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Articles from 2018 In July

What’s your opinion of plastic packaging sustainability?
We want your input on critical issues regarding plastic packaging.

What’s your opinion of plastic packaging sustainability?

More plastic than fish in the sea by 2050…China’s Green Fence and National Sword initiatives…The New Plastics Economy…Walmart’s Project Gigaton…the Plastics Pact…bans on drinking straws. Plastic packaging is experiencing microscopic attention and severe criticism. That’s why the 2018 Sustainable Packaging Study will find out what packaging professionals think about today’s critical issues related to plastic packaging, as well as trends in general packaging sustainability.

For more than a decade, Packaging Digest, in partnership with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, has been polling the global packaging community on the hot topics in sustainability and packaging. Our annual Sustainable Packaging Study benchmarks where the industry is at—and where it is going.

Each year, we add new questions that probe current trends. This year, we’ve focused on plastic packaging because of all the activity and interest from packaging and sustainability professionals in this area. We’ll report on the results this fall.

Please CLICK HERE to take the survey now. Thank you!


Packaging solutions come to Minneapolis: As part of the region’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event, MinnPack 2018—and the five related shows taking place alongside it—brings 500+ suppliers, 5,000+ peers and 60+ hours of education together under one roof. Register for free today.

Packaging maintenance info now on a portable screen
Portable packaging machinery or line controls give operators and managers access from anywhere in the facility.

Packaging maintenance info now on a portable screen

Most human-machine interface (HMI) software is designed for operational management, with maintenance as an afterthought. The screens can only deliver a limited amount of information to maintenance personnel, who must look elsewhere for installation and operational instructions, manuals, diagrams and other standard information.

Schneider Electric has rolled out EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor, a software package that allows end users to load maintenance information of their choosing and make it accessible to plant personnel in an augmented reality format. EcoStruxure works through image recognition: Maintenance personnel aim a tablet at a piece of equipment, triggering access points to preloaded information. It also can deliver data on machine history and current status through integration with equipment controls. Bühler AG, a manufacturer of food processing and packaging equipment, is an early adopter of EcoStruxure.

Simone Gianotti, EcoStruxure industry business development manager at Schneider Electric, spoke with Packaging Digest about EcoStruxure’s capabilities.

Is EcoStruxure meant to replace or complement standard terminal screens? What can it do better than standard terminals?

Gianotti: EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor complements standard HMI terminal screens. It does so by being portable, so the facility manager or operators are empowered to access the insights from the machine anywhere in the plant.

In terms of pure functionality, your typical HMI is designed for operation, used for maintenance only after you’ve trained your maintenance personnel how to navigate each individual screen to diagnose current status or error messages. EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor is a maintenance tool first, developed to simplify these maintenance activities through user-friendly interface tailored around maintenance needs.

Can EcoStruxure take data from and work with controls sourced from suppliers other than Schneider?

Gianotti: Yes. A key feature of the system is that it is hardware-agnostic. There is only one requirement; to have real-time variables exchanged between the machine and the tablet, you must use a Windows-based industrial PC.

How do you envision EcoStruxure being used most often by end users, especially in the packaging industry—for maintenance/troubleshooting, or as part of regular process monitoring?

Gianotti: I expect a roughly 70%/30% split respectively. But in general, we should see that it will be used more for maintenance and troubleshooting.

Is Bühler the first food equipment customer for EcoStruxure? Is it actually running in any plants for food or other consumable goods?

Gianotti: There are other consumer packaged goods (CPG) customers using EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor throughout the globe, mostly in a pilot phase in collaboration with our product application expert teams to customize the application to their specific needs.

In the U.S., we currently have two packaging customers in this pilot phase, and one more in the queue. The goal is to present their first EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor-enabled machines during the upcoming trade-show season in the fall.


Packaging solutions come to Minneapolis: As part of the region’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event, MinnPack 2018—and the five related shows taking place alongside it—brings 500+ suppliers, 5,000+ peers and 60+ hours of education together under one roof. Register for free today.

Minute is in it to win it with redesigned rice packaging
A brand refresh of Minute Rice, designed to appeal to younger generations, includes a new logo, contemporary fonts and simplified graphics on its packages.

