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Articles from 2018 In August


Honoring a medical packaging veteran
Medical packaging advocate Curt Larsen helped develop and advance industry standards and test methods.

Honoring a medical packaging veteran

“If it’s not critical to package performance, then don’t overspecify.”

“Be careful of voluntary standards. There have been occasions where, over time, they have ‘morphed’ into requirements.”

“There is very little control of the packaging system once it leaves your finished goods.”

“…companies must do their homework in evaluating the closures for the maintenance of sterility, in performing proper testing to ensure that they’ll have the barrier they need, and perhaps in reengineering outer shelf containers or multiple containers to keep these devices in usable condition.”

Curt Larsen kept medical device packaging engineers on their toes with such no-nonsense advice for decades. He was known and respected for sharing such practical perspectives, and the above quotes are just a few of those found in the pages of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and MD+DI over the years. As a long-time editorial advisory board member of PMP News, Larsen shared his enthusiasm for medical packaging in countless roundtable discussions and features. (The last quote above is from MD+DI, which counted him among the 100 Notable People in the Medical Device Industry in 2004.)

Larsen passed away August 15.

Larsen was known for more than just his deep knowledge and spirited advice. He was one of the original forces behind the development of ISO 11607, along with John Spitzley, Hal Miller, and Mike Scholla. PMP News reported that AAMI Working Group (WG) 7, Packaging, formed in 1992 within the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for ISO Technical Committee (TC) 198; under the guidance of the first co-chairs Larsen and Spitzley, a draft of major portions of what now forms Part 1 of the two-part standard ISO 11607-1:2006 and -2:2006 was brought forward. The final balloted standard was published in 1997. Years later, ISO 11607 was recognized by FDA as consensus standard.

“The whole ISO 11607 effort started in 1992. It just seems like yesterday. It really was a cornerstone document for our industry and still is—even more so today,” Larsen told us in 2013.

AAMI later developed Technical Information Report (TIR) 22 as a companion guidance document for ISO 11607. “We were successful in seeing a greater adoption of the work that John Spitzley, Hal Miller, Curt Larsen, and Mike Scholla did in formulating the original 11607 documents,” Nick Fotis, who cochaired AAMI TC 198 Working Group 7 on Packaging for several years and oversaw a major revision to TIR 22, told PMP News in 2013.

Says Mike Scholla: “Curt’s efforts in standard and test methods over the last 35 years had a huge impact creating the medical packaging community that exists today. He was a good friend and colleague and I will miss him.” Scholla is currently global director, regulatory and standards, DuPont Medical and Pharmaceutical Protection.

Over the years, Larsen played key roles in ASTM Intl., AAMI, and AdvaMed, in addition to ISO WG TC 198, contributing to the advancement of the science behind sterile barrier systems development and validation. He continued to encourage a greater understanding of ISO 11607 and other resources and didn’t hesitate to point out areas of misunderstanding. In 2011, for instance, he pointed out that “people are still subjecting the same package samples to both aging studies and performance testing. These are two separate endeavors, clearly spelled out in ISO 11607 as well as in the ASTM F1980-07 Standard Guide for Accelerated Aging of Sterile Medical Device Packages.”

Larsen and Spitzley also reinvigorated IoPP’s Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee, holding what Larsen called a “revival meeting” at Pack Expo Intl. in 2002. “This committee gives us a forum to disseminate a lot of information on industry developments. We are also trying to give members an area where they can share nonproprietary information about materials and equipment. Education is our underlying goal,” Larsen told us in December 2003.

Larsen was a 1967 graduate of the Michigan State University School of Packaging. He worked for several medical device companies (Zimmer, Medtronic, Angiomedics {Schneider / SciMed Life Systems / Boston Scientific}, Medical CV {Medical Inc.}, and Smith MD {Deltec Inc.}) as well as DuPont Tyvek Medical Packaging as a packaging engineering consultant for nearly 10 years. He then joined Spitzley to form the packaging consultancy Spartan Design Group.

Together Larsen and Spitzley spent much of their time helping companies “repair self-inflicted wounds,” they told PMP News in 2014. In some cases, companies are “over testing” and experiencing some sort of failure in the lab, but there have been no problems with products on the market nor any field complaints, Larsen said at the time. “Many don’t know what they should be doing when testing or validating package designs. [For instance,] they may be over testing in climatic testing programs, testing a package for a week when the distribution cycle is only a couple days,” he says.

He also encouraged a greater appreciation of the packaging discipline and lamented when not enough time and effort were dedicated to it. “So many resources are dedicated to remediation,” he had observed in 2014. “No one is investing in new packaging development. Packaging development is often left to new product development teams, and some aren’t developing any new packaging.”

Most recently, Larsen participated in the panel discussion “Overcoming the challenges of medical plastics recycling, at MD&M Minneapolis/Minnpack/Plastec Minneapolis 2017, which explored how packaging engineers could help hospitals and other stakeholders overcome recycling challenges. “There may be things we can do as packaging engineers,” he mused. For instance, “What can we do to help end-users recycle packaging?”

Having covered medical device packaging for more than 20 years, I have spoken with Larsen countless times, and each time deepened my appreciation for the critical role played by the sterile barrier system. I will miss seeking and sharing his advice, just as much as you will miss reading it.

Former executive editor of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News, Daphne Allen is now editor-in-chief of Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry (MD+DI), the primary resource for manufacturers of medical devices and in vitro diagnostic products.

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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.

Marchetti: A new generation of packaging professionals
The Marchetti clan attended a recent Poly Pack Symposium at their alma mater Cal Poly: (left to right) Paul, Sarah and Kevin.

Marchetti: A new generation of packaging professionals

The Marchetti siblings—Paul, Sarah and Kevin—share a bond beyond blood: All of them have a passion for packaging. Each one chose a vocation in the field.

• Paul is a packaging engineer at AmazonLab126, with responsibility for structural packaging design, testing and documentation of a variety of electronics, including Amazon’s Kindle e-reader/tablet and Echo smart speakers that connect people to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa.

• Sarah does packaging design and sales at the Packaging Corp. of America (PCA), a leading manufacturer of containerboard and corrugated packaging products.

• Kevin recently relocated to Thailand to work as a packaging engineer at L&E International Ltd., a global supplier of box board, corrugated, point-of-purchase (POP) displays, product literature and specialty packaging for the footwear, athletic, e-commerce, Amazon Packaging Support and Supplier Network (APASS) and consumer products industries.

A family business is not unusual. But what’s a bit remarkable is that this is the first generation of packaging professionals in the Marchetti family—and all of them chose it as a career.

Let’s see how and why this happened.

What got you interested in packaging?

Paul: I stumbled into the field of packaging, not even knowing it was a career option or something that would interest me. I remember taking the Intro to Packaging course at Cal Poly SLO [San Luis Obispo], and Dr. Jay Singh was talking about how much money Coca-Cola saved by removing a small amount of aluminum from the can—the tiny cost savings per unit multiplied across the volume fascinated me. That’s what got me to venture into the packaging space. What really ended up sealing the deal for me was completing my internship at Amazon’s Lab126 hardware group as a packaging engineer. I enjoyed it so much and was fortunate enough to receive an offer to come back full time, once I graduated.

