Trends in the field of packaging

Natalie Wit­tlinger is Project and Sales Man­ager in the Pack­aging Tech­nolo­gies divi­sion. In this inter­view, she answers ques­tions about cur­rent developments.

Everyone’s talking about sustainability – 
how is this ­reflected in packaging?

One impor­tant aspect are the inserts: Prod­ucts like pens, ­syringes and auto-injec­tors are secured inside the car­tons by placing them in such an inlay. As they are often made of plastic, there’s a trend to use card­board instead. Yet they aren’t suit­able for every product. Both types are still used in our projects depending on the require­ments, espe­cially as devel­op­ments are heading towards “green” plas­tics – we remain flex­ible here. But sus­tain­ability also means min­i­mizing the space require­ments and energy costs of pro­duc­tion lines. We’re well posi­tioned here with our side-loading car­toners. As the name says, the prod­ucts are inserted into the carton hor­i­zon­tally. Car­tons that the user opens from the top can also be processed with our side-load­ing/top-opening concept.

The new ver­sion of MKT is such a side-loader. What sets it apart from the pre­vious one?

Firstly, we man­aged to increase the output of this inter­mit­tent car­toning machine up to 150 car­tons per minute. Nev­er­the­less, it still remains very space-saving. Another impor­tant aspect was to achieve the high output without com­pro­mising product pro­tec­tion. For this reason, decen­tral­ized servo-drives con­trol the indi­vidual sta­tions, allowing the machine to run very smoothly even at high speeds. Last but not least, it is extremely flex­ible due to the easy format changeover and mul­tiple clo­sure solu­tions in one machine.

Flex­i­bility – what are the trends in 
the pack­aging industry?

There is a clear trend toward product diver­sity. This means that a line should be able to package very diverse prod­ucts, also in dif­ferent quan­ti­ties. Taken to an extreme, this even means changing to batch size 1, i.e. every single product has its indi­vidual pack­aging. This devel­op­ment shows why easy format changeover is so impor­tant, as it pre­vents pro­longed down­times when switching between dif­ferent products.

But flex­i­bility is also impor­tant to us in another sense: ­Harro Höfliger’s pack­aging machines are never off the shelf, but are always indi­vid­u­ally adapted. For instance, in a recent project, we com­pletely cus­tomized the machine. It pack­ages beyond the con­ven­tional format range and prod­ucts can be fed to the line either standing upright or turned by 90 degrees. Its shape is also unusual: Space was lim­ited at the pro­duc­tion site, so the line with its pack­aging machine, MQS quality module, through to the pal­letizer, is con­fig­ured accord­ingly. For larger lines like this, we also excel with our ability to take care of the entire system integration.

What does system inte­gra­tion mean?

We pro­cure all machines, including those from sub-sup­pliers, and com­bine them on-site at our facility. Rather than having to com­mu­ni­cate with dif­ferent com­pa­nies, the cus­tomer then has a single con­tact who takes care of all topics. This way, all line qual­i­fi­ca­tion and val­i­da­tion activ­i­ties can take place at the same loca­tion. With the line com­pletely built and tested at Harro, the risk of inter­face related issues is reduced, so the line can go into pro­duc­tion more quickly once it is installed. This approach is true to our credo as a turnkey sup­plier pro­viding every­thing from a single source. Our processes are not only imple­mented during pack­aging, but often much earlier.

Can you give an example to illus­trate this?

There are for instance med­ical devices such as auto-injec­tors and pens. Although we have sep­a­rate, spe­cial­ized depart­ments for assembly and pack­aging tech­nolo­gies, we really ben­efit from each other. The assembly divi­sion, for instance, has in-depth knowl­edge of the device com­po­si­tion, which of course affects the pack­aging process. On the other hand, the pack­aging spe­cial­ists can for instance develop an optimal transfer solu­tion to the pack­aging machine. Thanks to the dif­ferent depart­ments, we illu­mi­nate tricky processes such as labeling from more than one per­spec­tive and then develop per­fect solu­tions together.

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