Minute is in it to win it with redesigned rice packaging

Packaging for Minute brand rice products is newly up to speed, courtesy of a packaging design update by brand owner Riviana Foods Inc. The brand owner worked with Brand Image to redesign the graphics for all Minute Instant and Ready to Serve rice packaging—27 stock-keeping units, in all.

The updated food packaging is simpler and more contemporary than what it replaces, but similar enough to make finding Minute products on-shelf easy for brand loyalists. The design includes a refreshed logo on the front of the packages plus recipes and cooking suggestions on the back that underscore the products’ versatility.

Diane Patterson, senior brand manager for Minute Rice at Riviana Foods, provides some details about the redesigned packaging, which began rolling out in the United States in April 2018.

What Minute brand attributes does the redesign emphasize?

Patterson: Quality, convenience, simplicity, relevance, uniformity/consistency, evolutionary, contemporary. Minute wanted to target the younger consumers and younger generation, but not alienate existing users. We wanted to convey that the brand is becoming more relevant and contemporary to today’s consumers.

How does the redesign convey that?

Patterson: Improved imagery, simple but eye-catching design, focus on core product attributes, graphic icons, clean and consistent design architecture across Instant and Ready to Serve product lines, updated cooking directions/recipe ideas/copy.

While retaining its distinctive red background and brand mark, all product packages now feature a simpler design that incorporates a consistent cook-time call out, an updated logo and modern font.

What drives consumers to purchase our products: taste and convenience. We make sure that is always front and center, and then we provide those added benefits and added values as we progress with our consumers. Their needs change and we need to change with them.

Did you make any changes to the package structures?

Patterson: This was strictly a redesign of package graphics.

What package structures were involved in the redesign?

Patterson: Cartons (Instant, at top of the page) and sleeves (Ready to Serve, above).

How have consumers reacted to the redesigned packaging?

Patterson: So far, favorably overall. We’ll be getting more feedback from our consumer information team soon.


Packaging solutions come to Minneapolis: As part of the region’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event, MinnPack 2018—and the five related shows taking place alongside it—brings 500+ suppliers, 5,000+ peers and 60+ hours of education together under one roof. Register for free today.

Flexible food packs bulk up with superior performance
Abby Possinger of Fres-co System USA points out the benefits of a new kind of bulk-bag packaging.

Flexible food packs bulk up with superior performance

A booth at the Powder & Bulk Solids show yielded a pair of breakthrough flexible packaging innovations, the Termalock Powder Bag and Flexible Bucket, applicable for food ingredients and more.

It’s not just people who bulk up, but packaging can too, as these two examples from a recent exhibition demonstrate while showing that bigger can be made better.

An April day began favorably at a suburban Chicago exhibition managed by Packaging Digest’s sister publication, Powder & Bulk Solids, when the first stop of the day at one booth yielded two “plus sized” flexible packaging innovations for food products.

The bait that drew my immediate attention was the “new” signage at the booth of Fres-co System USA. Inside and most prominent was a pallet-load display of the vendor’s new Termalock Powder Bag and, at a small kiosk a few feet away, the intriguingly named Flexible Bucket.

Handling the company's booth duties was Abby Possinger, market development manager, food and feed ingredients, who was enthused about the 2018 debut of a new bag and specialized design. Unlike multilayer kraft paper bags, the Termalock Powder Bag’s durable multilayer structure provides a barrier for sensitive bagged powders, especially food ingredients.

As notable is the valve’s specialized one-way channel design that prevents clogging associated with standard open-mouth bags with a one-way valve. Another benefit of the packaging is that when stacked and palletized, the air-tight bags make for stable pallets versus alternative formats, Possinger pointed out.

Additional information was provided in a follow-up interview for both of these packaging introductions to discuss key features, options and more starting with the Termalock bag, which took several years’ research and development to perfect.

What customer need does it address?

Possinger: The Termalock Powder Bag directly addresses recurring problems that plague the producers of bulk powders, namely oxidation, moisture and dehydration. The one-way degassing valve with built-in vent chamber offers 100% airtight protection and a near-zero moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR). With flat storage when empty and perfect palletization when filled, the advantages over alternative packaging options are overwhelmingly apparent.

What is considered the industry standard format and why is this better?