Sarah: Initially, I took the Introduction to Packaging class at Cal Poly because my older brother, Paul, said it would fulfill my elective requirement and it was a fun class. After I took that class and started attending the packaging club meetings, I realized how much opportunity there is in this industry. Each class I took had a lab, which allowed me to work through problems in a very tangible way. The more time I spent doing these projects, the more I realized how much fun I had working with packaging!

Kevin: What got me interested in packaging was my brother and sister’s experiences at Cal Poly. Cal Poly’s Packaging Program is extremely project based and, while at the time I was still an outsider, I was able to see ideas develop and come to fruition, from start to finish. And hearing about the extensive packaging labs at Cal Poly also got me particularly excited, as I enjoy seeing expensive machinery in action.

There are a lot of different career paths in packaging. How did you determine your niche?

Sarah: I spent some time working through the different areas of packaging until I discovered which niche I wanted to settle into. My internship was as a structural designer but I still felt that I wanted to work more collaboratively and not as independently. So for my first job out of college, I took a position as a project manager—which I loved because it allowed me to work with sales people and designers.

As I spent more time as a project manager, I realized that I really enjoyed working with customers directly. This prompted me to take a job in sales. Sales has offered me the collaboration that I desired and the challenge of working with customers in so many different industries. While I work with all different types of packaging, my main focus is protective packaging, which combines foam and corrugated items.            

Paul: I think I am still very much at the beginning of my career and I have my packaging internship to thank for getting me to where I am.

Growing up, I was interested in consumer electronics and that, paired with a company that develops them, has been a great fit for me. Like Cal Poly’s culture of “learn by doing,” I have been enjoying a similar culture with my current job and feel like I’m able to continue to learn and develop myself.

Kevin: It is hard to say that I have already nestled into a niche as I have just begun my first full-time position in industry. However, after doing two internships with a focus on packaging design and packaging testing, I really liked the synergy that these two areas provide with each other. I hope that by combining an understanding of packaging dynamics and packaging design, I will be able to provide creative and effective solutions for customers.

You all graduated from California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, CA. How is it that you all chose the packaging program there for your education?

Paul: I originally applied for the Industrial Technology program at Cal Poly SLO because it would provide me a solid education in both business and technology. I found that there also was a packaging minor you could sign up for, and I did that after taking my first packaging course. What kept my interest in the program were the professors and the hands-on lab courses.

I really stumbled across the program and am very happy I did.

Kevin: Selecting the correct major is extremely important. While at the time I did not know exactly what I wanted to do with my career, I saw packaging as an opportunity to be both a creative and extremely technical outlet, which was something I had been searching for.

As for Cal Poly, both my brother and sister’s experiences were phenomenal: amazing faculty, a beautiful area and great career opportunities. All things considered, the choice was relatively easy.

Sarah: I took a different path from my brothers as I was an AgBusiness major concentrating in marketing. When I first started at Cal Poly, I didn’t know that I would even take a packaging class. But as I spent more time with the faculty and realized how much energy was behind this program, I realized that this was very special.

The packaging program at Cal Poly is small compared to other big packaging schools. In combination with the project-based classes, Cal Poly students get a well-rounded education with a great deal of experience.

Do you talk “shop” at family get-togethers and what do your relatives think of your discussions?

Kevin: I am guilty of this, as I personally talk “shop” whenever possible. At family get-togethers, Paul usually endorses this kind of behavior because he knows that I am always excited to discuss these kind of topics.

However, Sarah, on the other hand, usually moves the topic on from packaging before too long. My mother and father usually participate in the form of mentioning some interesting retail packaging seen at Whole Foods and why the packaging caught their eyes.

Paul: Packaging tends to come up most times when we hang out, even when I try to stay away from the topic. At family gatherings, it’s easy for our immediate and extended family members to bring up any packaging they have seen at the store or received from an online shipment, especially when it is a frustrating experience.

I appreciate that our family takes an interest in it and supports all of us as we are starting out our careers.

Sarah: Yes, we often talk packaging when we are home for the holidays but I am a true believer of not bringing work home with you. Our parents are accountants, so they really had to listen and learn when all three of their children decided to go into packaging.

They are so supportive of us all working in this industry and encourage us to talk “shop” when we are home. I can happily say now they both know what an RSC is!

What advice to you have for others who also have family members in the packaging business?

Paul: My advice would be to: enjoy the ability to talk about the job; take advantage of being able to discuss technical details; and learn from each other. I also recommend to make sure you don’t only talk about work!

Kevin: Having family members in industry is really something special that can be mutually beneficial. Not only do they help you expand your professional network greatly, but they also allow you to have people to communicate with as a sounding board for your ideas. Plus, it’s cool and fun to have family in the same industry.

I would say that others who have family members in the packaging industry should take extra time and care to cultivate these relationships if they are not already doing so.

Sarah: I feel so lucky to have family members in the industry! When I run into a roadblock at work I have two experienced resources that I can bounce ideas off of. My advice is to keep in touch and use each other as sources of knowledge.

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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.

Budweiser creates custom bottles for 2018 FIFA World Cup winners

Budweiser creates custom bottles for 2018 FIFA World Cup winners

“After each player on the France National Football Team picked up his winner’s medal at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, he also received a surprise: a Budweiser with his name digitally printed onto the bottle.”

This 2-page article gives you an inside look at the digital printing technology that allowed Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) to deliver a custom Budweiser bottle to each player at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final.

This article was supplied to Packaging Digest by Anheuser-Busch InBev and includes insights from Budweiser’s global director Chris Perkins and global packaging director Greg Bentley, who was the technical lead on Coca-Cola’s “Share A Coke” campaign before he joined ABI.

Download the PDF for free by clicking below.

Flexible Packaging
How flexible packaging trends are shifting and why
Sustainability, automation, ecommerce and more are influencing and responding to the growth of flexible packaging in the U.S. market.

How flexible packaging trends are shifting and why

Technological innovation, sustainability concerns and attractive economics are among the reasons for the phenomenal growth of flexible packaging in the last two decades in the U.S. With an estimated $31 billion in sales in 2017, according to the Flexible Packaging Assn., brand owners are embracing films, pouches and bags as a go-to packaging solution, thanks in part to wide acceptance by American consumers.

But we’re also seeing aluminum sourcing concerns because of U.S. tariffs, as well as major competitive moves—reflected, for example, by the recent Amcor acquisition of Bemis.

With flexible packaging so much in the spotlight, Packaging Digest wanted to see what is shifting in the market. So we conducted a virtual roundtable with five industry experts from various areas in the supply chain: resin supplier Nova Chemicals; printing press maker Comexi; extrusion/coating equipment company Davis-Standard; converter Berry Global; and form-fill-seal machinery manufacturer Pro Mach.

Their insights show how this dynamic market continues to advance, despite some challenges.

Here are the questions we asked:

1. What top trends are you seeing in flexible packaging and why? What are the drivers?

2. What challenges is the flexible packaging market encountering now and how are they being addressed?

3. Where do you see the biggest growth for flexible packaging moving forward and why?

4. What, if anything, is different about the sustainability message of flexible packaging today versus, say, two or three years ago?

