The following article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Packaging Technology Today. You can also click here to read it.
Not only are metal cans the most recyclable packaging option available to consumers, but they also play a crucial role in preserving flavor and protecting the contents of food and beverages. Additionally, innovative can designs can help differentiate products in the highly competitive landscape of store shelves.
In fact, the global food and beverage metal cans industry is poised for significant growth, with industry reports projecting that the food and beverage metal cans market will reach a staggering $46.5 billion by 2023.
Can makers are seeking creative solutions to keep up with the rising demand without incurring expenses related to plant upgrades or construction. One such advantage is forging strong partnerships with the right packaging coatings suppliers. Collaborating closely with a packaging coatings technical service team can save can makers significant time and money.
A well-trained coatings technical service team can help ensure smooth operations by swiftly resolving many issues that may arise, a process commonly referred tp as "troubleshooting". However, when integrated as a strategic partner, the right service team can identify potential problems in advance and propose proactive solutions, thus averting potential headaches.
Staying ahead: proactive problem-solving
By embracing a proactive approach, a reliable coatings technical service team anticipates issues at production facilities and provides effective solutions before issues arrive to minimize unexpected downtime. Imagine the benefits of contacting the technical service team before a planned maintenance project. This presents an excellent opportunity to review and assess operations and equipment, optimizing efficiency and performance.
As part of a proactive strategy, consider a systematic auditing program to continuously monitor every process and component on a production line. Regular audits and walk-throughs can help guarantee that equipment functions optimally and that coatings are applied consistently at the right temperature, speed and volume.
For instance, as part of the coatings technical team service visit, request that they conduct additional services, such as thermal profiling systems for curing ovens. These systems enable customers to effectively audit, monitor, and profile their curing ovens. By collecting precise data on oven temperatures and air velocities, manufacturers ensure a properly balances oven that provides an even cure across all edges and surfaces of a beverage can.
This valuable data can serve as a performance benchmark for diagnosing future production issues, should they arise. Ultimately, the proactive support of a supplier's technical service team can mean resolving problems before they occur, resulting in significant time and cost savings for manufacturing plants.
While dispatching technical experts to troubleshoot plant operations may sometimes be unavoidable, it is crucial to ensure that coatings technical service teams possess the right industry experience and expertise to address production challenges identified by plant managers. They should be proficient in diagnosing problems using prescribed and proven methodologies.
For instance, a coatings technical service team recently assisted a plant experiencing infeed jams at the decorator area. The technical service team conducted troubleshooting observations and quality tests, ultimately determining that a stage of the washer was not functioning according to specifications. The deficiency led to insufficient cleanliness, causing the cans to encounter difficulties during conveyance. Once the team rectified the issue with the washer stage, production resumed at full capacity. Armed with extensive process knowledge and a wealth of experience, a reliable technical service team can be invaluable.
Service audits can also involve setting up cameras to monitor unexpected changes on a decorating line, such as wear on a vertical rail, an off-angle flange, a slipped belt, or other mechanical problems. In high-speed production, where thousands of cans move every minute, detecting and eliminating even a few minutes of defective production can significantly reduce waste, enhance efficiency, and increase the output of good cans.
Anticipating regulatory shifts
Regulatory changes will continue to be a global driver in the packaging industry. As regulatory landscapes evolve, advanced coatings technical service teams collaborate with customers to trial and transition to new and improve products that comply with ever-changing food-contact regulations, such as bisphenol-A (BPA) or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) restrictions. Thus, can manufacturers are successfully and proactively transitioning to non-BPA and PFEAS-free coatings. It takes close coordination with the packaging coatings with technical services team to adopt these technological enhancements and optimize production lines for a seamless transition without headaches and missteps.
The right coatings partner
In the face of increasing demand and global regulatory pressures for safe and sustainable packaging, storing supplier partnerships remain critical to can manufacturers. An integrated coatings technical services partner helps improve productivity, minimize downtime, and reduce overall costs as more brands embrace metal packaging. Manufacturers who recognize and embrace the evolving role of their supplier partners gain a competitive advantage, enhancing their operations and reducing inefficiencies, ultimately setting the stage for ongoing success.
About the Author
Jenica Eisenbach is PPG's global technical service director for packaging coatings. She has more than 17 years of experience in the beverage industry. PPG's packaging coatings business creates effective coating solutions for nearly all metal packaging end-use in the beverage, food, cosmetic and personal care industries. To learn more, visit www.packagingcoatings.com.