Possinger: Traditional industrial packages have air holes that allow premium powders to oxidize, dehydrate, or come in contact with moisture during their transport from the producer to the end user. The Termalock Powder Bag is an open mouth, airtight package that forms stable pallet. It can package a wide range of products, including proteins, amino acids, vitamins, probiotics, premium sweeteners, chelating agents and among many others.

What are the key features?


Safe and Efficient Transport Designed with palletization in mind, weight distribution concerns will be dramatically minimized. Traditional Kraft-Poly packaging often forms an unstable, and unsafe “mushroom-like” profile when palletized.

Space Savings It would take 34 truckloads of fiber drums to ship the same product volume as one truckload of Termalock Powder Bags. And prior to filling, the bags store flat, saving space in a warehouse for more product.

Reduced Complaints and Returns Customers expect product to arrive in the condition it left the factory or warehouse. When powdered ingredients are sealed against moisture, dehydration, light, oxygen and rodent and insect infestation, degradation becomes a worry of the past.

Longer Shelf Life According to customers, our industry-leading sealing technology extends their products’ shelf lives by up to two years.

What basic structure and options do you offer?  

Possinger: The basic material structure of polyester/aluminum/nylon/polyethylene varies by product or customer need, but the durable high-barrier film structure is combined with a one-way valve and built-in vent chamber.

Size is determined for each specific product, but the general size is for products weighing approximately 50 lb/25kg.

Also, vibrant, multi-color printing is always available at Fres-co to call attention to the product or brand.

What product categories and types is it suitable for?

Possinger: The Termalock Powder Bag is suitable for powder products in a wide range of product categories, including food, feed, pharmaceutical and cosmetic ingredients.

Next: The Flexible Bucket


What customer needs does the Flexible Bucket address?

Possinger: The Flexible Bucket was designed to meet the demanding needs of one of our customer’s unique challenges–standing out among competitors while being able to transport a range of discrete goods by hand with ease. Our superior multicolor printing is available to add graphics to the Flexible Bucket, reinforcing the brand and boosting the products shelf appeal up to six times over the traditional rigid bucket. Combined with the reinforced shaped handle that maintains its form and strength, and the extra ply of material in its construction, the Flexible Bucket is easier and more comfortable to carry than other flexible pouch or rigid buckets.

What is considered the industry standard format and why is this better?

Possinger: The industry standard format is a rigid bucket. Our Flexible Bucket, an industrial pouch, allows customers to carry a wide variety of discrete goods by hand, eliminating the struggle with bulky buckets and increasing ease of movement. With an EZ Open recloseable top and a high strength-to-weight ratio, the Flexible Bucket is the ultimate weight-saving, space-conserving solution for product transportation and storage.

What are the key features?


Strength and Ergonomics A high strength-to-weight ratio due to its four-ply construction versus standard two-ply, paired with its proprietary handle design, distinguishes the Flexible Bucket from standard pouches that are not as easily transportable.

Space savings Folds­ flat to take up mere inches in a storage area compared to the space that an equal number of traditional buckets would consume.

Sustainability Easy to dispose of and recycle with 85% less plastic than a rigid bucket. The Flexible Bucket also reduces the overall operational cost of transportation by replacing traditional rigid containers, which have a larger footprint that takes up more storage and space per shipment.

What product categories and types is it suitable for?

Possinger: The Flexible Bucket is suitable for a variety of bulk dry flowable products ranging from food and feed ingredients to resins, agricultural pesticides and specialty chemicals.

Is any customer using or testing?

Possinger: Our first customer for the bucket pouch was Pest Management division at Liphatech, which converted from a rigid plastic bucket to the Flexible Bucket (shown at top).

According to Jim Doll, the senior marketing manager for pest management, “Fres-co came to us with a variety of ideas for different types of packaging so that we could improve our graphics and stand out among our competitors. They succeeded; when we showed the packages internally, there was a definite ‘wow’ factor. When you add the portability, the ergonomic handle and the resealable top, the Flexible Bucket will give our customers even more reason to use our product.”

Anything else to mention?

Possinger: With a weight capacity of 16 lb, the Flexible Bucket is a small but powerful proprietary pouch.