Now, the insights from…

Jonathan Quinn, performance films market development manager, Nova Chemicals, a plastics and chemical company that makes resins for flexible packaging.

Raúl El-Fakdi, flexo brand manager, Comexi, a family-run manufacturer of flexographic printing, offset printing, gravure printing, laminating and slitting equipment.

 Louis Piffer, senior sales engineer, Davis-Standard, a designer, manufacturer and supplier of plastics and rubber processing equipment, and extrusion technology and extruder converting systems.

Tarun Manroa, evp and general manager, engineered materials division, Berry Global, a Fortune 500 global manufacturer and marketer of plastic packaging products, including pouches.

Troy Snader, svp, flexible packaging, Pro Mach, a comprehensive provider of complete packaging machinery solutions, from line design to the end of the line and beyond.

Jonathan Quinn, performance films market development manager, Nova Chemicals, a plastics and chemical company that makes resins for flexible packaging.

What top trends are you seeing in flexible packaging and why? What are the drivers?

Quinn: From an economic perspective, trends like consolidation—such as Amcor’s announcement to acquire Bemis—clearly will continue, and we also will see some further uncertainty related to the trade war. Regardless, we believe that packaging trends in the North American market place are driven by the consumer. And three major consumer trends are sustainability, convenience and ecommerce.

1. Sustainability: Shifting demographics and consumer preferences are driving the demand for more sustainable solutions, in packaging and far beyond. Negative publicity around ocean gyres and plastic-filled beaches only add to the urgency to increase recyclability, curbside collection, sorting capabilities and finally innovation to increase demand for recyclable materials. Rigid-to-flexible conversion, with its huge sustainability benefits, has been a trend for some time now. Add to all of these the opportunities resulting from more cost-effective and technologically feasible recyclable packaging solutions available today, and sustainability is at the top of everyone’s list.

We are at a unique point in the history of flexible packaging. According to the New Plastics Economy, major brand owners and retailers—including Danone, Mars, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, and Walmart—are working towards goals around all reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging, and these initiatives are speeding the shift to recyclable flexible packaging.

There is also a significant push by flexible packaging companies for sustainable packaging today. All in all, we’re seeing a critical mass of players moving the needle, after many years of talking about the need for action.

2. Convenience, convenience, convenience! The consumer of today is very different than that of the traditional consumer 20 years ago. The younger generations’ typical lifestyle is busier and busier, and at the same time, they’re looking for healthier options—that often require performance packaging. Everyone is on the go and these buyers want the products they consume to be delivered quickly, consumed easily and disposed of efficiently.

3. Ecommerce: Ecommerce is a game-changing example of the convenience trend. Its efficiencies, coupled with the ease of comparison shopping, are also driving down prices in many sectors. As Business Insider reports, ecommerce is driving virtually all retail growth, and its impact on flexible packaging will grow with it.

According to FMI, the online grocery market alone may reach $100 billion by 2022. Better performing flexible packaging solutions—especially seal integrity and abuse resistance so products arrive at the consumer’s door intact—will be a must to support the more rigorous ecommerce supply chain.

What challenges is the flexible packaging market encountering now and how are they being addressed?

Quinn: We see three challenges, as well.

1. Speed of transformative change: The biggest challenge we see moving forward is innovating at the rate of speed required to keep up with rapidly evolving business models. The meal kits delivery business is a great example. In 2018, we are going to get a good idea if this market segment is going to sink or swim. A key driver for it to survive and thrive will be packaging performing at the highest levels, providing consumer confidence that every week their food will arrive fresh and safe to consume. The “safe to consume” aspect will be that the products be efficiently packaged in well insulated secondary package. In addition, meal kit customers feel the amount of packaging is excessive and non-recyclable, according to a Packaged Facts report, so primary and secondary packaging will also have to have a sustainable format.

2. Consumer perception of plastics: Anti-plastics sentiment continues to rise, both in absolute numbers and relative to perceptions of alternative materials. Consumers are being exposed to media and publications showcasing the negative aspects of one-time-use plastics. Municipal bag bans are cropping up and companies like McDonald’s are discontinuing the use of styrenics, among other moves across the globe.

Our industry can and must do a better job of helping consumers see the benefits of plastics in the context of the total lifecycle environmental footprint. We need to go even further, and help to develop the circular economy, which today is just starting to take shape.

3. Personalizing the consumer experience: Everything from Coke bottles and cans to candy bars are being marketed as a unique experience for each and every consumer. This trend started in the digital realm and now younger consumers especially expect it with their goods as well. As a result, companies are being forced to find new ways to connect with consumers and give them an individualized experience. The challenge lies both in increased costs to deliver on this experience, and the enormous logistical challenges in implementation.

 

Where do you see the biggest growth for flexible packaging moving forward and why?

Quinn: The big trends noted above are the main drivers of growth in flexible packaging. Here’s why…

Sustainability: A lot of growth in flexible packaging is about conversion that improves sustainability. The first wave was in rigid to flexible, which continues to grow the flexible market tremendously while reducing total lifecycle environmental impact as noted above. The next wave is the move to mono-material and other recyclable film structures, whether from non-recyclable multi-material construction or leapfrog conversions from alternative materials. We see the advent of recyclable performance packaging accelerating the growth of flexible packaging tremendously.

Convenience: Kids have been leading the way in some respects in single serve and on-the-go packaging. Examples include packs of apple slices and carrot sticks, pureed baby food in SUPs with fitments and now squeeze packs of applesauce, or going way back to things like Lunchables. We’re now seeing expansion in products like this marketed to adults. Brands are introducing products like retort oatmeal in a SUP with a fitment, and we’re even starting to see convenience products in the produce aisle. For example, Dole is now offering pineapple and watermelon individually sliced and wrapped in a flow wrap, then collated into a secondary package.

Granola and protein bars really speak to this trend and growth, even though we don’t think of them this way. They’re designed to be the perfect on the go refuel!

3. Ecommerce: We’ll see growth in ecommerce flexible packaging related to application customization. The major drivers—“frustration free” packaging and “ships in own container”—enhance the consumer experience and they’re going to drive flexible into applications where it has not historically been. We’re seeing things like using shrink wrap over a primary packaging box instead of a second box, and products traditionally packaged in clam shells and a secondary shipping box transitioning to an easy-open, abuse-resistant, and tamper-evident pouch or other primary package format.

The sustainability benefits of lighter weight flexible packaging will also come into play in ecommerce. Converting to flexible packaging can reduce material costs, shipping costs and ease logistical challenges. These take cost out of the supply chain for the retailer and the shipper and may in turn lower the retail price for the consumer. Products which needed to be merchandised for the retail environment don’t have the same requirement when sold online, which allows for different package formats and branding. 

Ultimately, the result will likely be convergence, where one package format and structure can be used for both brick and mortar and ecommerce sales. These packages will incorporate the performance and aesthetic requirement of both sales channels, and offering an overall cost advantage over multiple stock-keeping units (SKUs) for identical products.

What, if anything, is different about the sustainability message of flexible packaging today versus, say, two or three years ago?

Quinn: We see a couple of different perspectives on this. First is the messaging opportunity to consumers, which often takes center stage. However, communication within the industry is also essential to developing and commercializing more sustainable packaging offerings.

