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Articles from 2019 In July

Unique pickle packaging stacks up at retail

Unique pickle packaging stacks up at retail
The horizontal pack of Sandwich Makers slices, available from Grillo’s Pickles, facilitates easier storage on retail shelves and at home, while preserving product quality.

Refrigerated pickle maker Grillo’s Pickles has launched its Sandwich Maker dill slices in unusual tub packaging. While most pickle containers stand the whole or sliced preserved cucumbers inside on end, these packages lay the product on their side, mirroring how they are consumed.

The tubs are composed of clear polypropylene that enables shoppers to see the pickles and whole spices inside. In-mold labeling bears the brand name and old-fashioned graphics. It also allows as much of the product to be seen as possible.

According to Travis Grillo, CEO and founder, the horizontal packaging helps the brand stand out from competing products and preserves quality.

“The majority of pickle brands use vertical jars or tubs, rather than the horizontal packaging, even when packaging flat-sliced pickles,” Grillo says. “Through the use of our new horizontal shape, we’re able to keep each pickle slice fully submerged in brine at all times to keep them fresh for the ultimate crunch and flavor in every bite.”

He added that the shape also makes it easier to stock on refrigerated shelves, and store in consumer’s refrigerators at home. In addition to the horizontal Sandwich Makers tubs, Grillo’s Pickles offers a range of other pickle products in upright tubs, also made of PP with in-mold labels.

Sandwich Makers are available at retailers across the country, including Target, Hy-Vee, Mariano’s and others.


MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) is where serious packaging professionals find technologies, education and connections needed to thrive in today’s advanced manufacturing community. See solutions in labeling, food packaging, package design and beyond. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.

How to leverage the strengths of five generations in your packaging department Five-generations-stock-image

Diversity is highly regarded in the workplace, but rarely sustained as an organizational strength. Additionally, diversity of thought is challenging because it can be observed in the organization’s skill to harness the divergent mindsets and converge toward a single successful objective.

In today’s workplace, some combination of five generations are actively employed—each offering different mindsets to any given objective.


Consider two common organizational perils impeding generational diversity. First, the company that executes efficiently with agreement, mostly from the generation “in charge”—are they producing the most innovative solutions? Or, the company that employs vibrant viewpoints and launches a concept riddled with compromise—how effective is an established company that cannot focus for the mission?

One way to capture cross-generational diversity is to look for the strengths of each generation and leverage them into the company’s operating mindset. Each generation derives unique mindsets from their formative time-bound context. It is the next “Strengths Finder” approach, now applied to the generational mindsets.

Focus and leverage what each does best—and ignore the rest (yes, even the overplayed jokes about Millennials). I have drawn and observed these strengths in my decade-plus working inside the world of packaging; a generationally diverse population that is on the brink of generational isolation or collaboration.

The packaging industry, established in 1950’s, is a relatively young industry—but with the onset of five generations and the pioneers of packaging nearing retirement, the threat is real and the opportunity ready—to be determined by how we handle generational mindsets.

Each of the five generations has distinctive mindsets that enrich the team.

Will we allow the generations of experience and knowledge to step off in silence? Or do they step aside in chosen solitude, because the “game has changed”?

Will we tag all the young generations as too “green” and miss a big idea? Will we delegate doing the “green” thing to the next generation? (View video “Gen Z on technology, packaging jobs and the environment.”)

Will your packaging department succession plan look like an Olympic handoff? Or a multi-generational mastermind?

It’s up to you—take the first step and grab a coffee with that generation you want to learn more about. That’s usually how all great things start out—pouring over coffee.


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6 package design tips you probably haven’t heard before

6 package design tips you probably haven’t heard before
Can you find a way to creatively use the bottom of your package to connect with consumers like Rocky Mountain Provisions did?

Finding real estate on your package for real engagement with customers just takes a little creative thinking…and some pointers from someone who’s been there, done that.

For those who make their creative contributions via the written word, package design often feels like that velvet roped off club you can’t get into.

Packaging purists want to simplify in the name of clean design. Understandably, the notion of adding more elements feels counterintuitive. But then again, there’s also the old adage that content is king.

So somewhere in the full, 360 brand experience, you’ve gotta pick your spots.

This isn’t a calling to carve out more space for the classic back panel romance copy or origin story. It’s more about surprising and delighting your consumer in a way only your brand can and in places you perhaps haven’t considered much in the past. 