MinnPack 2018 (October 31 – November 1, Minneapolis) is part of the Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event that brings you the latest in materials, automation, packaging and more. ___________________________________________________________________________________

You know you’re a packaging engineer if: Gallery

Do you cringe when you hear someone say cardboard? Or have an irresistible urge to scold a person when you see them rip open a package in a way that ruins the reclosable feature? Does it take you forever to shop in a store because you’re looking at products you’d never use just because they have interesting packaging? Face it. You’re a packaging engineer.

Take heart, though. You are in good company. Here are some entertaining answers our Packaging Digest audience submitted when we asked them how they would finish the sentence “You know you’re a packaging engineer if…”

Have all these answers spurred your creative juices? You can still share your description at


Did you know? Our parent company Informa owns these popular packaging events: WestPack, EastPack, PackEx Toronto and PackEx Montreal. Click the links to learn how you can connect in person with leading packaging technology partners, expand your professional network, hear experts analyze key packaging trends and gain a better understanding of today's critical issues.

3 new trends in motors for packaging machines
Motors are essential for automated packaging systems, and here are a few ways they've been improved.

3 new trends in motors for packaging machines

Electric motors used in packaging equipment are smaller, more energy efficient and more versatile, which is good news for their customers and end users. Here is how those improvements answer the needs of today’s packaging lines.

Suppliers of small electric motors are more versatile and helpful than ever, so customers shouldn’t be shy about asking for things to be done their way.

That’s the major takeaway from a webinar held July 15 by the Motion Control and Motor Assn., a trade association for automation technologies. The “What’s New in Motors?” webinar was delivered by Kristen Lewotsky, a contributing editor for Motion Control Online and an engineer who worked on NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope.

Lewotsky discussed trends in the kinds of small electric motors most often used for robotics and other automation components. Some of the biggest overall trends, from the perspective of machinery users like packaging lines, are:

1. Decreased customer expertise.

Due to ongoing staff cutbacks, both machinery manufacturers and their end-user customers don’t have the specific engineering expertise needed to specify and integrate servos and other small motors. “What I hear that you don’t have the same level of engineering talent in-house at the [machinery] OEMs and at the end users,” Lewotsky says. “Companies have really cut back.” As a result, they’re depending more on motor manufacturers to supply that missing expertise. And motor makers are stepping up.

2. Increased motor performance demands.

Customers want more powerful motors, with higher torque—and they often want them smaller at the same time. “You want to shrink that footprint, but you want to be able to have flexibility to do different sizes of product with the same machine,” Lewotsky says.

3. Increased demand for customization.

As a result of the first two trends, the customers of motor manufacturers—both machinery manufacturers and end users like packagers—are asking for more customized equipment. Lewtosky said that before, motor OEMs did customization only reluctantly and for high-volume customers. “But this time around, pretty much everybody across the board said, ‘Oh yeah, we do that. Maybe half of what we sell is not out of the catalog,’” she said.

Improvements making this all possible

Innovations that allow motor OEMs to fulfill these demands include: changes to internal magnets and windings that increase torque; modular construction that allows internal components to be altered more easily; and higher availability of systems that integrate motors, drives and encoders into a single package, decreasing the need for engineering expertise by customers.

Of particular potential interest to packaging lines are improvements in motors for automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and mobile robots, which can be used to complement, or even replace, end-of-line equipment like palletizers. Because these run on battery power, energy efficiency is especially important. Improvements in the materials used in the motors, such as thin laminations for rotors and stators, can reduce interference in the electric current, making it power the motor with greater efficiency and increasing time between battery charges.

Another potential improvement for AGVs are motor units that have traction motors, which impel the vehicle, and steering motors, which guide it, in an integrated unit. This makes the AGV easier, and therefore potentially cheaper, to make and to service.


Packaging solutions come to Minneapolis: As part of the region’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event, MinnPack 2018—and the five related shows taking place alongside it—brings 500+ suppliers, 5,000+ peers and 60+ hours of education together under one roof. Register for free today.

Cobots in packaging 2018: A debriefing with Rethink Robotics
Cobots like Sawyer are an obvious choice as a solution to pressing labor shortages across manufacturing segments including packaging production.

Cobots in packaging 2018: A debriefing with Rethink Robotics

The collaborative robots vendor that introduced Baxter to the world in 2012 and Sawyer in 2015 evaluates cobots' opportunities in packaging today.

