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Articles from 2014 In April


xpedx aligns with Energy Star program nationwide


To earn the Energy Star , the Livonia and Wilmington sites scored in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency, based on the U.S. EPA's energy performance rating system. Qualified facilities meet energy performance standards, use less energy, are less expensive to operate and cause fewer greenhouse gas emissions than peer facilities.

David Wallace, xpedx's director of sustainability, said xpedx's work with Energy Star is a natural extension of its dedication to maintain responsible operations, offer sustainable product choices and provide leadership in sustainable business practices for its customers and suppliers. "We believe that an organization-wide energy management approach will help us enhance our financial health and aid in protecting the environment today and for future generations," he remarked.

The xpedx sites in Livonia and Wilmington combined have nearly 740,000 sq ft of space. "The Energy Star partnership validates xpedx's commitment to bring creative, effective solutions to customers to help all of us become more sustainable organizations," Mike Casimiro, div. manager for the Wilmington location, said. "This important priority is incorporated in all xpedx's efforts to optimize customer supply chains and processes."

With the Livonia and Wilmington locations already qualified, xpedx is closer to its goal of earning the Energy Star in eight large distribution locations within the U.S. by the end of the year. These eight locations have approximately 2.4 million square feet of space.

As an Energy Star partner, xpedx is tracking its energy consumption and carbon footprint and improving its operating costs through energy saving strategies. xpedx has also committed to highlight its achievements as recognized by Energy Star, support the Energy Star challenge to improve the energy efficiency of America's commercial and industrial buildings by at least 10 percent and spread the word about the importance of energy efficiency to its employees and communities where it operates. A Packaging Digest source also tells us that xpedx is planning to get the Energy Star certification at all major facilities as part of its sustainability effort.

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xpedx launches North American network of Package Design Centers


xpedx unveils a new network of seven Package Design Centers with the opening of centers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Rochester, NY, and the expansion of existing design centers in Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Juarez, Mexico, metropolitan areas.

The company also also announced it has added new package design staff and services in 12 other U.S. metropolitan regions:  Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Grand Rapids, Mich., Greensboro, NC, Memphis, TN, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Seattle, and Tampa, FL  xpedx facilities in those markets offer expertise on packaging development, production, distribution and cost-management.

xpedx says it will open other Package Design Centers in the U.S. later this year and these interconnected teams of design, technical and logistics experts will work closely with customers anywhere in North America or worldwide.

 “Companies typically face challenges on three key fronts,” said xpedx vp of packaging John Perrin.   First, they want maximum visibility and control of their total packaging costs. Second, they want to reduce supply chain complexity.  Third, they want to leverage best practices in package design because of its large and growing impact on sales, profitability and cost reduction.”

Services provided by the Package Design Centers,  include material-neutral designs using corrugated, folding carton, specialty foams, thermoformed plastics, molded fiber and pulp, and flexible packaging; control of and potential reduction in total packaging and distribution costs; consistent design, innovation, testing and development processes; wide-ranging sustainability solutions; packaging machinery, systems and substrates plus production line optimization; access to production, kitting and fulfillment; supply chain simplification and transparency; and delivery of packaged products and point-of-sale presentation.


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xpedx exceeds 2011 sustainability goals

xpedx exceeded its sustainability goals in 2011 and is already making aggressive plans for 2012. A leading business-to-business distributor of packaging, facility and printing supplies and equipment in North America, xpedx's environmental platform focuses on continuous improvement in the areas of sustainable leadership and operations as well as making, and helping its customers make sustainable product choices.


"We have been a leader on sustainability issues since 2007 when xpedx began helping our commercial print customers become chain-of-custody certified to the FSC, SFI and PEFC standards," said Mary Laschinger, xpedx's president. "Since then, we have broadened our environmental platform and set increasingly high goals for our business every year. Our success in 2011 reflects not just what xpedx values, but what our customers and suppliers value."


Sustainable Leadership
In 2011, xpedx worked with student teams from Net Impact to develop a sustainability survey and scorecard for its supply chain. Representatives from the Environmental Defense Fund, xpedx, and select manufacturers of products sold by xpedx, formed the review board that chose the winning entry. The survey and scorecard are in use today, and xpedx will analyze its results throughout 2012.