1. Start from the bottom up

The bottom of the package isn’t always top of mind. But you never know how it’ll be shelved at home. For Lucky Charms, it was a chance to share magical good fortune. With Rocky Mountain Provisions, it was about inspiring a natural connection with the outdoors (see image at top of page).

2. Give ’em your best opening line

Does a tear strip have to say open here, or can convey the same in a more interesting way? For Blue Bunny, it became an opportunity build anticipation with “pull slowly, drumroll please.”

3. Blow the lid off

With Chilly Cow, a bodacious brand statement became a compelling design element. On the flipside, under the lid can also be a good spot for a joke punchline or riddle reveal.

4. Stick or schtick?

Why throw away a chance to add a little joy? When dropped, a frozen confection stick could suddenly become “an ant bridge to paradise” or “a squirrel’s kayak paddle.”

5. Crack the code

If the barcode is a packaging mandate, you might as well have some blippin’ fun with it. The idea of infusing design into a barcode isn’t entirely new, but when done right, it can be a clever way to celebrate a key point of differentiation like we did here with PopCorners.

6. Deliver the goods

If your product is shipped, consider the outer box as another chance to bring your brand personality right to their front door. The brand experience begins the moment the package is in their hands. First impressions matter. Make it count.


MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) is where serious packaging professionals find technologies, education and connections needed to thrive in today’s advanced manufacturing community. See solutions in labeling, food packaging, package design and beyond. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.

Top sustainable companies by state

Top sustainable companies by state
Packaged brands and packaging suppliers are among the elite of sustainability that made the list.

An infographic of the top sustainable companies from each state includes those familiar to packaging professionals as either brands or vendors.

There are any number of ways to view the sustainable packaging market including by market, material type and a host of other variations. Which is why there are numerous research reports about sustainability that also extends far beyond the relative constraints of packaging.

Distributor Shorr Packaging took an interesting and colorful geographic approach to the latter in creating and publishing an infographic that lists the top company from each state as judged by sustainable practices, drawn from four key industry studies: Newsweek’s Top 500 Global Companies rankings, Barrons’ “100 Most Sustainable U.S. Companies” list, Corporate Knights’ “2019 Global 100” ranking, and Rubicon’s “Top Sustainable Small Businesses in Each State” list. Companies in each state were determined by their ranking in each list and/or their combined rankings if the state was featured in multiple lists.

The result is a colorful map of the United States where each particular state winner’s brand logo appears within the familiar state outline. Notably, several consumer packaged goods companies and packaging vendors are recognized. Examples of major brands that were mapped include Campbell’s (NJ), Estee Lauder (NY), Nike (OR), and Tyson’s (AR).

Campbell’s, for example, was named in January one of the Top 100 World’s Most Sustainable Corporations by Corporate Knights whose criteria included transparency.

In fiscal year 2018, Campbell’s reported in its 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report that it reduced greenhouse gas emissions, diverted 92% of waste from landfills and made further progress on measuring and reducing food waste. In 2018 it had transitioned 100% of its cans to non-Bisphenol-A lined. You can read more about Campbell’s packaging developments published by Packaging Digest here.

Campbell’s was one of 22 U.S. companies that made the Top 100 list and one of only two U.S. food companies singled out, the other being McCormick & Co. (MD). It seems since the hiring four-and-a-half years ago of Michael Okoroafor as the spice brand’s VP, global sustainability & packaging innovation, the spice maker has been making sustainability a more essential ingredient in its packaging, too. In 2018, McCormick made a bold public commitment to 100% plastic packaging that can be reused, recycled or repurposed by 2025. The company has furthered its plastics focus by joining The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

You can read more about the brand’s packaging efforts on the pages of Packaging Digest here.

Supply-side sustainability

Several packaging vendors made the cut including Sonoco Products (SC) and Ball Corp. (CO).

Sonoco, a packaging supplier in consumer, industrial, display and protective solutions markets, had $5.4 billion in net sales in 2018 using formats that include flexible packaging and rigid plastic and paper containers. In a recent presentation to analysts, Sonoco noted that it is committed to increasing the use of post-consumer recycled resins in its plastic packaging from 19% to 25% by 2025 and is ensuring that approximately 75% of its global rigid plastic packaging can make the capable of make the on-package recyclable claim by 2025.

