From a global standpoint, almost every industry has faced workforce shortages, operational challenges, and high demand for products and services in some capacity. Despite the anticipated decline of COVID cases, the shortage of raw materials and freight issues still impact different markets. It’s causing problems for both customers and suppliers.
Customers are facing longer lead times and hefty price increases. The manufacturers should now focus on implementing adhesive dispensing technology instead of sacrificing bond strength, product quality, and integrity. The results would boost sustainability initiatives and can be achieved with little investment. So, what exactly are some of the eco-friendlier solutions to look for?
The adhesive dispensing industry is now seeing solutions in the form of high-tech pattern controls, high-speed valves, and reliable hardware. Modern adhesive extrusion systems can reduce adhesive usage on each product from 35% to as much as 75%. This results in fewer raw materials having to be purchased, allowing for fewer truck deliveries – ultimately reducing carbon emissions into our atmosphere. Establishing a smaller carbon footprint and a lower-cost product helps the environment and manufacturers improve margins and remain competitive.
One of these technologies uses an all-electric hot melt gluing solution, eliminating compressed air and all dynamic wear seals used in traditional pneumatic glue systems. This creates faster production speeds and reduces the need for constant maintenance since it includes no wear parts. This can benefit production up time for the manufacturing line.
Interest in this dispensing technology has grown because with a small investment, a packaging line can reduce adhesive usage by over 50% overnight with no significant changes other than hot melt valves, hoses, and PLC-connected driver electronics. Adding an updated melter with closed-loop pressure control further enhances the benefit by providing a PLC-connected device that removes air from the machine and supplies a more reliable source of clean adhesive.
This technology saves adhesive and reduces downtime and the maintenance of replacing air-operated modules, solenoids, nozzles, pumps with electric valves, and an electric gear pump melt unit. Return on investment for this equipment is often in multiple weeks or months rather than years. This is a perfect example of smaller steps that quickly reduce non-renewable resource consumption and promote significant efficiency gains.
When it comes to improving end-of-line production efficiency, there can be challenges. Because end-of-line packaging is a chain of inter-connected small operations, failures in any of those single operations affect the overall line efficiency and cause significant cost impacts. Further, extracting the next percentage point of improvement can become increasingly difficult as efficiency increases.
Companies are starting to listen to the challenges of these high-volume packagers. Their frustrations with simple hot melt application systems continue to be a primary opportunity for efficiency gains related to faster speeds and fewer stoppages. EcoStitch hot melt equipment has become an effective solution to both problems. But when it comes to ensuring the products are adequately glued, is there an eco-friendlier solution for that, too?
The answer is yes, thanks to camera technology. Cameras eliminate the possibility of the product arriving at a customer facility and being rejected, resulting in a large waste of resources throughout the supply chain – including labor, raw materials, fuel for transportation, electricity to run the machines, etc. Can you imagine how much waste has been accrued due to a missing or weak adhesive bond? Cameras and special software can prevent it for a more sustainable future.
Vision systems, such as ClearVision inspection systems, aim to remove defective products from the line, so customers don’t receive bad products. Producers can monitor glue application, case score-line locations, fold quality, print, and barcode quality before a case or carton has even been packed for shipping. This helps remove waste before it creates downtime and other issues at your facility.
Automation will continue to grow as we deal with the natural outgrowth of technology and need more units produced. However, the productivity gains due to increased automation tend to come in discreet steps for manufacturers and are sometimes done over time. For example, installing a new packaging line, investing in new machinery to create packaging material, and improving sub-systems of these production tools requires significant money, time, and often, space.
Because the investments payback in terms of lower resource consumption and more output per labor hour, they make commercial and financial sense and will continue to progress. We are currently at a point of available financial capital but diminished labor, giving new energy to automation initiatives. The smaller investments are often easier to complete and measure the impact quickly.
The standards for running an intelligent factory are being set higher every day – often led by industries such as silicon chips, paper making, warehousing, etc. The packaging industry is closely following suit.
It is common to see manufacturing sites making cartons for high-volume beverage packaging. These facilities are now fully automated with dozens of presses, die cutting, and folder gluers in fast, constant production, automated material handling, packing, and storage.
These plants run at full capacity with very few employees on the floor. Implementing this type of investment requires enormous work and cooperation on the part of the company running it, its vendors and partners, and the local community around it.
These factories rely on robotic technology for packing and material handling, supervisory scheduling, control and monitoring of production rates, barcoded identification of inventory batches, and a stable workforce. With an advanced mill on-site, this facility is reducing its carbon footprint by shortening the raw material to finished product cycle time and enabling close cooperation of mill scheduling with converting needs.
Whether you use hot melt or cold glue in your process, you should consider having your local adhesive extrusion system rep visit your facility to audit your adhesive dispensing applications to make recommendations. They might find an opportunity that could impact sustainability initiatives. Advanced adhesive dispensing technology can easily replace existing open glue pot and wheel applicators and antiquated pneumatic driven extrusion systems to achieve instant results. If we can continue implementing sustainable, more efficient technology and practices, it will have an enormous impact on the environment, manufacturing, and customer satisfaction.