The second in Packaging Digest’s series of interviews with collaborative robots vendors in this ultra-high-growth market—one report forecasts cobots growth at an amazing 57% CAGR between 2017 and 2023—is Mike Fair, product manager at Rethink Robotics.

What types of cobot applications are you seeing?

Fair: Collaborative robots (cobots) can be implemented in a variety of industries including packaging, plastics, electronics, metal fabrication, automotive and general manufacturing. They are useful in a diverse range of manufacturing functions and play an important role in automating tasks that previously could only be performed by humans.

The best workflows for cobots include repetitive tasks that tend to strain human workers, or dangerous tasks that involve interacting with other machinery. By automating these tedious, time-consuming tasks, factory workers are free to perform more valuable tasks.

What’s the most notable change in cobots since about 2015?

Fair: The whole category of automation is continuing to grow rapidly. The biggest evolution we’ve seen in cobots across the board is integration with other technologies. For example, Rethink Robotics recently announced the ClickSmart technology (see image above), a solution for end-of-arm tooling that incorporates smart sensing and rapid swapping capabilities. Designed to simplify robot deployment, ClickSmart offers a way for users to swap end effectors in seconds, whether they are Rethink’s ClickSmart family of grippers or grippers from a variety of end-effector vendors.   

Cobots are also moving into the data gathering sphere, empowering manufacturers to make better business decisions. At Rethink Robotics, we recently released the Intera Insights feature with the Intera 5 software platform, providing critical data insights to manufacturers in real time. Intera Insights displays key performance indicators (KPIs) via a customizable dashboard on the robot’s display, making it accessible directly on the factory floor. This data drives more informed production decisions, while saving time and money by eliminating the need to invest in or create another data collection system.

With Intera 5, manufacturers can also optimize cycle time with additional enhancements to Sawyer’s vision capabilities.

What can cobots do now or do better they couldn’t before?

Fair: I think it’s more of a question of what manufacturers do better than they did in previous years—namely, identifying and deploying cobots on the right task. Cobots are particularly well-suited for specific tasks, like packaging, and don’t do as well on tasks that require human cognition and dexterity. Manufacturers today have a better understanding of cobot technology, and are deploying cobots in the right tasks to see higher productivity and efficiency as a result.

How has the justification for using cobots changed?

Fair: Industry acceptance of cobots has grown significantly over the past few years as more manufacturers have deployed cobots and seen direct impact on ROI [return on investment] and other metrics. Experts project the market for cobots will reach more than $4 billion by 2023, a figure that shows the confidence manufacturers have in this technology.

One major reason for the cobot adoption trend is the labor shortage that is impacting every industry and geography: Fundstrat Global Advisors says that through 2027, there will be a global shortage of 8.2 million manufacturing workers. With that size void facing them, manufacturers have a strong imperative to find alternative means of staffing their factories, and cobots are an obvious choice.

How much of a factor are those labor shortages in the growth you’re seeing?

Fair: I can’t overstate this enough: Labor is and will continue to be a major challenge for manufacturers into the foreseeable future. The stats say it all: Ten thousand baby boomers reach retirement age every single day, and 76 million are set to retire in the coming years. Many of those boomers are working in factories, and the next generations aren’t interested in working mundane manufacturing jobs.

This trend makes it critical that manufacturers have an alternative labor source. Cobots are a great solution to this challenge, filling jobs on the factory floor that are undesirable, involving monotonous tasks, while freeing workers to perform more valuable jobs.

What’s an example of a state-of-the-art cobot installation?

Fair: Cox Container, a plastics blow molding manufacturer, recently deployed Rethink’s Sawyer robot in its packing function to address challenges associated with labor shortages and offer high-quality jobs to its workers. Sawyer picks up bottles from a conveyer belt and places them into a custom bin designed by Cox Container. Once the bin is half full, Sawyer is programmed to go to another picking area, select a corrugate divider, place it in the bin and begin filling the container with a second layer of bottles. Once complete, the operator gives Sawyer a new bin to start packing, and the operator finishes the final packing of the product. With Sawyer, the company has reduced labor needs in one packing work cell by 50% and reassigned multiple staff members to more valuable and meaningful work.

