Sleeving technology (the film and machine combination) is a mature technology with a proven track record. It must now follow a new direction and switch from a standard to a specialty technology. A technological shift is underway with the aim of meeting the future requirements of brands. This relates both to entry-level products, requiring high speed and performance, and value-added products requiring flexibility and quick format changeover; like the dairy industry in the first case, and the make-up industry in the second case. Although these industries are completely different, common keys for the future must be found.
The dairy market (and more generally entry-level products) needs compact, high speed equipment. However, it also on the lookout for equipment that offers options in terms of rationalization and packaging reduction.
Combining economy and ecology on entry-level products
Just as packaging weight has been reduced, we are trying to reduce the weight of the sleeves. Research programs have been carried out for 5 years to reduce the thickness of the sleeves to 20 microns, i.e. a decrease in the weight/material ratio of at least 50% depending on the application. We are also working on reducing material densities, which generates savings of up to 35%. By combining them, we can decrease the share of the sleeve in the cost by 25% and in the weight of the packaging by 50%!
Concurrently this program has resulted in developing the ‘Sleevercombi®’ – a new machine technology – that transforms the films on the packaging lines. The ‘Sleevercombi®’ range is a compact, modular, adaptable, high speed equipment, but most importantly with low energy consumption. For example, the ‘SleevercombiSteam®’ machine needs three times less steam than machines from the former generation during the shrinking phase.
The sleeve technology is reinventing itself. Although it guarantees personalization and protection of the primary packaging, it also offers manufacturers and brands an economical and sustainable solution, entering the virtuous circle of packaging source reduction and lower energy consumption on the packaging site. In short, we are moving towards the concept of continuous optimization of the primary packaging.
Offering smart packaging for specialty products
As regards the make-up industry – and more generally specialty products – the primary aim of sleeving is differenciation. We offer new low density digital print-ready films combined with a new concept of machines: the ‘sleeverlogicpak®’ range. It offers great reliability and reduces the format changeover times. Along with a modular concept including sleeve label intelligence, it allows the customer to create the whole identity of the product.
The customization module of the ‘sleeverlogicpak®’ equipment enables laser marking, inclusion of an RFID tag and Data Matrix code, or QR Codes. We are moving towards coding methods that offer a true traceability and the possibility to extend the information modes on the product. With smart machines, the customer customizes the products at the end of the line on small batches, down to only a few thousand units.
Enhancing traceability and fighting counterfeiting
Entry-level and specialty products, though on the opposite sides of the spectrum, both use new ranges of films and machines; they apply differentiation at the end of the line to address the wide range of product references;
they integrate smart components within machines to allow packaging lines to include identity and traceability using the latest technology, and they also include the most advanced anti-counterfeiting technologies.
This is a critical issue on which we are working with wine, alcohol, spirit and perfume brands. Sleeving is a safety technology (tamper-proof warranty). R&D is working on indicators that make it possible to identify whether there has been any product handling and whether anyone has tried to tamper a package. The issue is also to create technical solutions that are difficult to copy for counterfeiters, for example through 3D embossed into the material, or a combination of several technologies (such as holography and invisible tracers).
Consumers can have access to information (on how to use the product, the origin of the packaging…) via their smartphone and check that the product is not counterfeited. The sleeve integrates ‘covert’ or ‘overt’ technologies in the area of identity and safety. This step is a real turning point on how we see the market and our sleeving technology. We are revolutionizing the sleeve industry by closely matching the material to its equipment.
Lastly, everything is built around the process of innovation-driven growth. We are entering ultra-specialization by focusing on the specific needs of each market and its products. This is a true breakthrough from the past that combines cost and environmental concerns while integrating new manufacturing technologies (traceability, marking, vision, and robotics) into our ‘sleeve’ technology in the form of modules associated with the packaging machine.
The packaging industry is making a step towards convergence, since innovation requires packaging manufacturers to work more hand in hand than in the past and present brand new solutions to the markets.
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