Sustainable Operations
In early 2011, xpedx set a goal to earn the ENERGY STAR in eight of its largest locations, surpassing its goal by qualifying for the mark in nine. xpedx's ENERGY STAR-qualified buildings save money and protect the environment because they meet strict energy performance standards, use less energy, are less expensive to operate and cause fewer greenhouse gas emissions than peer facilities.


xpedx also set a goal at the beginning of the year to recycle 2,400 tons of material. It achieved 109 percent of its goal, dramatically reducing the amount of material it sends to landfills throughout the U.S.


The xpedx distribution business earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay Transport Partner certificate, reflecting its commitment to improve the environmental performance of its fleet of trucks. 


Sustainable Choices
Sony Corporation reinstated xpedx's certification as a Green Partner in 2011, affirming that xpedx met procurement standards outlined in Sony's Green Partner Environmental Quality Approval Program.


xpedx also established an internal procurement policy for the use of paper in marketing materials and catalogs. As a result, 95 percent of its catalogs and 85 percent of its collateral materials are sourced using certified papers.
Throughout the year, xpedx continued to enhance environmental reports available on xpedx.com that help customers quickly track purchases that contribute to LEED certification, and document compliance to sustainable purchasing policies.


xpedx Sustainability in 2012

According to Dave Wallace, xpedx's director, Sustainability, xpedx has established new goals in 2012 to measure its success in sustainability. "xpedx has great momentum from our sustainability accomplishments as we start to move through the new year. So we're raising our expectations even higher in areas such as our supply chain, recycling and energy efficiency."


xpedx will expand implementation of its sustainability survey and scorecard to additional suppliers representing more than 75 percent of its purchases.


The xpedx business will continue its work to expand recycling, aiming for another 15 percent increase this year. Recycling is also part of xpedx's long-term goal to reduce its trash cost by 10 percent over a three-year period ending December 2013.


xpedx will qualify nine new locations with the ENERGY STAR this year and will also continue its goal to reduce emissions and lower its carbon footprint by renewing SmartWay certification for its fleet.

What lies ahead for packaging sustainability?

What lies ahead for packaging sustainability?

Packaging Digest caught up with Minal Mistry, senior manager of sustainability solutions at GreenBlue, for an exclusive interview on where the future of packaging sustainability is headed. Mistry will also be speaking on the same subject at TexasPack on Thurs., May 8, 2014.

Mistry provides support to a range of projects with an emphasis on sustainable materials management strategies. He is product owner of COMPASS (Comparative Packaging Assessment), a life cycle analysis (LCA) software designed for packaging professionals to factor in environmental performance at the earliest design steps. Minal leads the international outreach and education efforts for the SPC.

What are some of the key principles of Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) and how do they contribute to the whole system approach to packaging?

Mistry: The SMM framework is a comprehensive way to look at materials used in all sorts of things in modern society and is easily applicable to packaging. At GreenBlue, we talk about the SMM framework in terms of the lifecycle of a material used in a good or package. The main focus areas are 1) Use Wisely—which puts the focus on the sourcing of materials from the Earth, and the stewardship that goes along with that for the environment and humans; 2) Eliminate Toxicity—here the emphasis is on the product and package itself, and the goal is to remove inherent toxicity of the substances used for people and planet; 3) Recover More—this is self-evident as it focus on recycling to keep the embodied energy of materials in the technical sphere to become new products and packaging. All of this does not preclude companies from being profitable, rather offers a framework that can help the company become more competitive in a resource constraint global world.

How does SMM serve as the intellectual framework for packaging design decisions?

Mistry: For packaging, the SMM framework allows us to look at material stewardship in a simple yet robust manner. The three main foci listed above are directly relevant to packaging. Use Wisely is applicable to all material classes (paper and board, metals, plastics and glass) because sustainable sourcing of raw materials from the planet is going to become a growing concern as demand increases and resources are depleted. Eliminate Toxicity is very relevant. Think about all the negative publicity and potential risk to brands that come from topics such as bisphenol-A (BPA) in toys and bottles, and heavy metals in food contact packaging. Lastly, Recover More is an area that packaging suffers a great deal of negative publicity because often packaging is seen as waste. About 30 percent of all municipal solid waste in the U.S. is made up of packaging. Many materials such as plastics suffer from a lot of bad publicity due to poor recovery, litter and pollution in the oceans. Thinking through these aspects at the design stage can help create packaging that is responsibly sourced, has no toxins and can be easily recycled. This is beneficial to the company by being able to tell their sustainability story to enhance their brands, and benefits society at large too.

Where is the packaging industry headed in terms of sustainability?

