Me & my: Heidelberg Diana X 80
Friday, May 24, 2013
Taking a box full of folding carton templates and taking out and replacing each one individually to inspect it with a magnifying glass, might not sound like a very arduous task. Multiply this by 30m cartons a year, however, and it starts to look a little daunting.
And yet this was exactly how Chesapeake Leicester, one of the global group’s pharmaceutical and healthcare packaging plants, was, just over a year ago, ensuring stringent quality control for many of its packaging products.
"Particularly for a lot of the ethical healthcare packaging that we produce for Japanese companies, the products are subject to very stringent expectations," says operations director Jon Drennan, who explains that the 245-strong team at Leicester produces a wide assortment of healthcare and pharmaceutical packaging products, from tablet and cream packs to complex vial inserts.
"In the world of packaging, it’s just well known that anything that goes to Japan has a much higher quality expectation than anywhere else in the world," he continues. "It’s dramatically higher. If there are problems with the packaging, it’s associated with faults with the product, so all those items have to be 100% hand sorted offline once printed, cut and glued."
It’s easy to imagine, then, just how excited the plant was when they were approached to beta test a product that would eliminate the need for manual checking completely, while maintaining a high level of quality control.
This opportunity came in the form of Heidelberg’s new Diana X 80 folder-gluer with Braille unit and inline inspection.
Drennan reports that nothing else quite like this existed at the time and so opting for the Diana X 80 to replace a couple of ageing Jagenberg folder-gluers, back in May last year, was something of a no-brainer. "Very quickly after that, Bobst brought a similar offering out, but at the time, Heidelberg was the only supplier of this sort of product," reports Drennan.
He adds that the beta opportunity was appealing not only because the plant was already looking to upgrade its folder-gluer line-up, and because inline inspection would prove something of a godsend for their specific operations, but because the company generally prides itself as being at the forefront of technology.
"I’m not going to profess that beta testing is always a smooth road, but we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of what’s possible. We have a number of examples around the factory where we have first-in-the-world machines that we’re testing," says Drennan of the Leicester plant’s array of kit, which includes, most notably, five Komori presses, six Bobst die-cutters and seven folder-gluers, which are a mixture of Bobst, Jagenberg and Heidelberg units. He adds: "We have a very good selection process, we don’t do this with just anybody, so we’ve got a good hit rate in terms of successful returns."
With its beta test period having just been signed off, the X 80 can certainly be counted as one of these successes. Drennan reports that the folder-gluer is so efficient that the company has "been able to remove shifts and machines equivalent to two folder-gluers". He adds: "It’s much more productive, much faster. We’ve been able to replace those machines and reduce costs accordingly."
The inline inspection system has of course played a huge role in boosting productivity. Running the system doesn’t involve any compromise on speed, reports Drennan, who explains that the system entails a camera comparing every product to a customer-approved PDF as it is processed at the gluing stage.
"It inspects at 300m a minute and if there are any deviations it ejects them from the line without slowing the process down or stopping the line," says Drennan.
"We can set the fault limits or deviations that we want to automatically reject from the machine and the ones we want to accept," he continues. "We can set the quality control to different levels depending on the type of packaging we’re producing. We’re able to set it in line with agreements with our customers."
So easy-to-use and reliable is the system, Chesapeake Leicester use it with all customers, even if their quality demands aren’t quite as exacting as the firm’s Japanese clients’. "Because it’s been so successful, we run that camera on every job," says Drennan. "So we use it all the time – 24 hours a day, six days a week, because it allows us to remove any potential faults."
Drennan adds that quite apart from the inspection system, the way the machine operates just generally leads to fewer flaws in the finished products. "The machine reduces marking overall anyway," he says.
Meanwhile, having a folder-gluer with a Braille unit has allowed the plant to be more flexible in terms of which stage they add this finish. Whereas before, all Braille markings were added at the cutting and creasing stage, productivity can be boosted in some instances by adding this with the Diana X 80.
"We’ve done a commercial assessment and have found that, depending on the number of cartons per sheet, there’s a cut-off point that means sometimes it’s more effective to add Braille within the cutting and creasing process and sometimes on the folder-gluer," says Drennan.