Consumer messaging: Today, sustainability is a true driver of packaging innovation, where just a few short years ago it was just a buzzword. Again, shifting demographics come into play. Younger generations have a less positive perception of plastics, and sustainable packaging is an imperative to appeal to these consumers. Programs like How2Recycle label are helping consumers understand flexible packaging recycling options, and enabling brand owners to showcase package recyclability, educate consumers and ultimately drive up collection rates. Industry associations are also starting to step up with concerted efforts to promote the benefits of plastics over alternative materials, counterbalancing some of the anti-plastics sentiments we all see in the media.

Flexible packaging sustainability messaging is also focused on reducing waste in general. Newer technologies are enabling downgauging and related benefits in flexibles that reduce material consumption and waste. These packages also play a role in reducing food waste by extending shelf life and reducing spoilage from leakers and other package breaches. As a result, the messaging now is around the positive influence flexible packaging has on sustainability in the entire value chain.

In short, the message is changing. Sustainability is driving action and resources for all of us in the broader plastic packaging industry.

Within the industry: Sustainability is both a challenge and an opportunity throughout the value chain. We can’t find optimal solutions in isolation; we are all interdependent and must collaborate to develop the environmentally responsible packaging that consumers and brand owners are demanding. More and more industry players understand the sustainability opportunity today, and they understand that how we talk to each other about it is essential, as it influences how quickly and even whether a lot of innovation happens.

Also, no discussion of the sustainability of flexible plastics would be complete without noting the impact of China’s National Sword initiative. This initiative is increasing the amount of recyclable materials that need to be consumed domestically by a huge percentage. We’re going to have to think differently about how to expand the profitable uses of flexible recyclables to consume those additional materials.

 

Raúl El-Fakdi, flexo brand manager, Comexi, a family-run manufacturer of flexographic printing, offset printing, gravure printing, laminating and slitting equipment.

What top trends are you seeing in flexible packaging and why? What are the drivers?

El-Fakdi: Trends affecting the whole flexible packaging printing and converting process include:

• Demand of shorter and shorter printing runs.

• Shorter times to market. 

• Need of automation.

• Explosion of new market niches.

• Personalized and differentiated products are increasingly demanded.

• Increasing complex laminating structures, mainly for retort applications.

• New effects to stand out on the shelf: holographic designs, matte packaging, texturizations.

• Emergence of eco-friendly packaging.

• New applications and finishings, such as natural feeling and increase of usage of paper.

• Increase use of window packaging to see real content.

• Search for added-value packaging to differentiate from competitors.

• Personalization of the packaging.

• Easy-open packs that need laser scoring.

• Consumers and converters asking for products and packaging that are more sustainable and lengthen the useful life of food or any other product.

• Converters searching for equipment that offers speed but, above all, the highest productivity and the ability to respond efficiently to the latest needs and trends in the market. 

• Mergers and acquisitions in companies. 

One of the main trends is the constant need of highly efficient and sustainable equipment. Therefore, these past years, Comexi has developed its innovative offset technology, Comexi CI8, which offers more competitive prices, is 100% solventless free printing, uses electron beam (EB) inks and its plates are up to 20 times more economical than traditional ones. Due to its capabilities to offer small runs, it is highly profitable and it is a strong competitor in front of digital printing.

In the flexographic printing sector, Comexi recently launched Comexi F1 flexographic press with robot technology and an automatic changeover system for sleeves, adapters and anilox rolls. Last year, the group also launched Comexi F2 ML press, which significantly reduces the changeover time and increases production time, while improving ergonomics and safety for the operator.

Furthermore, converters are always searching for machinery that reduces downtimes and boosts its productivity. Comexi F1 increases production by 30%, allowing printers to handle 30% more jobs per year.

Another key element is ergonomics and usability. Comexi flexographic presses can be equipped with 100% full line inspection, automatic pressure and register during ramp up of the machine, an inline spectrophotometer and, in offset printing, closed-loop color matching.

Moreover, we have detected an increasing demand for water-based rotogravure, which in terms of sustainability, fits perfectly well with our corporate pillars and strategy. 

Every day, the market is demanding more customized products, so job lengths are getting shorter. At the same time, customers ask for better products in terms of shelf life and usability. It means more complex structures, and many different kinds of materials, some with specific coating and laminating needs that have to be easily interchangeable.

Companies are being forced to lead with complexity and a rise of stock-keeping units (SKUs) and “added value” solutions, like easy-open packs, so enterprises need slitters and rewinders able to deal with more complicate jobs and able to avoid being stopped. Reducing downtimes and fast changeover is critical. In this sense, a simple machine can be working just 30% of the time. Comexi can improve this ratio up to 70% if the customer uses our added-value solutions available, such as double turret rewinders, automatic knife positioning, automatic core positioning or automatic taping, among many others.

And even these upgrades can be improved if the converters automate all the steps that occur after the slitting process, such as labeling, wrapping or palletizing using robots connected to Comexi slitters. This improvement is one of the main ways to drastically reduce downtimes.

In the future, it is possible that all machines installed in a plant will be connected to a cloud system that will help them to improve their efficiency and performance. Not only on giving them different ratios for key performance indicators (KPIs), but also giving them recommendations on how to produce the jobs.

Last but not least, we have seen that, more and more, printers and converters ask for software and tools that provide real time and online data about production speeds to optimize performance. Therefore, we developed the Comexi Cloud tool, the jump to Industry 4.0. This offers online data about production speeds, production output, productivity, set-up times, number of reels produced, and downtime for preventive maintenance and repairs. This tool provides the convertor insights in how to optimize the production efficiency of its production orders. It goes even further with analytics on job costs, based on production time, film, inks and energy consumption. With this system, factories and brand owners can see and understand their data and process to facilitate optimal decision-making. Tracks work every day at any time improving efficiency and analyzing productive and non-productive meters, execution time and trends in work and production.

Comexi Cloud tool.

What challenges is the flexible packaging market encountering now and how are they being addressed?

El-Fakdi: Industry 4.0 and IoT (Internet of Things) will rapidly become more important and we think that could be one of the main challenges in the flexible packaging market. The jobs carried out by printing and converting machinery in the flexible packaging sector are becoming more and more demanding due to the requirements of the new products and formats that are continuously appearing for the different profiles of consumers and requests. This reality means clients have had to settle in a state of continuous improvement, permanently optimizing their resources and processes.

That is why we are convinced that being aware and keeping up to date with everything that happens with the printing and converting processes is crucial, the same way that we monitor and study our sports activities with the aim of improving and being more competitive. These were the main elements that propel the creation of Comexi Cloud. What are the most relevant incidents that affect my production? How long does a mechanical change or adjustment take? What is the availability of the machine? What is being performed at this precise moment? These are just some of the questions that can be answered rapidly with Comexi Cloud, from anywhere and using any type of device.

Comexi Cloud is based on an open Amazon IT-platform enabling complete plant management information and control. Apart from that, in technical field services, we are studying a test with ER (Extended Reality) to provide remotely technical on-site support through our customers’ maintenance engineers.

Following previous indications, all analysis shows important changes on consumer habits and increasing of personal packaging expenses, as well as changes on the type of packaging—rigid to flexible packaging, for example.

