December 2016 Roundtable on Bag/Pouch Making
Jose De La Mora
Latin America Sales Director
Totani America, Inc.
7 years with the company
Product Line Manager, Intermittent-Motion; and Sales Manager, Non-Medical Pouch,North America
9 years with the company
7 years with the company
General manager-sales, marketing-customer support
Mamata Enterprises, Inc.
17 years with the company
Q: Is there anything new with your company or within the bag/pouch making industry that you’d like to share?
Mora: One of the reasons for Totani´s worldwide leadership is the continuous development and improvement of new technologies. For example, this year Totani successfully launched the fully renovated Totani die cut unit for shape pouches that can run up to 200 cycles/minute. This unit was designed for faster changeovers, higher speed, better stability, flexibility and safety.
Dacò: In the last few years, Elba developed new solutions for the market to grant customers tailor-made solutions and to provide them with constant support on existing installations and new projects.
Russell: Modern has been issued several new patents for evolutionary designs in pouch manufacturing. One allows for the production of standup pouches at volumes that can replace several traditional pouch lines, where production rates up to 500 pouches per minute are attainable. Additionally, standup pouches with fitments can be produced at rates up to 250 per minute. This approach eliminates the need for a secondary fitment insertion operation and reduces floor space and personnel requirements. Another design provides a single-web version of the popular box pouch. This version may be an attractive low-cost version for the small- to medium-sized pouch market, where shelf presentation is vertical/standing. The single-web approach reduces pouch costs significantly along with simplified setup. This could prove to be the alternative that many of the end users are looking for.
Amin: Besides the flat-bottom pouch machines to produce terminated gusset zippered flat-bottom pouches in two lanes, Mamata introduced two new product lines this year. With changing market needs and restrictions on plastic bag usage for grocery and day-to-day needs, Mamata has introduced a non-woven fabric bag-making machine to the market. It is the fastest bag-making machine for non-woven fabrics available in the industry today. We also introduced a cutting and sewing machine for the laminated PP and HDPE woven sack bag-making industry. In pouch making, we have redesigned our pouch machines for the vacuum pouch market and now offer machines to handle co-ex barrier films for the vacuum pouch industry at very high speeds. In packaging, Mamata introduced its HFFS Pouching Machine with an integrated robot at PACK EXPO. We also offer the FS-Series Fill+Seal machine, specifically designed for high-speed, pre-made pouch-filling applications in the food, personal care and pet care markets. It is also designed for large format and rapid changeover.
Q: From attending industry events and speaking with our readers, there seems to be a growing trend of printers bringing more bag/pouch making equipment in house rather than outsourcing this task. Is your company seeing this? What’s the value proposition of bringing such equipment in house?
Fuller: We have seen the same trend. We have been approached by printers who want to bring pouch making in house. Customers typically cite two primary factors behind this shift. One is lead time. The growth of pouch in recent years has placed heavy demand on co-converters, and printers have struggled getting acceptable lead times when converting pouches off-site. The other driver tends to be customer preference to have tighter control over quality standards.
Amin: Yes, we have been observing this trend in years past. With in-house pouch converting, it allows the printer/converter to cater to its customers’ needs more promptly and respond to their demands more quickly compared to outsourcing it.
Russell: In short, yes. Modern has developed a line of equipment to meet this need. Our narrow web line is ideal for narrow web converters that want to develop in-house pouch production capabilities. With a standard web width of only 14 inches, it closely matches the capabilities of most label producers. Features like front/back registration and an inserted bottom-gusset allow for a wide range of pouch formats to be produced, all without having to sacrifice running speed. Both pneumatic and all-servo models are available.
Mora: In the U.S., the idea to have the bag/pouch machine in house is to minimize outsourcing-related costs and offer complete solutions to new and existing customers. This trend has always been present and will continue to grow. However, as the pouch market grows, contract pouch makers are also growing and are an important resource for development and support for the industry, including the printers. Other markets are different. For example, in Latin America printers and film manufacturers also have in-house pouch making. Because of this, there are very few contract pouch makers.
Q: All converters are different. While some want machines to complete shorter runs, others may want machines that are more versatile in the types of bags/pouches they can create. Is there a way to reach a middle ground with machine design? Or is there more of a focus on creating machines that excel at specific jobs at your company?
Amin: With the product range we offer, it becomes easier for us to match these demands of market. Mamata offers machines that are small- to medium-sized in terms of footprint and price, and that meet shorter job runs. We also have our Versatile Vega series, which meets the demands of customers who want a machine that is versatile enough to take care of their entire pouch converting range. This is not common for many other machinery manufacturers and gives Mamata an edge over other suppliers globally.
Mora: Our company offers both machines that excel at specific jobs and also machines that are for shorter runs. It is important to understand the customers’ needs perfectly in order to offer the best solution. On both spectrums, we are constantly improving and evolving. Being a global company, we have to be able to offer competitive solutions to very specific needs. As a machinery manufacturer, this is very challenging, especially since there is a lot of growth and innovation throughout different regions of the world.
