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Slitting: the new approach to innovating and adding value

Slitting: the new approach to innovating and adding value

Selling in a market where there is fierce competition forces you to reinvent yourself. The constant need to improve comes  from requests and joint projects with our customers. We can speak of market trends only when several of these projects point in  the same direction. These days, we are more aware and can talk about some of the most important trends in slitting that have been a key factor in adding value for our customers. 

In order to differentiate a flexible packaging product, the first thing that comes to our mind is improving its visual appearance. This is a traditional and correct approach, as at the point of purchase in supermarkets, what has the most impact about a container is its image. It has to be inviting and visually appealing, therefore, this concept supports many companies in the flexible packaging market  that are self-defined as high quality printers. Already integrated in their DNA, is the objective of permanently improving their product print quality. 

Consequently, for some people, it can be complicated to focus on other ways to improve products that are not specifically linked to printing. Slitting is one of the best means to upgrade, differentiate and innovate products. It can create genuine, attractive , and customer friendly products. In addition, the final cost of the product is less, in turn being more productive, as well as obtaining better customer approval. 

An effective way to make a product stand out, is to begin thinking about the specific consumers to whom  we want to reach  At the moment , one of the most interesting target group is the population over 65 years old. This target , which has been historically forgotten, is increasingly becoming very  important because  by 2060 one out of  three European citizens will be retired. Added to this fact ,  the difficult  economic capacity of the younger generation, some professionals in the market  have already pointed out that this segment of the population will be the one with  greater purchasing power and  therefore having more importance within the market. 

This information  is evident and has not gone unnoticed by major international brands and companies. Some of these companies have even developed generational processes by working directly with people over the age of 65, aiming to improve product creation processes and better adapt proposals and products to the needs and requirements of this specific target age group. The members of the supposed “silver economy” are mostly admirable of a product’s easy of use. Senior citizens prefer products that have an uncomplicated and straightforward use element, which are, in the slitting sector and can be both be executed with finishing processes integrated in accordance with the slitters. 

Of special mention, at Comexi, due to our laser technology, we are able to facilitate our customers creation of easy-open packages without adding any extra processes. 

As a result of the laser, we are able to manufacture bags that convert into bowls  that can be used directly on the table, similar to a plate; products that can be easily opened without using scissors or other packaging formulas that improve the use of the product. 

Another benefit of the laser is the ability to project images, whether linked to traditional concepts or, on the contrary, used to relate the brand with the idea of freshness and novelty. To illustrate this, in supermarkets we have all seen container of fresh pasta which plays with the consumer’s mind by giving the illusion of being cooked at home. This type of container is a laminated structure with a polyethylene or polypropylene window, displaying to us the fresh pasta hidden inside the container, as well as conveying to us the idea of freshness or an additive-free homemade product. Other trends that are increasingly gaining support, are ecological and sustainable products. 

Considering this, our customers  are already able to produce these innovative packagings without having to acquire and make space for additional machines in their factories. This complete range of high added value applications is possible as a result of our registered laminators and our slitters that have laser technology. Moreover, this innovative combination of technologies  - lamination in register and the Comexi Cingular Laser, received a WorldStar Award in 2017, a worldwide recognition given by the World Packaging Organization (WPO), and has recently received a Líderpack award in Spain.

The most standard configuration of this structure is the Lamination Printed Paper with PE or the Printed Paper with PP. Printing the paper is the first step. This printing process can be performed in Flexo, Offset or Rotogravure technology. The second step is executed in a laminator which is capable of applying adhesive at register. This register lamination is done thanks to having a flexo trolley adhesive applicator. The third and last step is completed in the slitter. Once the web has been laminated, the product is made in a Comexi slitting machine which already has the Comexi Proslit Cingular Laser system. This technology creates the desired shaped window on paper, and does not interfere with the internal film (usually PE or PP). It removes the paper by use of extraction system which is based on the Venturi principle. 

Furthermore, the aforementioned product can be produced without using solvents at any stage, making it an environmentally friendly product. 

From this point, solutions are multiplied by adding to the slitter-integrated laser; we can add a module of in line labels and are able to create a container with a resealable closure. This resealable closure displaces the zipper in food products that are quickly consumed and do not need to be preserved for weeks. 

Additionally, Comexi's slitting solution with laser and in-line labelling improves the  existing processes. Unlike mechanical perforations, Comexi's laser only penetrates to the desired thickness, leaving the barrier undamaged and only breakable when the end user pulls the label to open the packaging. This process increase the shelf-life of the product. 

The second advantage of Comexi's resealable closure process is the time-to-market improvement. One machine can perform three different processes: laser perforation, label addition, cutting and rewinding. Moreover, changing the shape of the perforation is easily accomplished by introducing the new shape into the software; there is no need to create new tools. 

Last but not least, the in-line process increase the productivity of the procedure. Although this is accomplished in one attempt, there is another issue on display: the machine is parallelly producing several resealable closures at one time due to the machine being able to manage different lanes or tracks at once. Mechanical processes are customarily designed to operate with only one track at a time.    

Innovations and improvements that provide new applications are generated from slitting, but are not limited to this sector. New technologies in this field aid in the production of different products and at the same time, they are more productive and able to reduce costs due to quality rejections. 

In many instances, the slitter is the last machine in contact with the reels. However, it is not the last link before reaching the end customer; before the final delivery there is routinely a series of finishing processes. All of these operations, transport, labelling, weighing, bagging, and palletizing, calculate minutes from the moment that the reel is inside the company; minutes make the product more expensive. 

If we integrate all these processes and link them together, we create unstoppable machines, eliminating the downtime between steps and optimizing or increasing production. As a result of automation, the reduction of cycles and downtime is substantial. As a result of having all these systems connected, we have verified instances where in the company has been able to perform in two shifts what used to be done in three shifts, and with 33% less staff. 

However, the most compelling fact when calculating ROI is the savings in salary costs, another great benefit that is quite difficult to measure. When a manual operation is repeatedly performed, there is always an error percentage, whether due to fatigue or distractions. In regard to hundreds or thousands of reels, even if companies reach error rates lower than 0.5%, it is very likely that defective reels will be delivered in each lot. These percentages can also be greatly improved by automation in the slitting sector, with Industry 4.0, which simultaneously improves traceability. 

Taking into consideration the parameters of quality, the demands of brand owners increases daily, making it increasingly difficult to meet these demands without the help of robots or an improved and innovated slitting sector. 

 

Albert Torrent

Slitting Brand Manager


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