Some other main challenges? Converters and printers ask for automation and we have developed equipment that offers a high degree of automation and robotization in all machines, as well as adjustment systems to make the machine more autonomous to answer flexible packaging industry and whole market requests.

Comexi robotics for automation.

Where do you see the biggest growth for flexible packaging moving forward and why?

El-Fakdi: Asia is one of the main future markets in flexible packaging. Consumer habits, population growth, average expenses per person in packaging market and increasing demands are some of the characteristics that have marked this region. Global studies and analysis show a high increase in the Asian’s packaging and flexible packaging sector. Therefore, it is an important market because of its high volume. 

These are some of the main reasons why Comexi has improved a lot of its approach and resources to the Asian markets, especially the south Asian territories, during these last five years. Besides, we are still counting on new and challenging investment plans today and for the long term.

Also, other growing markets are North America, the Middle East and Africa (MEA). On a global scale, the largest flexible packaging market in terms of value is North America, followed by Europe with the highest spend per capita in flexible packaging. However, the growth of the flexible packaging market is undoubtedly in Asia and MEA with an expected increase of spend per capita by the middle class with the growth of the population. This creates interesting opportunities as demand for printing presses and converting equipment will strongly increase.

Companies and brands located in Asia are really interested in high eye-catching visual effects. Therefore, the innovative Comexi Futura machine, which is able to apply holography on flexible packaging films through cast and cure technology, has been successful in this area. This kind of technology provides vibrant images with some exclusive features, producing high added-value packaging.

New businesses are being started in this region by local people who will benefit from the increase in demand for flexible packaging. Besides, new investors are also investing in flexible packaging companies, which further boosts this market. Also, further consolidation of flexible packaging convertors is expected, which will result in a consolidation of factories and strategic investment plans in converting equipment in this region.

What, if anything, is different about the sustainability message of flexible packaging today versus, say, two or three years ago?

El-Fakdi: We could say that sustainable solutions are no longer limited to corporate statements. The industry has proved to be able to develop sustainable technologies on a cost-effective basis and with the quality standards required by the market. For example, Comexi offset printing technology is a 100% solvent-free solution and food safety certified. Another good example is the development of EB-cured inks for flexographic printing. Governments and industry leaders will continue to make joint efforts to reduce the carbon footprint by stimulating innovations in this direction.

In this sense, the newest developments in curing inks (from EB to ultraviolet/UV and UV LED) prove to be more stable and profitable than its predecessors. The demand for sustainable and solvent-free alternatives—and the appearance of new regulations that restrict, or even ban, the use of solvents—is pushing the ink manufacturers to accelerate the development of alternative inks. Once stability is solved, it’s time to increase press efficiency and performance to push profitability to solvent printing levels.

Regarding laminating, solventless adhesives have improved their performance rapidly, and Comexi laminators have adapted to this new trend. Thanks to its sleeve technology, the job only takes two minutes, and the new dosing adjustment from the main machine screen is helping operators control production quality while running at top speed. The new generation of top-of-the-range laminators have a mechanical speed of 500 meters per minute, allowing them to reach the highest production rates.

Water-based adhesives have also significantly improved their performance and can now be used in almost every single application. Thanks to its ultra-fast curing time-to-market, final products can be delivered in the shortest time.

 

Louis Piffer, senior sales engineer, Davis-Standard, a designer, manufacturer and supplier of plastics and rubber processing equipment, and extrusion technology and extruder converting systems.

What top trends are you seeing in flexible packaging and why? What are the drivers?

Piffer: Companies want to be able to run shorter runs more economically. This involves reducing the downtime between running one product to another, which requires less purge time and faster equipment reconfiguration. Fortunately, recent work in adapter and screw design, along with proper purging techniques, can reduce purge times. Faster equipment reconfiguration has been available for some time, it’s just a question of the level of automation required.

What challenges is the flexible packaging market encountering now and how are they being addressed?

Piffer: I have constantly heard plant managers bemoaning the fact that they can’t get good operators and helpers. Lower unemployment level may be good for our country, but it can play havoc with flexible packaging staffing. As an equipment manufacturer, we get asked to provide a line with the proverbial “easy button.” They don’t want a line where the quality of the end product is based mainly on the experience of the operator. To do this, greater automation is required, and variables possibly left to the whims of the operator are being documented, tracked and controlled.

Where do you see the biggest growth for flexible packaging moving forward and why?

Piffer: The growth opportunities remain in the barrier segment with brand owners and converters looking for higher barrier structures to extend shelf life and reduce the need for preservatives and other non-organic additives. Today, market trends are driven by our aging population, as well as the emergence of the Millennials. The successful converter needs to incorporate features that address those trends, such as greater convenience, portion packaging and reduced amount of packaging materials. These features can be key to differentiate a given brand and expand product offerings.

In terms of technology, the increased use of digital printing as part of the converting chain is a growing trend to meet the needs of the market. By surface printing and lacquer coating a pre-lam material as opposed to laminating a reverse-printed film, the converter can realize a cost advantage by printing on demand, which can reduce waste and allow fewer product changes on their extrusion coating lines.

What, if anything, is different about the sustainability message of flexible packaging today versus, say, two or three years ago?

Piffer: The message has not changed much but the reality of what can be done is more aligned with the goals being set. Continued work in using renewable resources is yielding new materials, and easier ways to use recycled materials make it more viable to increase the amount being used—but the challenge remains in closing the gap between the increased cost and the expectation from brand owners not wanting to pay a premium for using these materials.

New equipment is energy efficient, and new technology and automation have reduced the amount of waste being generated, as well as have improved its value in the recycle stream. But this is just the first step in the process. Continued work in source reduction is needed to eliminate “over packaging” by moving to simpler structures utilizing high-performance materials.

 

Tarun Manroa, evp and general manager, engineered materials division, Berry Global, a Fortune 500 global manufacturer and marketer of plastic packaging products, including pouches.

What top trends are you seeing in flexible packaging and why? What are the drivers?

Manroa: We see five top trends:

1. Continued pressure to reduce packaging cost. Consumers moving away from more processed, carb-rich foods are driving a shortfall in sales for packaging of those products. Food companies are responding with cost savings and new product introductions. We have seen an increase in gauge reduction, lower cost materials and margin pressure. We also see a reduced demand for legacy large packaging format products as consumer demand shifts to private label offerings in smaller package formats.

2. Market push for cleaner labels with more recognizable ingredients. This means an increased pressure to improve package performance to protect these new foods, eliminating the need for food preservatives, while still meeting cost targets.

3. Rigid to flexible conversion. We have seen a continued growth in stand-up pouches as a replacement for rigid containers to reduce material content.

4. Ecommerce growth. We have also noticed the shift from retail shopping to online shopping, driving the need for home deliveries.

5. Sustainability. This includes source reduction, down-gauging, recyclability and the use of renewable source materials.

What challenges is the flexible packaging market encountering now and how are they being addressed?

Manroa: Recycling is a challenge for all manufacturers of flexible packaging. We have seen a desire to move to packages made with homogenous material while maintaining product packaging requirements. Material and equipment suppliers are also experiencing this pressure and are working to develop technical solutions.

