“How many for how much?” can be a costly phrase for medical test and device manufacturers when it becomes the dominant topic of conversation with their packaging suppliers. All too often, the role of primary packaging and its manufacturers are under-appreciated and, as a result, marginalized. By shifting their supplier perception from “commoditized necessities” to “contributing partners,” and opening the door to meaningful collaboration, medical device manufacturers stand to benefit on many levels.
Experienced flexible packaging manufacturers can be a valuable resource by effectively partnering with their customers to help solve problems that occur in the primary packaging process. By applying their knowledge and experience of materials and packaging equipment, companies like LPS Industries can help streamline their customers’ manufacturing processes, improve product quality and integrity, increase efficiency and uncover cost-saving opportunities. The following examples illustrate this point and showcase how beneficial a collaborative, open relationship between a medical device and flexible packaging manufacturer can be:
RESOLVING A VERY SLIPPERY IN-LINE MANUFACTURING ISSUE
A polyester-foil-polypropylene construction material was being used by an LPS customer in their FFS line to package a medical device. When the customer introduced a new piece of equipment to its manufacturing line, a slipping problem ensued. The film would not remain within the guides properly and was routinely losing its tracking as it traversed the rollers and edge guides of the equipment.
This type of slippage can occur in a multi-layer laminate construction; when the “slip factor” essentially migrates from one material to an adjacent one as the film is wound. In this instance, the polyester exterior became more slippery and the problem appeared once the new equipment was introduced into the line. This resulted in a substantial increase in material waste, increased processing time and, of course, reduced output.
After the manufacturer contacted LPS about the issue, their technical team analyzed the problem and determined that the best next step was to engage the polyester supplier to introduce an additive to the polyester that would reduce the coefficient of friction of the outer film. “We ended up developing a problem-focused variation of our standard film to meet the specific requirements of our customer’s processing equipment,” commented Domenick Pasqualone, Vice President of LPS Industries.
Pasqualone added, “Cause-and effect was easy to isolate and the problem was eminently fixable; it’s not an uncommon consequence when a customer replaces their FFS equipment. In this particular case, having hands-on experience with flexible packaging equipment certainly contributed to a timely and effective material grade modification.” Since introducing the new customized film, the customer’s problems attributed to slippage have been eliminated.
SEALING A SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME
A producer of medical device products began to experience faulty seals in their form-fill-seal process. Initially, the company believed the packaging material to be the source of the problem.
“We were naturally puzzled, as our customer had been operating their FFS processes without incident using the same film we had been supplying for several years,” Pasqualone noted.
After fully assessing the situation, LPS determined the cause to be a new heat-sealer that was recently introduced into the customer’s processing line. The jaws of the sealer were significantly stronger, applying sufficient pressure to crack the surface of the aluminum packaging foil, even after adjustments to the pressure were made.
Matching material composition to the manufacturing process proved to be the key to an effective solution. Aluminum used for flexible packaging is typically not pure aluminum, but a blend of aluminum and other alloys. LPS Industries worked closely with its material suppliers to identify a softer aluminum foil to accommodate the increased pressure of the upgraded heat sealer while delivering all of the required performance and protective qualities. This resulted in the production of a more pliable material that improved process performance and eliminated the problem of seal cracking.
TROUBLE IN TRANSIT
A global medical products company was incurring significant expenses associated with products damaged in transit. The individually packaged medical devices were being transported via cargo ship containers. Considerable shifting of contents while in transit, coupled with the relatively sharp corners of the packaged devices, was compromising the package integrity and product quality.
As modifications to the shipping method or exterior packaging format were not viable options, the company turned to LPS Industries for assistance. LPS recommended adding a layer of nylon to the lamination to make it more puncture-resistant. While the addition of a new material to the film increased costs slightly, this additional expense was far outweighed by the bottom-line savings from reduced damage in transit. Pasqualone remarked, “The structure we developed for this customer has now become a ‘go-to’ solution whenever superior puncture resistance is required.”
A KEEN EYE FOR DIAGNOSING SOLUTIONS
A manufacturer of medical device products was not achieving the anticipated output of FFS equipment. A thorough analysis by LPS Industries uncovered the problem: the eye-spot on the film was not optimally positioned. A slight modification in the positioning was recommended, which would improve the placement of the scanner in the form-fill-seal process. As a result of the adjustment, the customer immediately realized their targeted output rates.
“An intimate knowledge and first-hand experience with the processes our customers use effectively positions us to readily identify and solve problems of this nature,” Pasqualone commented.
SUMMING IT UP
Stories like the preceding demonstrate that when you’re looking to improve your packaging output or processes, it’s wise to seek out and utilize the know-how, expertise and ingenuity of your supply chain partners.
As a vertically integrated manufacturer in business since 1959, LPS Industries has the experience and knowledge to readily diagnose and correct many problems that occur across the entire flexible packaging supply chain. As a laminator and converter as well, they understand the machinability of the materials and their compatibility with FFS equipment, anticipating and correcting many potential problems before they occur.
Pasqualone concluded, “Providers like LPS Industries are more than ready, willing and able to come up with the right answers.”