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issue: July 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Packaging Materials & Equipment
Packing Light

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by Erin Biesen, Assistant Editor

Suppliers provide the necessary packaging solutions for OEMs and keep them up to date on new technology.

SmartMove Conveyors is seeing a growing trend to incorporate computers and controls into conveyor equipment.

There are three major factors that most OEMs and suppliers take into consideration when looking at packaging materials and equipment for appliances—product protection, cost and automation. One of the more important is protection of the product from the manufacturing warehouse to the home.
“[We want] assurance that the part or product is adequately protected during its rigorous journey from manufacturer to consumer,” says Bob Ryan, vice president of marketing for Bradford Company, a maker of packaging products and material handling systems in Holland, Michigan, U.S. “Class ‘A’ parts are generally high ‘value added’ products and must be properly packaged to avoid abrasion, surface damage and breakage.”
Atul Vir, president of Equator Appliances, located in Houston, Texas, U.S., notes that product damage can be one of the most consequential issues manufacturers face. “Consumers wait to have their appliances delivered and if it gets there with even the smallest blemish they are not going to be happy,” Vir says. “Then the consumer wants a replacement and there is the problem of who takes responsibility for the damage—the dealer, the distributor, the manufacturer?”
Damage en route can come from many sources. Not only are there bumps and bruises that occur along the way, but also temperature variance. “The [packages] need enough hot-melt or cold adhesive to hold the package together under extreme transportation conditions, hot, cold, etc.,” explains Joe Klimesh, Nordson area manager (Duluth, Georgia, U.S.). “Sealing with hot-melt or liquid adhesives also contributes to the structural integrity of the package. Appliances and appliance parts that are shipped and stacked benefit the most.” An example of this is a corrugated box with flaps. If the OEM uses hot-melt adhesive to seal this type of package it penetrates into the fiberboard, which Klimesh says allows for a stronger bond than staples or tape.
Strong packaging methods also help manufacturers determine the success of a packaging system. “A returned product is a sure sign of an unhappy customer,” says Stacy Webb, regional manager for Foam Fabricators, Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S. “If the appliance company can determine the cause of this return, then the returns related to damaged products would give an effective measurement of how well the package system performed.”
Specifically speaking about tape, 3M notes that one of the major issues that appliance retailers are concerned about is whether or not the tape holds during shipping and also can be removed cleanly after it is stored in the hot or cold conditions of a warehouse. “If the tape does not remove cleanly, the consumer is left to their own devices in deciding how to remove adhesive residue,” says Sam Lamberta, senior packaging specialist at 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S. “This may result in damage to the surface of a new appliance, which could lead to a complaint call to the appliance manufacturer and possibly even a service call at the manufacturer’s expense.”

Foam Fabricators, Inc. is one of several packaging companies continuously trying to create strong, successful packaging systems.

Cost Considerations

Cost is a major consideration that OEMs must look at when changing or altering packaging processes, including the cost of potentially damaged products. “Prevention of damage is the only way to keep costs down,” says Ryan of Bradford Company. “In order to make good packaging decisions, knowledge of materials and the proper testing protocols are key.”
Testing can help. Webb of Foam Fabricators, Inc. expresses the importance of shipping simulations in order to prevent particular areas of damage. “Many appliances have areas of vulnerability to damage that the package and packaging system must address. Shipping simulations will find them.”
LG Electronics notes that increasingly appliances are being shipped overseas from their factory of origin to the consumer, which needs to be taken into account when packaging is specified. “There are various factors that need to be taken into consideration and tested when designing a packaging system, these include shock, vibration and temperature,” says Jay Lee, engineering manager of Digital Appliances, LG Electronics USA, Inc., a subsidiary of LG Electronics Inc. (Seoul, Korea).
“By having these processes in place, we ensure our products will be shipped, handled and received in their manufactured condition,” added Richard Donner, LG’s director of Standards and Regulatory Compliance. “This also helps reduce expenses due to damages from inferior protective packaging.”
Klimesh of Nordson states that both retailers and end users require undamaged cartons. “Damaged cartons are returned to the manufacturer,” he says. “Return shipping, product repair, product re-packaging, and re-shipping are becoming unacceptable costs in today’s lean manufacturing environment.”