Changing demographics are driving a change in consumer demand for increased product choices, fresher products with less preservatives, smaller package sizes—all with better consumer convenience. We are constantly working with material and equipment suppliers to utilize technology to reduce costs for shorter run quantities and meet these challenges.

This same change in demographics is reducing sales for mega-brands, thus driving the need for consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) to reduce product/packaging costs. We are meeting these changes through creative material substitutions and down-gauging.

As the market changes, new equipment must be flexible and meet these ongoing needs.

Where do you see the biggest growth for flexible packaging moving forward and why?

Manroa: We are keeping a pulse on the shift in consumer demand from retail to online purchasing and home delivery. These have the potential to increase the total packaging material content/product.

Another growth area is material conversion, specifically replacing paper with plastic.

And we see flexible packaging growing in popularity and acceptance when compared to rigid packaging.

What, if anything, is different about the sustainability message of flexible packaging today versus, say, two or three years ago?

Manroa: Sustainability positions of CPGs, large retailers and other large companies are becoming formalized with clearer objectives.

And the industry has a better understanding of the complexity, environmental impact and need for change.

 

Troy Snader, svp, flexible packaging, Pro Mach, a comprehensive provider of complete packaging machinery solutions, from line design to the end of the line and beyond.

What top trends are you seeing in flexible packaging and why? What are the drivers?

Snader: We’re seeing a change in packages from pillow bags to standup pouches (SUP) and “shaped” packages. Also, smaller and larger packages (more stock-keeping units/SKU’s in general).

Drivers are grocers and consumers looking for front-panel graphics and diversity of end users for single-serve packages to “club store” packages for large quantities.

What challenges is the flexible packaging market encountering now and how are they being addressed?

Snader: Among the challenges are the ability to have “one machine fits all,” plus new innovations and acquisitions for providing any solution for any package.

Where do you see the biggest growth for flexible packaging moving forward and why?

Snader: I see the biggest growth for SUP packages, and single-dose packaging in over-the-counter pharmaceutical—mainly due to convenience and safety of the single-dose unit.

What, if anything, is different about the sustainability message of flexible packaging today versus, say, two or three years ago?

Snader: We’re seeing more starch based films now.

 

Medical Packaging
Medical-packaging-OR Shutterstock images

Medical device package integrity test methods: 2018

If you are responsible for testing the integrity of sterile barrier systems for medical devices, this free 25-page definitive guide is for you. Written by veteran medical packaging journalist Daphne Allen, it outlines the available package integrity testing methods, along with exclusive research on the most-used tests.

It’s a great review, especially to prepare for the upcoming meeting of ASTM Committee F02 on Primary Barrier Packaging, scheduled for Oct. 3-4 in Nice, France.

With links to 13 ASTM integrity test methods and insights from 16 medical packaging experts, this report discusses minimum hole size, sensitivity levels, repeatability and validation.

Also, results of the Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News exclusive study reveal:

• Challenges in package integrity testing—and how they are being solved.

• Whether the current tests meet industry needs.

The report looks ahead, too. With the future involving combination products—that is, medical devices with a pharmaceutical product—what changes might be coming in package integrity test methods?

Download your free copy now.

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‘Configurable’ labelers minimize floor space, maximize versatility
The new columnless machine design saves about 15% to 20% of the labeler's previous footprint.

‘Configurable’ labelers minimize floor space, maximize versatility

How easy is it for your packaging line to accommodate new products and new packages, especially when you have limited floor space? A new line of compact labelers from a major equipment manufacturer has the potential to meet a range of user requirements, for both machinery configuration and label type.

The EM Series from Krones comprises three main machines, six table diameters and seven labeling station types. It offers numerous options for combining these individual elements, allowing end users to configure systems for many different types of applications.

Mix-and-match equipment options include:

• The Ergomodul, a columnless machine with exchangeable labeling stations;
• The Ergomatic Pro, Canmatic Pro and Autocol Pro columnless machines with fixed labeling stations;
• The Ergomatic, Contiroll, Canmatic and Autocol tabletop machines. These handle, respectively, precut labels with cold glue; reel-fed labels with hot-melt glue; precut labels with hot melt; and reel-fed self-adhesive labels.

The columnless machines feature a table top and support made of stainless steel, with an aluminum container table (with stainless as an option). Its slim design gives it a significantly smaller footprint than other equipment of comparable throughput, making it easy to integrate into existing lines. “The footprint of the ErgoModul is 15% to 20% smaller than our traditional tabletop labeler with the same carousel size and the same components,” says Michael Soloway, product manager–Labeling for Krones Inc.

The columnless machines use uniform servomotors for the main drive, infeed and discharge starwheels and infeed worm—which simplifies stocking of replacement parts. These require no lubrication, reduce noise, are highly energy-efficient, and can furnish feedback for preventive condition monitoring. A single touchscreen controls the main machine, labeling stations and all PLCs for simple operation.

The tabletop machines come in a CL (classic) line for low to medium outputs, and a TS (top speed) line for high output. Their benefits include hygienic design, optimal cleaning properties, highly accessible change parts, reduced energy consumption, optional anti-static equipment for the reel-fed machines, optional contact-free glue application, and robust technology for leading-edge gluing and trailing-edge gluing.

The EM series is designed to be homogeneous, no matter how the elements are configured.

What does “columnless” mean and why is it significant? Soloway explains, “Our older modular machines had support columns around the perimeter of the product carousel, and those columns were often in our way when we mounted labeler heads, brushes, inspection equipment and coding equipment. In some cases, we had to build a larger machine to be able to mount all of the components that we needed simply because the columns prevented us from using the space in the carousel in the most efficient manner. The new columnless design has all of its support through the center shaft, which leaves the perimeter of the carousel wide open to mount components anywhere we want to. We can now optimize the columnless machines for each application to be as small and as efficient as possible.”

How are the columnless systems different from the tabletop units? Again, Soloway explains, “Tabletop machines are essentially square or rectangular-shaped machines. The product carousel sits inside a rectangular framework on what we call a table plate. For the operator or maintenance personnel to reach the components inside the machine, they often need to climb up onto the table plate inside the machine. The columnless machines have a round shape that matches the perimeter of the carousel, so the operator or maintenance personnel can walk right up to the carousel and have easy access to the components without having to crawl inside the machine. Of course the tabletop machines are less costly to build than the columnless modular-style machines, so they remain very popular.”

Columnless or tabletop, the Krones machines easily integrate with other machines on the packaging line with a simple connecting conveyor.

Krones will introduce the EM series of labelers in Booth S-2138 at this year’s Pack Expo (Oct. 14-17; Chicago).

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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.

Detergent takes a fresh approach to traditional packaging
HEX laundry detergent switched from a flexible package to an easy-to-handle bottle because that's the type of package consumers expect in the category.

Detergent takes a fresh approach to traditional packaging

A current packaging trend sees products shifting from rigid formats—bottles, cans, jars and the like—to flexible pouches. Interestingly, one brand owner opted to take its laundry detergent along the opposite route, after research indicated that innovation wasn’t necessarily what consumers crave in that category.

HEX Performance detergent first launched in 2016, promising consumers a solution that eliminates the stink from especially funky clothing by tackling odor-causing bacteria, a property relatively unique in the $8 billion laundry detergent industry.