Ball operates in the packaging and aerospace markets, though it is far better known to readers as a major supplier of aluminum cans for beverages and aerosols.  Last fall, John A. Hayes, Ball chairman, president and chief executive officer, said this: “Packaging is critical to delivering consumer products safely, conveniently and in good condition. And cans truly are the most sustainable package—economically and environmentally—relative to glass, plastic and other substrates, enabling a circular economy. We are making meaningful progress in implementing sustainable business practices, further enhancing the sustainability credentials of metal packaging along the value chain, and transitioning to a low carbon economy, including our recently announced science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction target."

One of Ball’s most recent sustainable initiatives is the April announcement that it has made two virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs)—one wind and one solar—for 388 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy that allows it to address 100% of the North American electricity load utilized in its corporate, packaging and aerospace operations by the end of 2021.

Bigger and smaller

The map was compiled regardless of company size, for example along with well-known large companies you’ll find lesser knowns like Badger Body Care, NH, a small family-owned brand that “only uses ingredients that fit our rigorous natural standards for healthy agriculture, minimal processing, sustainable supply chain, and health-giving properties.” The apparent lone bow to packaging at the company website found on the FAQs page answered a question if BPA was in the company’s plastic tubes with the answer that “no, they are BPA- and phthalate-free.”

Another smaller packaged goods brand, Tanka, represented the state of South Dakota. Brand owner Native American Natural Foods, LLC “is focused on creating a family of nationally branded buffalo-based food products that are delicious and that promote a Native American way of wellness that feeds mind, body, and spirit.” The products, which are gluten-, nitrate-, MSG- and hormone-free, are offered as packaged bars, bites and sticks.

I checked my birth state of Iowa, where Rockwell Collins heads the list—I frankly didn’t know an avionics company had a presence in the Hawkeye state. I also found in my home state of Illinois that Grainger Industrial Supply tops the crop of sustainable leaders.

See what company leads your particular state or if you see anything worth commenting on—if so, please post your remarks below.

We split the infographic into three parts for this article, but to view the entire infographic intact with a summary explanation visit the Shorr site here.

New plastic discovered: Solution to pollution?

New plastic discovered: Solution to pollution?
PDK plastics are a “circular” material whose original monomers can be recovered for reuse for as long as possible, or “upcycled” to make a new, higher quality product. Photo credit: Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab

Plastic packaging pundit Chandler Slavin comments on a new “infinitely recyclable” plastic that redefines the economics of packaging recycling. Poly(diketoenamine) or PDK could offer a solution to waste and pollution in the oceans.

Environmental dread, that pang you feel in your chest when you read another story about the decay of our natural environment. Plastics pollution in particular, a magnifying glass through which we see our over-consumptive, throwaway society. 

Plastic packaging has long been the scapegoat of our collective environmental anxiety: We touch it, we recycle it—yet it persists in our natural environment. This is because there is no easy money in recycling. With the exception of aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and uncoated corrugate, most post-consumer packaging isn’t recycled domestically because the cost of collection, sortation, and reprocessing outweighs the value of the recovered material. Many municipalities have stopped collecting glass for this reason; and mixed paper, previously sent to China for reprocessing before its import ban, no longer has a home

Prior to China’s ban on recovered-material imports, the low cost of manual separation, married with the lack of environmental regulations and waste management accountability, long provided an end market for America’s “recyclables:” Reused, recycled, buried or burned, the value of the material was at best degraded, and most likely, lost. With these rapidly developing countries—China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam—generating nearly 60% of all plastics entering the ocean each year, plastics pollution results largely from poor waste management in the same countries that America is sending its waste to. 

This is the foundation of the plastics pollution problem today. If there is no post-use value to motivate its collection for recovery, then plastics will continue to be disposed of irresponsibly. 

Plastics, due to their lightweight and versatile nature, offer shipping efficiencies, food preservation and product protection. The environmental costs of producing food and products far exceed that of the packaging that protects it. Yet plastic packaging is seen as cheap and disposable. How do you internalize the environmental value of plastics so that it is seen as worthy of recovery?

Natural capital accounting firm, TruCost, quantifies the environmental costs of products over their lifecycle: It finds that if plastics were replaced with alternative materials, like paper, glass, or aluminum, then the net environmental cost would be at a factor of 4:1. This means that you would need roughly four times the amount of alternative material to achieve the same function as plastics. This need to up gage for material substitutions has significant ramifications on the environmental cost of the packaging over its lifecycle. 