When is a cobot a better choice than a traditional robot?

Fair: It’s really not a “one or the other” choice; cobots and traditional industrial robots accomplish two very different things. Cobots are a cost-effective solution for manufacturers looking to boost productivity and improve quality of their operation, and are meant to be deployed on repetitive, mundane tasks that integrate with other machines or are completed in close proximity to humans.

Cobots offer the benefit of adaptability, and can be used on multiple work cells or handle a variety of parts, as production needs change, without requiring any extensive programing or engineering.

They also complement the work produced by traditional industrial robots, which are better suited for high-volume, low-mix manufacturing models and aren’t suitable for working around humans.

What’s the question you hear most from potential users and how do you answer it?

Fair: One of the most common questions we receive is, “What applications can I deploy Sawyer on most successfully?” This is an important question since successful integration begins with selecting the right task. When we hear this question, we reassure the potential customer that we work directly with the customer from day one to help identify the right application and ensure the cobot is used in the task that will provide the most ROI for the business.

What’s the biggest takeaway you’d like to leave for readers?

Fair: Cobots are safe enough to work alongside people, easy to deploy and able to perform dull or dirty tasks that must be completed, but aren’t very satisfying. Offering a solution to the labor problem fueled by an aging workforce and a new generation that doesn’t want to work in manufacturing, cobots provide an effective and dependable way to automate more tasks and increase productivity without sacrificing quality.

Mike Fair is a product manager at Rethink Robotics, where he leverages his in-depth customer experience and customer advocacy to help guide the company's product strategy. Having worked at multiple Boston-area robot companies—and with more than 20 years’ experience in mechanical engineering, product support and applications—Fair has traveled worldwide to advance the company’s presence in new and emerging markets. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering Technology and a Global MBA with a focus on International Marketing.

See also Cobots in packaging 2018: A debriefing with Universal Robots, published April 2018.


MinnPack 2018 (October 31 – November 1, Minneapolis) is part of the Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event that brings you the latest in materials, automation, packaging and more. ___________________________________________________________________________________

Packaging recycling: Is this the sipping point?
Drinking straws and other single-use plastics should be an impetus to develop a more-workable recycling infrastructure and business model.

Packaging recycling: Is this the sipping point?

Single-use plastics have become the focal point for our frustration with plastic waste. Doug Woodring from the Ocean Recovery Alliance wrote in a recent article, “Switching to alternatives might not save the world but the use of single-use plastics sends a distinct message to customers that the brand and its management is not on top of an issue of growing global importance.”

Straws are emblematic of our single-use addiction because they are rarely necessary and tossed in a matter of minutes. Recent moves by Starbucks, McDonald’s and others to eliminate straws provides momentum to address the single-use challenge. I believe we should embrace this momentum and leverage it to tackle the larger problem of developing system-based solutions for design and recovery of all packaging material types.

It’s important that we not get distracted by single substrate solutions.

All too often, I hear packaging material manufacturers arguing that their specific material is the solution to our infrastructure problems. It’s not that simple.

All packaging materials have environmental impacts. Some have greater impacts at the beginning of life and others at the end of life. We often don’t think about the next life when we are developing packaging. Most materials have an environmental benefit from being recycled. The biggest issue for us to tackle today is creating a value for recycled materials. Materials end up being wasted—in the ocean, for example—because they have no value.

We have two competing trends from different parts of the value chain that we must bring together. On one hand, we have corporations increasing their commitments to make packaging from materials that can be recycled. On the other, we have a waste management infrastructure retreating to basic commodities in response to China’s recent restrictions. A package cannot be considered recyclable if no one wants to use it to make new packaging or products.

Many companies are setting challenging targets to make their packaging recyclable or compostable, are committing to use recycled content, and/or helping with collection. This is a great start but they can’t do it alone. They need support from the rest of the value chain, including municipalities that are involved in material recovery and consumers.

The recent moves by China to restrict the materials it accepts for recycling has exposed weakness in our recycling system. We became dependent on China to process our materials and let our own infrastructure decline. Municipalities are struggling to find buyers for their recovered recyclables. Our system is out of balance. We have to recognize that it will take investment to build better infrastructure for recovery here in the U.S.