The brand owner sought to parallel the innovation of the formula with similarly stand-out packaging. They opted to put the anti-stink laundry cleaner in flexible, upright pouches with a tap for dispensing, in a category where rigid plastic bottles are the favored format. HEX bedecked its flex packs with bold graphics and colors not typically spotted in the household chemicals aisle.

“We took inspiration from the wine industry,” says Drew Westervelt, founder and COO, HEX Performance. “Our formula is different from everything else in the laundry aisle, so we wanted the packaging to reflect that uniqueness.” HEX stepped off with two major retail partners (Target and Wegman’s) on board, ending up in more than 1,000 retail locations.

According to Westervelt, retail companies responded well to the product and its novel format at the outset. However, over the next two years, HEX learned that, while the innovative pack captured retailers’ attention, it didn’t necessarily capture shoppers’ dollars.

“The data wasn’t adding up on the performance side—we were getting all this great feedback and amazing reviews,” says Westervelt. “The people who were trying HEX associated as early adopters and liked to try new things. But on the contrary, getting into that critical mass was difficult. It was because consumers weren’t identifying the package as laundry detergent—even when they saw it in the laundry aisle. The original packaging was still valuable in getting HEX on the shelf, but putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes, you wouldn’t even give it a chance because you don't register the look as a laundry product.

HEX Performance detergents launched in 2016, packaging its odor-fighting formulas in upright flexible pouches—a novelty in the category.

When consumer response wasn’t meeting HEX Performance’s expectations, the detergent revamped its packaging and decided upon a traditional bottle, preserving some stand-out design elements.

To go deeper into consumer preference surrounding its product, HEX conducted digital focus groups with thousands of people in various demographics across the country. The findings showed laundry-product purchases are motivated by habits that are largely built on tradition. The “correct way” to do laundry commonly is passed on from generation to generation, and steering people away from the tried and true can be challenging—especially when it comes to detergent container preferences.

“When it comes to the laundry category, there are things that you can be drastically different on, and certain things that you simply can’t,” says Westervelt.

After uncovering this time-honored consumer habit, HEX took a step back and revamped its packaging to something familiar: a jug. It consists of recyclable plastic, and a no-drip spout intended to minimize mess and waste. Westervelt says while the company wanted to circle back to more traditional detergent packaging, the brand felt keeping innovation in the mix was important.

“We weren’t willing to throw in the towel at that level—we wanted a unique and attractive bottle, up to the standards of our brand look,” he says, pointing toward the preservation of key design elements and the handle-less, natural-color high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles, which are topped with caps in the brand’s signature green color. The shrink-wrapped label, says Westervelt, helps achieve the eye-catching look the brand is trying to maintain.

The company’s updated line required buying some new machines for the packaging line. Currently, products are packaged by a mixture of in-house and contract packaging lines.

Additionally, the company aimed to refine the on-pack messaging and impart a more direct approach with the copy. Whereas before the label touted the product as “advanced laundry detergent,” it now calls it “anti-stink detergent.”

Consumer response to the revamped bottles was immediate and dramatic, says Westervelt. HEX reportedly saw a 100% jump in sales just four weeks after the retail rollout in mid-June. What’s more, he adds, the boost also has positively impacted its single-dose detergent sales, and direct consumer feedback has been glowing: “The new plastic containers work great and are a huge improvement,” says one consumer weighing in on Facebook.

 

Freelance writer and former Packaging Digest senior editor Jenni Spinner is a trade journalist with two decades of experience in the field. While she has covered numerous industries (including construction, engineering, building security, food production and public works), packaging remains her favorite.

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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.

Seventh Generation tops off dish soap’s ‘eco’ appeal with 100% PCR cap
The closure is made from recycled plastic clothes hangers.

Seventh Generation tops off dish soap’s ‘eco’ appeal with 100% PCR cap

Seventh Generation, a producer of environmentally benign household and personal care products, is now using a cap made of 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) polypropylene for its Natural Dish Liquid. The closure, from TricorBraun, is made primarily of recycled plastic clothes hangers.

Seventh Generation CEO Joey Bergstein says that the company wants its packaging to be completely free of virgin plastic by 2020. He says caps are a particular challenge, making the adoption of the TricorBraun cap especially significant.

“Caps are among the last piece of the packaging portfolio to convert to virgin petroleum-free plastic, and with this announcement, we’re happy to report about 85% of Seventh Generation packaging components are already there,” Bergstein says.

Seventh Generation had some concerns about performance going into the project, says senior packaging engineer Jerica Young.

“Our performance standards and expectations for this new cap were that it perform at parity to the stock virgin cap we had in market,” Young says. “We initially thought the biggest hurdle would be the hinge, but designing with PCR in mind we were able to develop a hinge design that performed on par with its virgin counterpart.”

Unique hinge design creates a recycled-content flip-top closure that performs as well as those made with virgin material.

Jon-Paul Genest, TricorBraun’s vp for commercial engineering, says that the company shared Seventh Generation’s performance concerns, listing the practical challenges as “identifying and validating a consistent PCR supply chain that would perform comparable to virgin material, that is, performance attributes such as hinge functionality, impact resistance and mold flow consistency to ensure optimal processing/molding to maintain critical dimensions.”

Genest says marketing and aesthetic attributes also were a concern. “CR materials traditionally have an inherent odor and typically create major challenges when it comes to integrating custom color masterbatches,” he says. “Identifying a clean and controlled process stream was critical to prevent both.”

That process stream mostly consists of recycled clothes hangers. “It is a clean, consistent, supply stream for the plant,” says Mark Muller, TricorBraun’s vp for plastics design, molding and development. “Raw material supply is not a concern. We have a supplier agreement in place to maintain the volume we need.”

Young says that Seventh Generation is motivated in part by the desire to spread the use of PCR throughout consumer products packaging.

“We are paying a premium today but we took on this project in hopes of showing others that PCR can be used outside of HDPE [high-density polyethylene] and PET [polyethylene terephthalate],” Young says. “With this launch we hope this drives demand, which in the end will hopefully drive down the cost of PCR.”

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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.

Cleanyst: The intersection of sustainability and ecommerce optimization
Similar to a Keurig coffee maker, the Cleanyst appliance creates all kinds of products by mixing a pouch of concentrated material with at-home water. The Cleanyst flexible "pouch" can hold products of different viscosities.

Cleanyst: The intersection of sustainability and ecommerce optimization

A lot of excitement revolves around optimizing packaging for ecommerce. But what about optimizing products? Nick Gunia, co-founder/CEO of Cleanyst, intends to do just that with his new reusable packaging platform for personal care and cleaning products.

Unlike reusable cleaning products platform Replenish, which offers a dilution approach where liquid concentrates are added to water inside a reusable bottle, Cleanyst revolves around a mechanical device—an appliance—that agitates the concentrates in a different way. This means that products of all viscosities—be they gels like shampoo or liquids like glass cleaner—can be produced at home using the Cleanyst platform.

Gunia got a taste for packaging at an early age. His father started a packaging distribution company, KGI, in the early 1980s, and would bring home bottles and caps for him to play with. After a brief stint as a lawyer in New York City, Gunia returned to Miami, FL, to join the family business. With a passion for sustainability, Gunia became disillusioned with his position as a distributor to drive real change. He explains, “As a distributor, it can be frustrating to have a strong leaning one way or another and, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much you believe in a product, because the brand owner always makes the final decision.”