Unfortunately, natural capital accounting is in its infancy: Policy or shareholders don’t manage these costs. Thus, the environmental burden of the products and services that we consume today will be carried on the backs of future generations. 

Bans on single-use disposable plastic packaging attempt to slow the tide of plastics pollution. Commitments to reduction from consumer brands  hope for the same. Yet these efforts dismiss the environmental repercussions of material substitutions, while neglecting to address the systemic causes of plastics pollution. Targeting the symptom instead of the disease, we focus on the low-hanging fruit of sustainability, discouraging innovation.

If we engineered the plastics pollution problem, then why can’t we engineer the solution? 

On April 22, scientists at Berkeley Labs published a report in the journal Nature Chemistry that made global headlines. Titled Closed-loop recycling of plastics enabled by dynamic covalent diketoenamine bonds,  the report discusses the discovery of a new plastic, poly(diketoenamine) or PDK, that can facilitate a circular economy for plastic. PDK can be recycled over and over again without compromising its quality, and therefore, maintains its value post-use.

Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Labs, and staff scientist, Brett Helms, together with co-authors Angelique Scheuermann and Kathryn Loeffler, discovered a way to build plastics with recyclability as the foundation of its molecular constitution.

Time-lapsed breakdown of PDK

This time-lapse video shows a piece of PDK plastic in acid as it degrades to its molecular building blocks—monomers. The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from the chemical additives that give plastic its look and feel. (Credit: Peter Christensen/ Berkeley Lab)

By replacing the stubborn chemical bonds of traditional plastics with “reversible bonds,” the original monomers of PDK can be recovered by being submerged in a highly acidic solution. These recovered monomers can then be made into a host of different plastics while maintaining their “virgin” quality over cycles of use. Many plastics—because of the multitude of types produced (such as colored, rigid, flexible or multi-composite materials)—are hard to recycle via conventional methods, because the challenge of sortation and reprocessing at the municipal level. “Lookalike” plastics get reprocessed together as a low-grade plastics mix, the end markets to which are often limited and without economic value. 

The ease of recycling PDK back to its original quality and without the need for expensive recycling technologies is a breakthrough for the economically viable recovery of plastics. 

The authors conclude:

“Recovered monomers can be re-manufactured into the same polymer…without loss of performance…the ease with which [PDK] can be manufactured, used, recycled and re-used—without losing value—points to new directions in designing sustainable polymers with minimal environmental impact.”

Plastics, historically trapped in the linear economic model of production, use and disposal, have the opportunity to participate in the circular economy as demonstrated with the discovery of PDK. Modeled after the regenerative framework of nature, the circular economy creates no waste because all system inputs produce equally valuable outputs.

PDK demonstrates how innovations spurred by human ingenuity can redefine our relationship with plastics. A concrete manifestation of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “New Plastics Economy,” PDK offers hope.

We have the opportunity to change our perception of plastics: Not as something that is cheap and disposable, but something that is valuable, something to be saved. In viewing problems like plastics pollution with a magnifying glass, we neglect the panoramic view. Only in seeing the big picture can innovation occur, and only with innovation can we transcend.

New plastic for food packaging is infinitely recyclable

New plastic for food packaging is infinitely recyclable
PDK monomers can be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. Photo courtesy Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab

A new packaging plastic aims to leapfrog the paltry U.S. recycling rates of around 30% for polyester and high-density polyethylene—the two highest recycled packaging plastics, according to Environmental Protection Agency stats. Meet PDK, poly(diketoenamine), a new potential game-changing polymer that can be manufactured, used, recycled and re-used—without losing its properties or value.

Developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, PDK is described as recyclable plastic that, “like a Lego playset, can be disassembled into its constituent parts at the molecular level, and then reassembled into a different shape, texture, and color again and again without loss of performance or quality,” according to a press release on the Berkeley Lab website.

The technology is available for licensing and collaboration. Interested? Contact Berkeley Lab’s Intellectual Property Office.

How can this new “infinitely recyclable” plastic be used for packaging? Packaging Digest asked PDK researchers at the Berkeley Lab about the material’s packaging applications, as well as its potential impact in the existing recycling infrastructure.


PDF researchers (left to right) Peter Christensen, Kathryn Loeffler and Brett Helms. Photo credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

What are the physical properties of PDK? Clarity, pliability/rigidity, manufacturing method (blow or injection molding, thermoforming)?

The physical properties of PDKs are reminiscent of nylons and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPUs).