In the past we relied on the contribution from the collected materials to help fund the system. It is not enough. We have to tackle the issue of how we will pay to recover materials so that they can be reused and recycled.

There is no “one size fits all.” Packaging has been evolving rapidly in the last decade and our recycling systems have felt the impact of this change. The good old days of a simplistic material mix are gone. We have not kept pace with the packaging changes, and municipalities are struggling to figure out how to finance collection and recovery of packaging.

It’s time that we start to work together and recognize we need a new approach. Brands, manufacturers, recyclers, localities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need to put more effort into creating more robust American recycling facilities that are designed for today’s packaging.

Let’s not make this a single material issue. Let’s leverage the momentum of the backlash against single-use plastics and work to create a system where many materials can be recovered and have value.

Nina Goodrich, director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and executive director, GreenBlue, came to GreenBlue with an industry background in R&D, innovation and sustainability strategy. She believes that innovation and sustainability are linked as key drivers for our future.


Packaging solutions come to Minneapolis: As part of the region’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event, MinnPack 2018—and the five related shows taking place alongside it—brings 500+ suppliers, 5,000+ peers and 60+ hours of education together under one roof. Register for free today.

Pharmaceutical vial filler is fast, accurate, flexible
New flexible filler can fill from the bottom up, from half-way up or from above.

Pharmaceutical vial filler is fast, accurate, flexible

New equipment for filling pharmaceutical vials promises to bring the best of technology to bear on speed, accuracy, quality control and other considerations vital to the healthcare industry.

The Dara HSL-PP/4 is a high-speed aseptic filling and closing machine for pharmaceutical vials, from the NJM division of ProMach. It’s capable of filling up to 200 vials per minute, from 0.1 to 200 milliliters in liquids and from 2to 1,500 milligrams in powders.

The HSL-PP/4’s benefits include:

• Accuracy: It can fill with +/-1% accuracy when equipped with peristaltic pumps, or +/-0.5% accuracy with stainless steel or ceramic rotary piston pumps.

• Filling flexibility: It can be set to fill with nozzles lowered to the bottom of the containers, half way up or from above. No-tool changeovers, of filling heads or other components, can be completed in 15 minutes.

• Sealing flexibility: Closure options include full or lyo-depth stopper insertion (for lyophilized products), optional vacuum-assisted stopper insertion to reduce oxygen in the headspace, and optional gas flushing.

• Quality control: Eight checkweighing stations confirm fill accuracy. Inspection systems check for missing or raised stoppers. The closing station features a servo-driven tangential rolling head to minimize particulate generation and maximize sealing results. A vacuum starwheel reject device removes non-compliant vials while maintaining production speed with virtually no false rejects.

• Automation: The system is fully servo-driven for fast changeover and easy adaptability to new vial sizes and other parameters. Machine functions are controlled through Rockwell Automation Allen-Bradley PLCs and accessed through a Beckhoff Automation 12-inch touchscreen that runs an easy-to-use human-machine interface (HMI). All product parameters can be programmed into the PC, including dosing volumes, dosing speeds, kinematics of the filling system, adjustment of automatic feeders and output.

Other options for the HSL-PP/4 include equipment for sterile or cleanroom applications, including laminar air flow, open or closed restricted-access barrier system, or a high-containment isolator system; clean- and sterilization-in-place; automatic or manual denesting units; integration with an upstream washer and depyrogenation tunnel for continuous automated infeed, and more.

The HSL-PP/4 will be introduced in Booth W-703 at this year’s Healthcare Packaging Expo (Oct. 14-17; Chicago), to be held in conjunction with Pack Expo.


Packaging solutions come to Minneapolis: As part of the region’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event, MinnPack 2018—and the five related shows taking place alongside it—brings 500+ suppliers, 5,000+ peers and 60+ hours of education together under one roof. Register for free today.

How to Design Packaging to Reduce Risk in Transit
From left: Kevin Zacharias, technical director, Oliver Healthcare Packaging; and Ryan Erickson, vice president and packaging engineer, Packaging Compliance Labs

How to Design Packaging to Reduce Risk in Transit


These days, your medical devices could be in for quite an adventure. “Medical device supply chains are getting more rigorous by the year,” says Sarah Rosenblum, director of business development and marketing at Packaging Compliance Labs. “With the development of new shipping methods, that leaves a lot of people scratching their heads wondering how to test it.”