Safe Transit

In 1948 Dana Chase Publications, Inc., publisher of APPLIANCE magazine, noticed the high levels of loss during shipment of porcelain enameled products. Publisher Dana Chase Sr. realized that simply putting the right programs in place to address the issue could prevent millions of dollars in finished products loss. This notion led eventually to the creation of the National Safe Transit Committee (NTSC). NTSC determined that there needed to be prevention instead of just a cure for the problem of in-transit damage. The committee developed standard shipping tests to see if a packaged product could withstand the typical transportation shocks, “Project 1 and 1A,” and in 1952, the first Transit Tested label was put to use.
Much has changed for the organization in the last 55 years, including a change of name to the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) in 1994. The Transit Tested program today has been developed to help protect products and profits through reduced damage and product loss, provide economically balanced distribution costs, provide reduced damage claims, and reduce packaging development time.
ISTA now offers a list of suggestions to help companies improve upon their protective packaging systems to reach a goal called Just Right Transport Packaging. The Just Right approach calls for a product to be made as rugged as economically possible, then adds packaging designed with just enough of the right type of materials to protect against hazards during distribution. The testing used in this approach takes into account all the potential distribution hazards that could come during different modes of transit, including shock, vibration, compression, and atmospheric hazards. The approach makes a point of testing only for the hazards and intensity levels that may be present, which requires that environmental hazards, packaging performance and product fragility be quantifiable in engineering terms. The association states a company should test the packaged product, know the distribution environment that the product moves through, continuously review and improve, and stay up to date.
There is also a Transit Tested program, which is the ISTA test procedures and projects for packaged-products. The benefits of this program include protection of products and profits through reduced damage and product loss, economically balanced distribution costs, reduced or eliminated claims hassles, shortened package development time and confidence in product launch, and customer satisfaction and continued business.
For more information on ISTA, visit www.ista.org.

Cost-Saving Automation

Incorporating automation into the packaging process can help in removing the cost of errors and damages. “Automating the manual taping process not only results in a cost savings, but also insured precise tape placement and consistency,” says Lamberta of 3M.
“Automating adhesive application systems,” according to Klimesh, “provides superior line speeds and fewer chances for operator error compared to tapes or staples.” He adds that automating the adhesive process allows personnel to be better utilized in other manufacturing and production areas, which could reduce the overall cost of manufacturing. “Good adhesive systems often operate 24/7 for months at a time with minimal maintenance. An investment in a quality adhesive system also helps assure greater productivity and less downtime.”

Protecting the Environment

Packaging companies are trying to be environmentally conscious when creating or incorporating new materials. “This industry has gone to great lengths educating the public on recycled products,” says Webb. “Foam, corrugate and plastic are all recyclable materials. As we continue this path, consumers are more aware of how to properly dispose of the package.”
Cold glue can typically be recycled more easily than hot-melt. “Cold adhesive is an emulsion, which is processed and becomes part of the new recycled paper without impacting quality,” says Klimesh. “Hot-melt must be removed during the recycling process.”
Environmental standards are having an impact on the packaging industry as retailers and manufacturers are being forced to reduce the amount of waste their products generate. One of the largest components of this is expendable packaging. According to Ryan, the use of biodegradable materials and exploration of returnable packaging are important possibilities.
“In the industry, I think we are all trying to work toward environmentally safe packaging methods,” says Vir of Equator Appliances. “Europe is further ahead with its wide spread use of Styrofoam and shrink wrap.”

Bradford notes the importance of getting products safely from the manufacturer’s warehouse to the consumer’s home.

Up and Coming in Equipment

There are numerous views as to what the major packaging methods will be and are currently growing into being important. Greater flexibility and control of the process will certainly be required.
SmartMove Conveyors, Fall River, Massachusetts, U.S., is seeing integration of computers and controls growing in conveyor equipment. “In the past many of these packaging ‘upgrades’ occurred at the integrator, and are now being requested direct from the conveyor manufacturer,” says Gregory Ferguson, vice president. “That is why SmartMove has introduced the digital controller for its conveyor line. Now ‘smart’ production engineers can work with a conveyor that is easily programmed to meet their requirements.”
Nordson is noticing a trend toward the use of dual gluing using hot-melt and cold glue adhesive systems. Cold glue can provide the packaging superior strength and make recycling easier, however it does take longer to dry. The hot-melt system quickly processes adhesives from 200°F to more than 400°F (100°C to 205°C), holding the flaps closed while the glue dries. “We expect that the appliance industry may soon follow the packaging trends that are becoming standard in other industries, combining hot-melt and cold glue systems,” says Klimesh.
3M sees custom equipment as a growing packaging trend. Unique equipment is designed to specially apply a particular type of the company’s tape and can locate the exact point of the tape application, resulting in lower labor costs and consistent tape placement.
The appliance industry may see expanding growth of clear packaging systems. This method of shrink or heat wrap eliminates the need for a corrugated box and provides retailers visibility of the product. “Studies have shown that this reduces the damage and customer returns related to damage,” says Webb. “Customers want an un-blemished product thus the outer packaging must be without damage. If the customer is able to see the product in the package, then they are more willing to overlook any damage to the package.”
OEMs and packaging suppliers have numerous considerations when looking to change or improve packaging methods. As long as the product makes its way to consumers’ homes unharmed the packaging method is a success.

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Bradford Co.
Foam Fabricators Inc.

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