Will PDK be a suitable plastic for packaging applications? If so, how could PDK be used for packaging?

We envision using PDKs to facilitate the deconstruction of multilayer food packaging.

How does PDK compare/contrast with other packaging plastics, specifically polyethylene terephthalate (PET)?

We do not see PDKs as an immediate replacement for PET. Rather for the non-recyclable plastics, or instances where plastics like PET are compounded to such a great extent that it’s no longer recyclable or when PET is part of a non-deconstructable multi-material assembly.

How might PDK impact the plastics recycling systems already in place, especially for PET?

Sorting schemes for PDKs are possible, as they have a distinctive chemical signature relative to other plastics. Regarding waste processing: Once sorted, our process is likely as easy to scale as Loop’s depolymerization process for PET.

Dairy tests 100% recycled content multilayer cheese bag

Dairy tests 100% recycled content multilayer cheese bag
This may be the first multilayer flexible food package made entirely with recycled content material, according to involved partner BASF.

Multilayer food packaging can be sustainable packaging—if chemistry, rather than mechanical processes, is used for recycling. That is the finding of a European pilot project that used chemical recycling to break down plastic waste for conversion into a two-layer film for a prototype cheese package.

Germany’s Zott Gourmet Dairy and chemical companies BASF and Borealis, and film supplier Südpack collaborated on the project, which used BASF’s ChemCycling technique to convert plastic waste into pyrolysis oil via thermochemical processing. The plastic waste included mixed plastics, which aren’t suited to mechanical recycling.

The pyrolysis oil was used as feedstock to produce polyamide and ethylene at BASF’s Verbund production site in Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF supplied this ethylene to Borealis, which then processed it into polyethylene resin.

“This approach underlines the need for collaboration on such topics in the industry,” says Christoph Gahn, vp business management Europe Polyamides and Precursors at BASF SE.

Using the polyamide and polyethylene from BASF and Borealis, Südpack manufactured a two-layer, food-safe film which is in test phase at Zott as a package for its Zottarella mozzarella cheese. The package provides the barrier properties and other characteristics Zott requires for its sustainably produced mozzarella.

Gahn answers some questions from Packaging Digest about the pilot and the future of chemical recycling for multilayer packaging.

In the prototype Zottarella packaging, are both layers of the film 100% recycled content?

Gahn: The packaging was produced with raw materials obtained from plastic waste via chemical recycling. The raw material was fed into BASF’s production chain as a replacement for fossil resources and was then mathematically allocated to the final packaging by using a certified mass balance approach. In this case, 100% of the required fossil feedstock for the production of this product was replaced in the production site by the recycled raw material.

Is this the first multilayer film to be made from 100% recycled material?

Gahn: We cannot rule out that somebody has produced such a film before. To our knowledge, this is the first packaging produced in commercial-scale processes.

What is the status of this ChemCycling project currently? Gahn: We are still testing and evaluating the technical implementation and developing chemical recycling at BASF as a business. In a first step, we have sourced small batches of pyrolysis oil, fed it into the Verbund facility and manufactured first pilot products with our customers.

As a next step, we plan to launch first products in the market which are made with purchased pyrolysis oil. The commercial scale-up depends on the further development of the technology (for example, supply and quality of pyrolysis oil), the regulatory environment (for example, acceptance of the technology and processes of mass balance in the calculation of recycling quota) as well as other factors (for example, cost structure of waste management).

Meanwhile, BASF is cooperating with selected partners (like Zott) to develop chemical recycling further along the value chain in pilot projects. As soon as first/larger quantities of pyrolysis oil are available, these pilot projects shall be transferred to small-scale serial production.

When will Zott’s Zottarella packaging roll out commercially?

Gahn: This has to be aligned with the project progress. Most probably in the coming years.

Creative multipack designs earn students cash awards

Creative multipack designs earn students cash awards
The top award was presented at NextPack 2019, the Summit on the Future of Packaging organized by the Southeast Chapter of the Institute of Packaging Professionals. NextPack took place at The Coca-Cola Co. headquarters in Atlanta in May 2019.

The Coca-Cola Co. and Mondelēz asked packaging students to reimagine either the Coke Fridge Pack or the ecommerce Variety Pack of Oreos, Ritz and Chips Ahoy. Solutions to these real-world design challenges showcase the creativity, skills and talents of tomorrow’s packaging design professionals.