For instance, “the hottest topic in this subject matter has been drone shipping,” she says. “While this is still some time away from being implemented, there are many elements to consider while shipping from a drone.

But even if you’re not ready for drone shipping, the typical rigors of medical device sterilization and transportation are presenting new risks and considerations. These hazards include extreme climates, drop, shock, altitude, stacking, and vibration, explains Ryan Erickson, vice president and packaging engineer, Packaging Compliance Labs. He notes the following trends:


  • Globalization in medical manufacturing. This involves international shipping, ocean and rail freight, multiple distribution legs, multiple distribution configurations, warehouse and vehicle stacking, and exposures to a wider array of climates, modes of transport, and shipping durations throughout distribution.
  • An industry shift away from autoclave in favor of sterile products. Many instruments formerly shipped in metal cases (non-sterile) for autoclaving at the hospital are now moving to sterile disposable packaging, leading to significant changes in supply chain, distribution channels, and cost pressures.
  • Just-in-time order fulfillment. Production and transportation of nonstandard quantities and configurations are in demand.
  • Returnable procurement programs. Allowances for hospitals to return unused products leads to the same products being exposed to multiple rounds of shipping. 
  • Sustainability. This often involves reductions in size and materials while still achieving design and performance requirements.

Erickson will be exploring the impact of all these trends on package testing programs in the upcoming May 17 Webcast, “Packaging Integrity Fail? Think Inside the Box to Ace Your Next Transit Test! [You can view this webcast now, on demand.] He’ll be joined by Kevin Zacharias, technical director, Oliver Healthcare Packaging.

“Kevin and I will be 'looking inside the box' to observe the behavior of flexible and rigid packaging when subjected to the stresses of shock, vibration, and drop testing.  We will discuss the dynamic forces at play and the potential effects of those forces on typical modes of failure – cracks, punctures, tears, and abrasion. The discussion will also review best practices for packaging design to mitigate risk and improve transportation testing outcomes,” Erickson says.

Packaging failure is typically associated with a design that isn’t rigorous enough to handle the device it contains, Rosenblum says. “This is often due to poor package design, large or heavy devices, failure to secure the device within the packaging, and more,” she says. “Packaging helps as the cushion to shield the device from the outside elements. It absorbs the delivery drivers’ kicks and tosses. It protects from that steamy hot truck driving around Miami. The packaging is the guardian for sterile medical devices and it must perform to prevent injury and ingress to the device.” 

Erickson blames sterile barrier integrity failure to either “the dynamic forces of shock/vibration in transit or long-term degradation while on the shelf.” Such failures include: 

  • Premature seal creep/seal channels.
  • Cracks, crushing, denting.
  • Punctures.
  • Tears.
  • Abrasion.

Rosenblum says that “as with any transportation test, you want to strain the package to its worst-case scenario in the shipping environment. That means applying the hottest/coldest temperatures and humidity on the package, dropping it from various heights, vibrating it like it would experience on the truck or airplane, and much more.”

She adds that “single-parcel shipments are undergoing the same scrutiny, although methods are currently developed to address that particular environment. For example, ISTA 6 is a standard that has been specifically developed for Amazon single parcel shipments.”   

Test methods are always adapting to fit new environmental conditions and market changes, Rosenblum says. Adds Erickson: “Consensus standards are continuously evolving and changing to meet the needs of industry. Most notably, there was a new revision of ASTM D4169 in 2016 that affected the truck vibration simulation to align with updated data from the field; there are on-going changes to various climate conditioning procedures to address different exposure durations occurring in overnight shipments versus ground shipments.” 

Packaging Compliance Labs and Oliver Healthcare Packaging routinely partner to help companies optimize product-packaging system design, Erickson says. This includes “building confidence in design through feasibility trials and experimentation and diagnosing root-cause issues resulting from transportation or aging failures,” he says. “This partnership provides clients with turnkey support to overcome project obstacles, improve project outcomes, and accelerate project timelines.”

Join us May 17 for “Packaging Integrity Fail? Think Inside the Box to Ace Your Next Transit Test! [You can view this webcast now, on demand.]