The following article originally appeared in 'Manufacturing Technology Insights'. You can also click here to read it.
According to a new report, the global food and beverage metal cans market expects to reach $46.5 billion by 2029. Metal cans packaging is not only the most recyclable option for consumers, but it also remains essential for preserving the flavor and protecting the fillings of food and beverages – all while using enhanced can designs to differentiate products on crowded shelves. As a result, the food and beverage industries will continue to drive metal can packaging growth in the coming years.
Metal can makers seek creative ways to keep up with demand while avoiding the costly expenses of upgrading plants or building new ones. One creative advantage is working with the right supplier partners. For example, an enhanced partnership with a coating supplier and its technical service team can save can makers significant time and money. A well-trained coatings technical service team can keep advanced manufacturing 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 right supplier partner ensures its technical service team is anticipating a production facility's issues. Then, it provides ways to address them to minimize 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 that equipment is functioning properly and coatings are applied consistently at the right temperature, speed and volume. As part of PPG's service visits, additional services, such as thermal profiling systems through curing ovens, can be conducted.
For instance, PPG's packaging coatings technical services team helped a customer audit, monitor and profile its curing ovens. With the thermal profiling systems of the team and the experience of the staff, the customer understood the oven temperatures and air velocities to ensure a properly balanced oven that provides an even cure across all edges and surfaces of a beverage can. The data gathered by these properly operated systems can establish performance benchmarks that may help diagnose future production problems if they arise.
Ultimately, proactive support from a supplier technical service team means resolving issues before they occur to save a plant time and money.
A quick fix
Dispatching one or more technical experts to a plant for troubleshooting to keep operations running remains unavoidable. Make certain the supplier technical service teams possess the industry experience to resolve specific production challenges identified by plant managers. Also, ensure they have the know-how to diagnose problems using prescribed and proven methodologies.
For example, PPG recently helped a plant experiencing infeed jams at the decorator area. The team conducted troubleshooting observations and quality tests to confirm with the plant that a stage of the washer had not been functioning to its specification. Therefore the cans did not have enough lubricity to travel smoothly through the conveyance. Once the team corrected the washer stage, production resumed at full capacity. With a high level of overall process knowledge and a wealth of experience, the technical service team can be a valuable resource.
Service audits can also involve setting up cameras to notify 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 slipped belt or other mechanical problems. Imagine 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.
Remember that safety considerations do not matter any less in an unexpected situation. Make certain the supplier technical service team recognizes and anticipates the dangers of the specific manufacturing site. Ensure the team also 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 workplace safety as a top priority remains critical.
Prepare for ongoing regulations
Advanced coating technical service teams work with customers to trial and convert new and improved products that comply with ever-evolving food-contact regulations such as bisphenol-A (BPA) restrictions. For example, can manufacturers convert to PPG INNOVEL PROÒ non-BPA technology to remain compliant with global standards. The complete removal of bisphenol-starting substances from food-contact coatings aligns with PPG's decades-long non-bisphenol strategy. This upgrade results from years of research and customer feedback to provide improved application properties and operational benefits for plants around the globe. PPG's packaging coatings technical services team works closely with customers in adopting these technological enhancements and optimizing production lines to ensure a smooth transition. Today, the technology has coated more than 220 billion cans in 40+ countries.
Strong supplier partnerships remain incredibly beneficial to can manufacturers facing increasing consumer demand and regulatory pressure for safe and sustainable packaging. An integrated coating technical services partner helps ensure improved production and minimize downtime and overall costs for can makers as more brands adopt metal packaging. Manufacturers that embrace the evolving role of their supplier partners can create a competitive advantage that improves operations and reduces inefficiencies, setting them up 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. 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.