He explains that where possible, it’s preferable to use the folder-gluer due to the impressively short makeready time of the Diana X 80’s Braille unit. "By working with Heidelberg throughout this process we’ve been able to get the makeready down to about five minutes. That’s actually quicker than makereadies on cutting and creasing," he says.
And this proactive approach has been characteristic of Heidelberg throughout the beta test period. "They’ve been willing to work with us very closely all the way through," he says. "We’ve had general and detailed research and development meetings where they’ve been willing to continually listen to our comments, re-engineer the product and make changes to future versions, which is not something you can say about a huge number of manufacturers even if you’re beta testing with them."
Tweaks included enhancing the sophistication of the inspection system software to boost its speed, and enhancing the user interface’s ease of use. "These inspection systems are very, very complex and while they have to be, we also have to bear in mind that we’re asking the operators to do an additional task and we’re asking them to take control of something they haven’t had exposure to until recently," explains Drennan. "In the beginning the inspection systems would have been taking 15 or 20 minutes to make ready, now it’s down to two minutes. That’s due to software upgrades, changes to the user interface and simplification of the system."
One slight gripe Drennan has is with the footprint of the machine, something that made installation slightly tricky. "We do have quite a challenging environment because we don’t have a particularly big area where the machine is," he says. "It was a little bit of a job to get the machine into position at that end of the gluing department. A standard folder-gluer for straightline cartons is around 17 or 18m long, but with the Braille and inspection units, this is more like 27m long, so it’s 30% bigger. That does have advantages as the machine is capable of gluing cartons that are 800mm wide when flat, but we only go up to about 500mm."
But although this size isn’t ideal for Chesapeake, Drennan does understand that the machine has to meet the needs of customers producing larger cartons. And with this the biggest niggle Chesapeake Leicester has, Drennan is on balance very pleased with his new machine.
The Diana X 80 system has brought new work the plant’s way both in the form of those attracted by the high-quality assurance the inspection system offers, such as those in the Japanese packaging market, and in the form of those just generally attracted by a company with such cutting-edge technology, reports Drennan.
"The fact that we’ve been developing this with a key supplier, the fact that we’re at the cutting edge of what’s possible – there’s no question we’ve increased our business as a result, even where a customer’s work isn’t necessarily linked to that. It’s just the fact that we’ve got it," he says.
So pleased has Chesapeake Leicester been with the performance of its beta Diana X 80 and with the extra sales it has brought in, that another four of the same model – some straightline, some with more complex configurations – have been bought for other Chesapeake plants.
Gone soon, then, will be the days of laborious manual inspections and magnifying glasses at Chesapeake. In its place: a new age of speedy, automatic on-machine inspections, which should keep the company firmly at the cutting edge of technological innovation.
Carton formats Straightline, lockbottom, collapsible and double-wall
Stock weight range 200-900gsm
Min footprint 16.2x1.9m
Price £420,000-£750,000 depending on configuration
Contact Heidelberg UK 0844 892 2010 www.uk.heidelberg.com
Consisting of 43 companies worldwide, Chesapeake is a big player in the cartons, labels, leaflets and specialist plastic packaging markets. The group has 20 locations in the UK, one of which is pharmaceutical and healthcare packaging producer Chesapeake Leicester. The site produces around 690m cartons per year, ranging from packaging for tablets and creams, to skillet packs and complex vial inserts. Key assets at the site include five Komori presses, six Bobst cutting and creasing machines and seven folder-gluers, which are a mixture of Bobst, Jagenberg and Heidelberg units.
Why it was bought...
The Leicester site invested in a Heidelberg Diana X 80 folder-gluer to replace a couple of ageing Jagenberg machines. The team opted for this over a competitor model due to Heidelberg offering the opportunity for Chesapeake Leicester to be the first beta test site for this new folder-gluer model with Braille and inline inspection units.
How it has performed...
Operations director at the Leicester plant, Jon Drennan, reports that the beta test period has gone very successfully. He has been impressed not only with the speed and reliability of the machine, he says, but also by how proactive Heidelberg has been in correcting problems and responding to suggested improvements.