Looking for ways to integrate his passion for sustainability into his position as a distributor, Gunia attended the sustainable packaging conference SustPack15 in Orlando, FL. It was here, during a presentation by CEO/founder of Replenish, Jason Foster, that he got the inspiration for Cleanyst. Gunia explains, “The reason I found Jason’s talk so inspiring was because, in addition to our family packaging business, there is an ingredients arm, which specializes in developing and producing concentrates for cleaning and personal care products. When I saw the Replenish talk, I wondered if we could apply this model to all the concentrates that we develop and sell.”

Joined by his brothers Matt and Mark, also at KGI, the Gunias set out to modify the Replenish platform such that products of all viscosities could be made at home. Gunia explains, “Concentrates have a broad spectrum of viscosities. Some are liquid, like concentrates for surface cleaner or foaming hand soap. To produce other products, the concentrates tend to get thicker to the point where they can become a solid. To make thick products like dish soap, shampoo, you need a thicker concentrate. That is what we started to experiment with. We looked into if we could use the dilution approach of Replenish to achieve these consistencies, but you can’t. You need a mechanical device, similar to what you see in an industrial production facility.”

Thus, the concept for Cleanyst was born, which would consist of a mixing appliance, a reusable mixing bottle, concentrates and concentrate packaging.

Challenges that keep Gunia awake at night

While the Gunias have developed a portfolio of concentrates for the Cleanyst platform at KGI, their ultimate goal is for it to be an open-source platform.

“Just like you can buy Starbucks K-cups or Dunkin Donuts K-cups,” Gunia explains, “we hope that the sustainability attributes of our platform as well as the ecommerce aspect will attract third-party brands.”

To the extent that there is substantial third party buy-in, the Gunias may not even offer their own concentrates. For the brothers, the main driver for the project is, and always has been, sustainability. “We really believe in the sustainability benefits of this platform and want to see it adopted as widely as possible.” The reason for developing custom concentrates, therefore, was not to help KGI sell them, but to validate the platform for third party buy-in.

Cleanyst isn’t on the market yet. Prototyping the appliance since 2016, the Gunias are working with a FL-based industrial designer and overseas factory to finalize the specs for its anticipated launch in 2019.  Challenges relating to the concentrate packaging have also manifested, which Gunia will explain in detail during his presentation at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s SPC Impact conference (San Francisco: April 24-26).

Titled “Squaring the Circle: Balancing Source Reduction and Recyclability in a New Reusable Packaging Platform,” Gunia will walk attendees through the Cleanyst packaging developmental process: What began with a desire for full reusability—for both the mixing bottle and concentrate packaging—concluded with a 90% reduction in material for the concentrate packaging; this was achieved through the development of an innovative flexible pouch with a burstable internal seal that is activated only once the appliance starts to put pressure on it.

Gunia explains, “The technical challenge that has kept me up at night for many nights is preventing leakage from the pouch when the spout seal has been removed and the pouch is hanging spout-side down in the appliance. That was a very difficult challenge to overcome because the low viscosity materials want to leak. The higher viscosity materials, on the other hand, don’t want to flow out, they don’t want to move. I feel like the hardest challenges we’ve overcome have stemmed from working with such a broad spectrum of concentrates and viscosities.”

Cleanyst is designed for ecommerce, which, for Gunia, fills a market need. He explains, “We all know ecommerce is exploding, but only 5% of consumer package goods are sold online. We believe CPGs [consumer packaged goods] are lagging behind other product categories because the products and packaging have yet to be optimized for ecommerce logistics. If third-party brands adopt the Cleanyst model,” Gunia explains, “their products will be in a better position to meet the demands of shipment through mail.”

Thus, the Cleanyst platform simultaneously removes water-weight and plastic packaging from the supply chain, thereby creating a more sustainable model for personal care and cleaning products, while also helping brands optimize their products for ecommerce.

“I hate to think of myself as an enabler of a problem. Being in packaging and chemicals, we enable the existing, linear model,” Gunia says. “The Cleanyst project is part of our dream of being part of the solution. We really hope that our platform can make things better.”

Learn how you can be a part of the solution with Cleanyst at SPC Impact in San Francisco, April 24-26.

Chandler Slavin is the sustainability coordinator and marketing manager at custom thermoforming company Dordan Manufacturing. Privately held and family owned and operated since 1962, Dordan is an engineering-based designer and manufacturer of plastic clamshells, blisters, trays and thermoformed components. Follow Slavin on Twitter @DordanMfg.

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Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Education Hub at EastPack 2018 (June 12-14; NYC). This free educational program will have more than 15 hours of can’t-miss presentations, demonstrations and hands-on activities. Register to attend for free today!

Regulators hold back ‘golden era’ of innovation in pharmaceutical manufacturing
Part 1 of the 6th Annual Report on the pharmaceutical market discusses manufacturing innovation inertia.

Regulators hold back ‘golden era’ of innovation in pharmaceutical manufacturing

How can pharmaceutical packaging production executives prevent “innovation inertia”? A new report outlines key points in the issue and offers solutions from industry expert Girish Malhotra, who warns that regulators are holding back the pharma industry’s ability to innovate because of long approval times and short patent lives.

Malhotra, president of Epcot Intl., an Ohio-based consultancy firm specialized in manufacturing and technology simplification for pharmaceutical and other industries, explains in the report, “The problem we have presently is that, for manufacturing technology innovations to be successful, pharma companies (brand and generics) need to have an economic and commercial incentive. It is this incentive that drives forward innovation and advancement. But the regulators—in particular the FDA [Food and Drug Administration]—are still dictating approaches to industry without asking what the commercial justifications are to support them.”

He questions whether recommendations are developed by regulators who don’t have any hands-on experience in the development, design, commercialization and/or operation of pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.

If the dictating doesn’t stop, Malhotra says valuable process advances might never happen. For example, he believes guidelines for current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) prompt pharmaceutical companies to focus on adhering to regulations rather than on innovating.

Malhotra recommends that two paths—shortening the regulatory approval times and working closely with contract services worldwide—will usher in a new golden era of innovation and drug affordability for pharmaceutical companies producing patented products. He also thinks drug shortages will decrease and companies will realize maximum profits, without compromising product quality and safety, if industry takes these two actions.

“Overall my prediction is that whilst the regulators are trying to improve the situation, we will again lose any major manufacturing improvements over the next one or two years. In the longer term however, I am hopeful the regulators will pass the buck to pharma and manufacturing companies and let market forces drive process innovation. But my fear is that we are still at least three years away from this,” concludes Malhotra.

Malhotra’s insights are highlighted in the first part of the 6th Annual Report by UBM (part of Informa plc), the producer of CPhI Worldwide (Oct. 9-11; Madrid), the world’s largest pharmaceutical event. A full program of sessions brings in experts to analyze how industry can explore new pharmaceutical packaging and manufacturing processes. [Editor’s discloser: UBM owns Packaging Digest.]

On Oct. 9, the entire 6th Annual Report will be released at CPhI, with insights from more than 10 pharmaceutical industry experts.

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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.