The 48-Hour RePack Student Awards Competition, organized by the Institute of Packaging Professionals, Southeastern Chapter, celebrated its 10th year in 2019.

Each year for the challenge, students are given just 48 hours to research, design and physically produce a redesigned package of a common household product, which changes each year. They also have to create a video presenting their idea and package.

This year, 25 teams from universities and colleges across the United States with packaging programs participated, with three teams earning awards and getting recognized for their innovations at NextPack 2019, an annual event put on by IoPP’s Southeastern Chapter.

The Coca-Cola Co. and Mondelēz sponsored the 2019 competition. Scott Biondich, president of the IoPP Southeastern Chapter, says, “Every year I am blown away by the creativity and incredible amount of work that these students manage to accomplish in just 48 hours.”

Judges for this year’s competition were:

• Bimal Kumar Lakhotia, director, Plastic R&D COE, Coca-Cola North America.

• Brian A. Rice, senior director, Design & Packaging Innovation, Georgia-Pacific.

• José Reyes, founder and creative director, Metaleap Creative.

Plans for next year’s competition have been set for Jan. 24-26, 2020, with the winners to be recognized at NextPack 2020, scheduled for next April 28.

And now, here are the winners of the 48-Hour RePack Student Awards Competition…

1st Place: Modular multipack helps Coke Fridge Packs fit into small spaces

Clemson University students Ryan Nielson, Tyler Gunter and Theresa Ciccarell won first place for their creative redesign of the Coke Fridge Pack, earning $3,000. Their NEW Break and Take Pack is a modular 8-can multipack that separates into dual 4-packs, thanks to a center perforated strip, so they can fit better into crowded or small refrigerators while still offering all the convenience features of the typical 12-can Fridge Pack.

Since the shape of the package resembles a boom box, the students created related graphics, with an AM/FM tuner, volume and selection dial on the principal display panel. Additionally, a speaker-driver shaped area doubles as placement for the Coke Zero Sugar logo. The video shows the flexibility of the multipack’s multiple orientations, as well as how new handles allow people to carry the pack on their shoulder, like a boom box.

Click here to watch the video.

NEXT: Mondelēz variety pack is efficient, reusable


2nd Place: Mondelēz variety pack is efficient, reusable

Virginia Tech students Emilee Wooten, Katelyn Farkas and Gillian Cubbage placed second, and earned $2,000, for their Mondelēz Intl. variety pack holding currently available family-size packages of Oreo cookies, Chips Ahoy! cookies and Ritz crackers (all Mondelēz brands that are often purchased in one order). The variety pack meets the requirements for Amazon’s SIOC (Ships in Own Container) ecommerce packaging and provides an efficient direct-to-consumer transport. It consists of an outer E-flute case that holds three paperboard trays that slide out like drawers, with handholds making that easy. Each family-size package sits inside the drawer and, except for the Ritz crackers, can be opened and closed while still inside the drawer/tray. Trays can be reused by refilling with family-size packs bought at the store or by holding other products.

Case graphics are simple brand logos on a comforting blue background.

Click here to watch the video.

NEXT: Variety pack ‘unfurls,’ revealing contents and whimsical graphics


3rd Place: Variety pack ‘unfurls,’ revealing contents and whimsical graphics

Earning $1,000 for third place, California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, students Blaine Boyd, Carson Barnes, Marilyn Nguyen, Von Balanon and Shea Irwin also tackled a redesign of the Mondelēz Variety Pack for ecommerce. Inspiration for their solution comes from the ease and simplicity of mailer boxes used for shipping textbooks.

For the new design, die-cut boxes are shipped flat, with integral pop-up spacers/cushions, for maximum efficiency from the box maker to the seller. SIOC shippers are then formed and packed with products. The rectangular shape of the E-flute corrugated pack also meets Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) guidelines for easy stacking during storage and shipping. And playful graphics using brand colors evoke feelings of nostalgia with hand-drawn images of cookies and crackers.

To open the pack, consumers tear a perforation across the entire top of the box (no scissors needed). This allows all four sides of the box to “unfurl” and reveal the contents, which appear in their correct orientation—the Ritz carton remains upright, while the Chips Ahoy! and Oreo packs lay flat. According to the entry: “Our team intended for the products to be presented in this manner to the consumer because it accentuates the way that the primary packaging of the products are intended to be opened.”

This style of opening also lets consumers enjoy the whimsical interior graphics.