Mistry: In the packaging industry there is a lot of focus on sustainability. Understandably, much of that focus is about recycling. There are companies that are also thinking about moving away from fossil fuel based materials such as plastics towards more bio-based materials. This trend is showing innovation in non-traditional fibers such as bagasse, switch grass, bamboo, hemp, which is introducing new types of papers and plastics. This is essential work that can help move the system away from the dependence on petroleum, and holds potential for packaging material sustainability. Another movement is in greater communication along the supply chain as brands try to improve their sustainability stories. This is benefitting the overall sustainability of the packaging industry as supply chain partners are learning from each other’s experiences to improve sourcing, manufacturing processes, energy profile and recyclability.

How is the industry standardizing how and what to measure?

Mistry: Standardization for sustainability measurement started with work at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition with its work to identify relevant indicators and metrics for packaging supply chain. This work led to the development of the Global Protocol for Packaging Sustainability and is now integrated into the GS1 barcode system. The significance of these activities is that in the near term the industry actors will be able to share key indicators with supply chain partners in a standardized manner using web-based platforms, thus eliminating the need to fill out multiple scorecards or reporting forms. Having said that, work remains to be done that harmonizes what is being consistently measured and what is nice to have in the longer term to affect ongoing sustainability efforts. Still, we know the basic frame of what should be measured for each material class used to make packaging. So, that is a good starting point for companies to get onboard.

To register for the TexasPack show, visit pdlinks.com/TexasPack.

The case of the bobbling bottle

The case of the bobbling bottleThe milkman called–and not about deliveries, either. He had a problem and needed me there yesterday. I grabbed my hat and was out the door.

“KC,” Billy told me at the dairy, “we have a random problem with the capper. Everything seems fine, but we get frequent problems with misaligned caps. It happens randomly and we are at wit’s end.”

“Fiddlesticks on ‘random problems,’ Billy!” I exclaimed. “In my experience, there is no such thing. Every problem has a cause. Finding it can be hard; fixing it is often fairly simple. Let me get these eyeballs on the machine.”

Legendary outfielder Casey Stengel said you can see a lot just by looking. It’s as true in packaging as it is in baseball–it just takes a while sometimes.

After an hour of observation, a pattern began to emerge. The problem was periodic, not random. A stopwatch and counter revealed that there was usually a multiple of 168 between cocked caps.

It was an older rotary filler/capper with 24 valves and seven capping heads. Could it be a coincidence that 7×24 gives 168? Probably not. Delving deeper showed that most problems came when valve No. 13 aligned with chuck No. 5.

It turned out that there was a damaged tooth on the main bull gear. When aligned just right, the bottle would bobble and the cap would cock. Fixing the gear fixed the problem.

Always drink your milk. It will make you grow up strong (and smart) like me.

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

The case of the unglued case

Ever see someone come unglued? It’s not pretty. Bill’s plant was shut down and he was riled up.

“KC,” he said, “you probably won’t believe this, but we have the entire plant shut down because we ran out of hot-melt glue pellets.”

“Whoa, Bill–cool your jets,” I calmly advised. “What happened?”

“Well, KC, we use hot-melt glue to seal our shipper cases.”

“OK…” I said. “Sounds pretty normal so far.”

“Thursday, we ran out–no more glue on the floor or in the warehouse,” he said. “We had to overnight a shipment from Los Angeles, and it didn’t arrive until about 11 o’clock Friday morning.”

“How could you run out of glue?” I asked.

“We treat glue as a supply and don’t track it in our manufacturing resources planning [MRP] inventory system. We use a ‘two-bin’ (in this case, two-pallet) system so that we have a pallet of glue in use and a pallet in reserve. When the in-use pallet is empty, we start on the reserve pallet and order more. Somebody forgot to order and didn’t notice we were on the reserve pallet until we ran out.”

“Fiddlesticks on ‘two-bin’ inventory systems,” I exclaimed. “That’s an excellent way for controlling supply inventories-but glue is not a supply! It is a component and must be included in the bill of materials (BOM). The BOM must include everything that is needed for the product with no exceptions. Make a resolution to revise your BOM–and stick to it.”

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

The case of the gray-market blues

High-end perfume bottle

Jim called and told me his troubles. He was losing money. More critically, his brand was losing prestige.

He made high-end perfumes. His company sold only to high-end outlets, such as perfume stores and exclusive department stores.

“KC, my perfumes are turning up in pharmacies and discount stores,” he confided. “It destroys the image and my customers are losing sales. I need help, and need it fast.”

