving hopper and a double-screw feeder system, fitted with filters and a vacuum arrangement to mechanically compact the product driven by the two densification screws. This first phase of the process partially reduces the volume of powder by removing some of the excess air. The product is fed to the filling mouth where a precise weight is dosed into the preformed bag.

The volume of the powder is further reduced with a second de-aeration system: sintered probes are inserted into the product in the bag and a vacuum applied, extracting more of the remaining excess air. The combination of the two systems allows a significant reduction of the powder volume coming from the process.

The single layer polyethylene bag is transferred to the sealing station. The air still in the bag is allowed to escape slowly though micro perforations built into the inner ply produced during the tubular film’s manufacture and known also as “venting system.”  

How compact are the bags now? Can you cite a percentage reduction compared to the previous package?

Concetti: The scope of the project was to densify the packed silica by 35% to increased filled bag and net pallet weight, and reduce the dust during handling to improve the overall health and safety. Now they use polyethylene bags, which are stronger than the paper ones.

What size was the previous paper bag?

Concetti: The previous package was a paper valve bag. Huber’s target was to densify the packed silica by 35% to increased filled bag and net pallet weight. With this new package, which has a greater tensile strength, it’s easier to control the moisture and to minimize dust. Reducing trapped air inside the bags improves stacking for more stable pallets during shipping, unloading and warehousing. Reducing the amount of the dust has been lowered the production and transportation costs.

Huber had been using air valve packers to fill paper valve bags via the forced flow positive pressure technology. They wanted to abandon the paper valve sacks since the bags emit excessive dust during handling.


See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at the new Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland event (Mar. 29-30; Cleveland, OH). Register today!