The following article originally appeared in a print edition of 'CanTech International.' You can also click here to read it.
The demand surge for aluminum beverage cans continues while can manufacturers struggle to keep pace, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute. As a result, can makers seek creative ways to boost capacity, minimize downtime and keep costs low to avoid the costly expenses of upgrading plants or building new ones.
One creative advantage includes better partnership with a coatings supplier’s technical service team, which can save significant time and money. At its most basic level, a well-trained coatings technical service team can keep operations running by resolving issues quickly, also known as ‘troubleshooting.’ However, when brought in as an integrated partner, the right service team can identify potential problems and propose solutions before those issues result in headaches. The team can also help can makers stay ahead of ever-changing consumer and regulatory trends.
Are you getting the service you need and deserve? Consider these value-added benefits when selecting a supplier:
Proactive, problem-solving support
The right technical service team anticipates a production facility’s issues and then provides ways to address them to minimize any unexpected downtime. Think about calling the technical service team before a planned maintenance project. It’s a great chance to review and access operations and equipment.
As part of a proactive approach, a supplier service team may continuously implement a methodized auditing program that monitors every process and component on a production line. Audits and regular walk-throughs ensure equipment is functioning properly and coatings are applied consistently at the right temperatures, speed and volume. As part of PPG’s service visits, additional services can be conducted, such as thermal profiling systems through curing ovens.
For instance, the PPG Packaging Coatings technical team helped a customer audit, monitor and profile its curing ovens. With the thermal profiling systems of the team and experience of staff, the customer was able to understand the oven temperatures and air velocities within the oven to ensure a properly balanced oven, providing an even cure across all edges and surfaces of a beverage can. When ovens are operating properly, the data gathered by these systems can be used to establish performance benchmarks that may be helpful for diagnosing production problems if they arise in the future.
Ultimately, proactive support from a supplier technical service team means resolving issues before they occur to save a plant time and money.
A PPG technical service representative removes an oven airflow measurement device from a high-performance curing oven
The quick fix
Dispatching one or more technical experts to a plant for troubleshooting to keep operations running remains unavoidable. Make sure the supplier technical service teams possess the know-how and industry experience to resolve specific production challenges identified by plant managers and to diagnose problems using prescribed and proven methodologies.
For example, PPG recently helped a plant experiencing infeed jams at the decorator area. Upon conducting some troubleshooting observations and quality tests, it was confirmed with the plant that a stage of the washer had not been functioning to its specification and therefore the cans did not have enough lubricity to travel smoothly through the conveyance. Once the washer stage was corrected, production resumed full capacity. With a high level of overall process knowledge and wealth of experience, the technical service team can be a valuable resource.
Service audits can also involve setting up cameras notifying production of unexpected changes on a decorating line, such as damage caused by wear on a vertical rail, a flange that is off angle, a belt slipping or other mechanical problems. On a line running 2,000 to 4,000 cans every 60 seconds, detecting and eliminating even a few minutes of defective production can dramatically reduce waste, enhance production efficiency and increase good can output.
Keep safety a priority
Remember that safety considerations do not matter any less in an unexpected situation. Make sure the supplier technical service team recognizes and anticipates dangers, and complies with the site-specific safety requirements to keep everyone safe while enacting the backup strategy. That is why an integrated technical services partner that has safety as a top priority is critical.
Stay ahead of the regulatory game
Advanced technical service teams work with customers to trial and convert new and improved products. For example, PPG recently announced the launch of PPG Innovel PRO. This enhanced internal spray coating is free of Bisphenol-A (BPA) and all bisphenol starting substances, and provides more robust application properties for the infinitely recyclable aluminium beverage can. This upgrade results from years of research and customer feedback to ensure improved application properties and operational benefits for plants around the globe.
In addition to technological advancements, such as automation and artificial intelligence, forward-thinking product enhancements remain incredibly beneficial to can makers facing increasing consumer demand and regulatory pressure for safe and sustainable packaging. Partnering with a sophisticated technical service team with its finger on the pulse of industry trends enables can makers to stay ahead of the pack to more efficiently offer safer and more sustainable metal-packaged drinks that today’s consumers demand.
Can makers that embrace the evolving role of their coatings supplier technical service partner will create a competitive advantage, producing cans that consumers and brands want as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
Jenica Eisenbach is the PPG Packaging Coatings global technical service director and 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. PPG’s technical services team advises on every aspect of the can manufacturing process, including on-site technical training, laboratory and testing services and process improvement consultation. To learn more, visit www.packagingcoatings.com