“Fiddlesticks on grey markets!” I exploded. “Your regular customers are over-ordering and reselling the excess under the table on the gray market. You need a simple way to track what ships where. You need a unique code on every order. A unique code is not enough by itself. If the culprits can see the code, they can erase or obliterate it.”
Steganography is just the ticket here. Steganography hides the code in plain sight in the package graphics. A pulse CO2 laser will be just the ticket. They can print a legible code at microscopic scale. Nobody will even know it is there. Mount the laser on a short conveyor in your warehouse and code each carton as it is repacked for distribution.

When your mystery shoppers find a fragrance in a pharmacy they can use a magnifying glass to read the code. That will tell you who you sold it to and who sold it on. What you do with that information is up to you.

Ships must stay in their designated channels. So must your products.

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

The case of the dummy dials

I had met Rafael when I did an effective troubleshooting workshop in his plant. He took me up on my invitation to pick my brain if he ever needed to.

“Hi KC!” he exclaimed. “Remember when you said that it was important to standardize conveyor speeds during changeovers? We set them to a specific speed but the operators keep changing them. Any thoughts on how we can stop this? We’ve tried training and counseling and nothing seems to stop them.”

“Fiddlesticks on changing settings!” I exclaimed. “Put the adjusting knobs inside JIC boxes. Make sure the covers require a screwdriver to open so only mechanics can get at them. That’ll stop ‘em.”

“Great idea, KC,” he said. “I’ll try that.”

He called me a few weeks later. It seems that he had some highly motivated operators.

“I put the adjusting knobs in a box like you suggested and it helped, but some of the operators figured out how to open the boxes using multi-tools,” he confided.

I was at a loss as to what to say, but he continued:

“But it’s OK, I found another solution that works. I put some dummy knobs on the cover of the box. Then I told the operators not to touch them. They pay no attention to me and continue to crank them up and down. Since they are not connected anywhere, I don’t care. The speed stays where it’s set.”

I love ideas from the trenches. It shows that you can still teach an old dog like me new tricks.

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

The case of the high-speed slows

Suppositories packagingAlex was on the blower sounding confused.

“KC, it seems like the faster we go, the behinder we get. I’m not meeting my production numbers and don’t know what to do. Can you help?”

The answer to that is always “Yes!”. After all, I am the Packaging Detective.

Soon after we hung up I was with Alex in his plant and he was showing me the problem. The product was 3/8 in. diameter suppositories and they were sealed between two strips of poly coated foil. The real problem was that the product was too thick for this kind of package but there was nothing that could be done about that.

The issue Alex was having was that the process generated about 30 percent rejects because the film didn’t seal correctly.

“Fiddlesticks on sealing rejects!” I expostulated. “Proper sealing must balance time, pressure and temperature. What’s needed here is lower temperature and pressure plus a longer dwell time. The only way to get that is to slow down the machine.”

“But our production targets are based on 60 ppm (packages per minute). If we slow the machine we won’t meet them.” Alex said.

“You’re are not meeting them now.” I told him. “Running 60 ppm with 30 percent rejects gives you an effective speed of 42 ppm. Slow it to 50 ppm, get rejects under 5 percent and your effective speed is 47 ppm. The 12 percent speed bump plus reduced rework and scrap will let you hit your numbers.”

Faster isn’t always better.

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

The case of the short ceiling

Gerry’s message was garbled. All I could make out was “legs … cut … off. Get here fast.”

From the message, I was not sure whether I was going to a packaging line or a crime scene.

When I got to the plant Gerry took me to the aseptic clean room (Class 100, laminar flow ceiling). There was a new bottle orienter, lying on its side because it was too tall to stand up.

“I just can’t figure it out, KC. We measured the ceiling height and it was 10 ft. The orienter is 9 ft. 6 in. as ordered. Now the ceiling height is only 9 ft. We just don’t understand.”

Like doubting St. Thomas, I needed to see for myself and took my own measurements.

“Fiddlesticks on shrinking ceilings!” I exclaimed. “Here’s what happened: You could not go in the clean room to take measurements, could you?”

“Only with great difficulty,” Gerry agreed.

“The clean room discharges into the packaging line and you could see that the ceiling heights were the same in each room. Right?” I asked.

“Yup.”

“They are, but you forgot about the raised floor in the clean room for air return. You got the ceiling height correct but not the distance between floor and ceiling. Never assume floor and ceiling heights are the same between rooms. They often are but…There is nothing else to do but amputate the orienter’s legs. Get operating.”

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].