Click here to watch the video.

AI in packaging: Defining terms, assessing impact—Part 2

AI in packaging: Defining terms, assessing impact—Part 2
PackML and OPC UA make machine connectivity a platform for AI-enabled data collection and analysis. Image courtesy Real Time Automation.

How packaging operations can improve by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed the history of artificial intelligence (AI), the converging factors that are making it possible and the many ways AI may be defined in packaging applications. This article will now focus on AI-related strategies and impacts for packagers, including machine connectivity, zero downtime and rethinking plant layouts.

Connect the equipment, collect the data

Many manufacturers would like to increase the efficiency of their machines but face legacy equipment with different controllers. Some are collecting data but not enough to make a difference. Others are drowning in data with no idea how to process it. Most of all, manufacturers are hampered by conflicting “magic bullets” for collecting and extracting the value they need.

Says John Rinaldi, CEO, Real Time Automation, “The largest cost for new equipment is software integration: integration with other machines, with enterprise business systems, and with Cloud applications. Today’s integration process is time-consuming and exceedingly inefficient. Do I choose the connectivity supported by my PLC vendor? What about Industry 4.0, is that important to me? How can our shop take advantage of AI or machine learning? What are my risks and my returns for investing in Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure Cloud services?”

There is something that manufacturers should do to alleviate at least some of these problems, he continues. Manufacturers should standardize on OPC UA and the Packaging Machine Language (PackML).

OPC UA, (Open Platform Communications—Unified Architecture is a machine communication protocol marked by being more secure, open, flexible and reliable for collecting information from controls, monitoring devices and sensors that interact with real-world data and communicating with enterprise-wide systems (see image above).

PackML is a standard for modeling machine behavior that provides a standard mechanism for monitoring and understanding industrial machine operation. PackML decreases the effort required to exchange data between machines and between users and machines via operator interfaces.

Zero downtime

Ask any plant manager and they’ll tell you they have a lot on their plate, but the number one goal is productivity. Luckily, machine learning and other emerging AI applications are making the concept of zero downtime an achievable reality.

Machine connectivity and AI applications are at the heart of Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system from Fanuc Robotics. FIELD provides advanced analytics and deep-learning capabilities for Fanuc robots, peripheral devices and sensors used in automation systems.

Once FIELD software is loaded and configured, machine data from all automation equipment, including robots, can be accessible to application developers through an open Application Programming Interface (API). Easy access to machine data significantly reduces the effort for a third party to develop applications to run on the FIELD system, including a variety of monitoring, analytic and real-time functions.

Zero Down Time (ZDT) is a Fanuc FIELD application that the company is using to collect data from more than 6,000 robots in 26 factories (in Fanuc’s facilities, as well as in its customers’ plants). ZDT monitors these robots to see if the application is causing abnormal wear that could lead to a failure and, if so, Fanuc sends parts with support to address the issue before any downtime occurs.

With ZDT, FANUC also keeps track of robot usage and sends reminders at appropriate intervals to ensure important maintenance activities are completed on time. As the FIELD system and ZDT grow in the marketplace, Fanuc will be able to help more customers with intelligent condition-based maintenance notifications and help optimize the performance and life of their robots.

Fanuc uses AI to monitor robots for predictive maintenance, what it calls Zero Down Time.

Real-time, real-world

Mike Chen, director of the Omron Automation Center Americas, concurs that interest is building in an AI approach to packaging but specifies it has to take place in the real world. “Whether it’s people or the technology making the decisions, it has to be based on real time in the real world—collecting, analyzing and utilizing the data, with all its intellectual, ethical and often safety-related implications.”

Such an approach makes AI an effective bridge between IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology), leveraging the intelligence of human assets (manufacturing engineers, operators, quality and maintenance personnel) with device intelligence. “The entire process becomes more robust the more we decide what to do with both the data and the decisions we can trust technology to make,” Chen says.

For example, devices such as Omron’s Sysmac AI controller are able to identify abnormal machine behavior without being explicitly programmed to do so. Since there could be many different factors and measurements that indicate an issue when observed together, automating the feature-extraction process saves a significant amount of time and resources. Leveraging machine learning results during production is key to ensuring end user-cost savings.

Keeping that data safe from bad actors is also a factor. Omron’s Sysmac AI operates with its own CPU and function blocks, requiring no internet connectivity or cloud computing. Data collection and analysis is performed within the same hardware as the controls program, which also improves data-processing speed and accuracy.

