Fundamentals Keep the Converting Industry Strong

Everyone is keenly aware of the disappearance of so many supposedly promising organizations. Fortunately, this has not occurred in the converting and flexible packaging industries. While some reorganizations, consolidations, and the like have happened, business is progressing as usual.

Why are the converting and flexible packaging industries relatively stable? This is obviously a very broad question with many different answers. One answer must reflect the concern for fundamentals that exists in these industries. A listing of these basic items could be the Ten Commandments of Converting:

  1. Follow all directions from material and machinery suppliers.
  2. Maintain adequate records on all aspects of production.
  3. Keep retains of everything from raw materials to finished goods.
  4. Test finished products adequately at appropriate intervals during and after production.
  5. Avoid taking shortcuts.
  6. Avoid any substitution until completing adequate testing.
  7. Train personnel to properly perform their jobs.
  8. Ensure that all personnel have proper safety training and the necessary safety equipment.
  9. Maintain/inspect all equipment appropriately.
  10. Listen to suggestions from suppliers, employees, and customers.

The commandments itemized above should be vital components of all converting operations. They are common-sense factors that ensure success.

The opposite side of this coin is that neglect of any commandment eventually will lead to some degree of difficulty. Consider number 1 for example. Suppose an adhesive supplier states that a product requires a coating deposition of 1.2 — 1.3 dry lb/ream for adequate performance. You decide for economic reasons to use 1.0 dry lb/ream. Bonds are satisfactory, and the finished product meets all your testing requirements. At some future time, your customers start to complain of bond failures. Investigation shows a slight change in a substrate. Further investigation shows that a coating weight of 1.2 dry lb/ream will compensate for the decreased bonds due to the substrate variation. You can blame nobody but yourself for the problem.

Note that many of the commandments relate to personnel. Unless operators, supervisors, mixers, cleaners, and everyone involved in the operation are functioning properly, disaster can occur.

For example, operators that do not understand the importance of uniform distribution of coating weight across a web for the entire length of the web definitely will cause a problem. At best, the problem of poor performance of the finished product will show in product quality tests. The result will be lost product, lost time, and the related expenses. At worst, the result could be failure at the operation of a customer. Here the consequences can be much broader and many times more costly.

The last commandment is interesting and probably would not appear on most lists. A common mentality in many organizations is that top executives, people with college degrees, or experienced employees are the only personnel that can have a worthwhile idea. This is a fallacy. Indeed, the opposite often is true. Many times, a new employee will see an obvious solution to a problem that has existed for a long time. Having worked only a short period, he or she does not have the preconceived ideas of the more seasoned employees and sees things in a different light.

In a similar vein, a cleaning person may notice that he discards a large amount of scrap during certain runs. Reporting this observation could lead to revised procedures that would eliminate this waste.

Do you have ideas for other commandments that are important in converting and flexible packaging? Please send your suggestions to me. They can be the basis for a future column.

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