Controllers use and process AI applications at the device level—no internet or cloud necessary. Image courtesy Omron Automation.

Remaking the packaging line

Smart machines are built on smart components. As Performance Motion Devices CEO Chuck Lewin puts it, software-based motor drives are increasingly becoming the norm. They will continuously collect data from the motor and provide output adjustment commands.

From this wealth of measured motor behavior, algorithmic observers can be built that track changes in the motor, which in turn signal problems in the bearings and other mechanisms. Thus, AI will impact packaging equipment through motion drives that control conveyor belts, cappers, web tensioners, sealers and transfer arms that comprise machine mechanics.

AI is also at the heart of rethinking the factory floor. For example, what would a packaging operation look like without conveyors? Denmark-based Mobile Industrial Robots (MIR) recently launched a new MIR 1000, a mobile robot that can deliver 1,000-kilogram (2,200-lb.) payloads throughout a plant. An industry first, according to the company, is AI-enabled capabilities for improved robot use.

“Intelligent mobile robots make the new industrial layout much more flexible,” says Niels Jul Jacobsen, MIR chief science officer. “Replacing fixed conveyors with easy-to-change layouts mean users can train the system to their needs and changing customer demands.”

Where AI comes in, unlike a traditional automated guidance vehicle (AGV), driving behavior and route planning can change via smart cameras that not only recognize obstacles, but together with machine software can predict blocked areas in advance and reroute. In addition, the MIR mobile robots integrate different top modules including pallet lifts, conveyors or cobots for flexible applications where the work can come to the equipment.

AI-enabled mobile robots could inspire operations without fixed conveyors. Image courtesy Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR).

With better content, better knowledge

Where AI is concerned, proper planning and focus becomes paramount. Algorithmic efficiencies and event predictors are impressive, but the ultimate value is creating knowledge.

Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” In evaluating AI in packaging production operations, collecting data is useless. Collecting and analyzing the right data is everything.

Ray Chalmers is founder and principal at Chalmers Industrial Communications, providing writing services for industrial technology providers since 2007. His career includes 10 years as an editor with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and time as a staff editor on Packaging.


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The new Bosch Packaging Technology: Agile and IoT focused

The new Bosch Packaging Technology: Agile and IoT focused
With new owners, Bosch Packaging Technology will stay focused on technology for the future, including Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.

The Bosch Packaging Technology packaging machinery business—up for sale since June 2018—has been bought by leading private equity and investment advisory firm CVC Capital Partners, headquartered in Luxemburg (pending antitrust approvals). Both parties have agreed not to share certain details, including the purchase price. But executives have confirmed that business will continue as is—albeit as a more agile company focused on digitalization, mobility and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.

This was all part of the selling strategy. When it announced the pharmaceutical and food packaging machinery businesses were for sale last year, the Bosch Group itemized two reasons:

1. The packaging technology units were not part of the group’s core business, which is divided into four sectors—Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology.

2. And, as explained in a press release, “The [packaging technology] company also operates in a competitive environment in which the players are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and who are therefore at a structural advantage. Bosch is certain that its packaging technology operations need to be put on a different footing that will allow them to react more flexibly to the specific requirements of the packaging machinery market.”

About the deal, Alexander Dibelius, CVC Capital Partners managing partner, says, “Together with the management team, we will work to take the business forward in the years ahead, and to make it even more competitive.”

Moving forward, the company will continue to focus resources on “areas of future importance, such as shaping the transformation process and preparing for further digitalization,” as stated in a press release.

All 6,100 associates in 15 countries will remain with the company. Over the years, Bosch Packaging Technology has expanded by buying other companies and brands. The food and pharmaceutical processing and packaging machinery portfolio now includes Ampack, Doboy, Elematic, Hansella, Hüttlin, Klenzaids, Kliklok, Makat, Moeller & Devicon, Osgood, Pharmatec, SBM, Sigpack, Tevopharm, Togum, Valicare and Woodman.

Bosch Packaging Technology is not the first packaging-related business owned by CVC. The private equity firm has also invested in Anchor Glass and ÅR Packaging Group AB, manufacturers of glass, plastic and paperboard containers. The overall CVC portfolio spans various industries: Building/Construction, Business Services, Chemicals, Consumer/Retail, Energies/Utilities, Financial Services, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Media, Tech/Telecoms and Transportation/Infrastructure.