Dacò: Our customers are looking for machines with high flexibility and good performance. Our SA-V model satisfies these requests, as it has been designed to be fully customized according to different customer’s needs and to offer the possibility to upgrade it whenever necessary. This solution allows us to offer tailor-made solutions and to face any new market demand.
Fuller: Our experience has been that some of those converters who had gone the route of purchasing the multi-format pouch machines have reported that they are now rethinking that decision. The versatility comes at a cost in terms of time and overall run efficiency. More frequently as of late, we receive requests for highly efficient, easy-to-use pouch machines. Small batch quantities tend to be the trend, and quick changeovers have become more important.
Q: To piggyback off the last question, do you offer to build custom machines for your customers based specifically on what they want in their bag/pouch making equipment?
Dacò: Yes, we do not have any standard equipment. All machines are built according to customers’ needs, and this is possible thanks to the SA-V modularity. We offer a machine with all the necessary tools to produce what they need. The synergy among our three companies (that produce mechanical and electronic components) allows Elba to always offer a solution to customers. All of our partners like our approach, as we are more focused on these instead of the features of our machines. We put customer needs as a priority, and this grants them our utmost care. Our SA-V model is always different from another one and this underlines that, for Elba, each customer need is unique.
Fuller: We have designed our machines to offer what we call “standardized-customization.” Our mechanical and electrical designs are modular so that we can be responsive to the evolving needs of our customers. Of course, there is no shortage of highly customized applications and we evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis. Our design provides us with an inherent advantage to consider these types of projects.
Amin: Yes, our pouch machine design is modular and can adapt to a wide variety of custom demands. We do build custom machines based specifically on what the customer needs.
Mora: Based on existing model machines, Totani offers different solutions for custom applications. For more than 50 years, our designers have researched and built Totani equipment for many applications. One example is our line of medical pouch machines that, in most cases, requires custom design.
Q: The standup pouch still appears to be king, but other pouch styles are starting to hit the market. Other than the standup pouch, which one of these formats do you think is most poised for growth and why?
Russell: The square-bottom pouches are beginning to compete for shelf space in the retail market. The box-style presentation has an advantage over the standup in that it has vertical sides. As a result, it doesn’t require the additional shelf space to accommodate a wider top. Also, the square-bottom designs allow for higher volumes in a package with approximately the same footprint.
Mora: We are experiencing a very fast growth in double-gusset, flat-bottom pouches for premium applications, especially in the pet food industry. The box pouch has five panels with registered print, many closure options to choose from and a wider range of sizes. This type of packaging is rapidly becoming the preferred option for high value-added products.
Amin: Yes, the pouch style that can overtake the standup pouch is the flat-bottom pouch with zipper. The reason being: it takes anywhere from 8-12 percent less film to make a flat-bottom pouch for a given volume compared to a standup pouch. However, the reason this pouch can’t overtake the standup pouch today is due to the investment cost of the equipment to make a flat-bottom zipper pouch and the productivity for the given price. The conventional machines available in the market are able to make flat-bottom pouches with terminated gussets and zippers in a single lane. Hence, the cost of making this pouch doesn’t remain competitive compared to a standup pouch. With a machine that would allow customers to make this flat-bottom zipper pouch in two lanes with terminated gussets, Mamata is geared to bring down the cost of conversion and make it more affordable for the end user to make this shift.
Q: We’ve talked about speed, faster changeovers, minimizing downtime and efficiency as “wants” from converters in past Q&As. Is there anything else that your customers want to see in their bag/pouch making equipment?
Dacò: Customers want to reduce machine operating cost. That’s why Elba equipped all of its models with the latest generation of Siemens servo motors, which are capable of recovering the kinetic energy (30 percent on each motor and up to 5 percent of the total machine power). Once again, Elba met customer needs in this regard, confirming our will to be a partner and not a simple supplier.
Mora: More cost-effective solutions are always a request. Being able to offer more solutions for price-sensitive projects opens new areas of opportunity. For example, Totani offers side-weld bag machines with the highest outputs in the industry, flower sleeve machines and automatic machines for security envelopes/bags. The “plug and play” machine design of Totani allows for tailoring bag/pouch making systems.
Russell: Everyone is looking for versatility in a machine that can make every pouch configuration that exists. All we can say is be careful with what you wish for. There is no such thing as a do-everything machine, and in a lot of cases this type of machine can be very detrimental to your core business that justified the purchase of the machine in the first place.
Q: Is there anything else you’d care to share about bag/pouch making?
Mora: As the pouch market continues to grow, it is important that the industry in general improves its efforts to implement higher quality control and hygiene standards worldwide. In many countries, there are no quality standards or these standards are very vague. In Latin America, for example, the quality of the pouches for similar applications tends to vary substantially. For the long-term sustainability of the pouch, it is important to improve and correct this situation.
Russell: Overall, this is a great time to be involved with the pouch industry and we are excited to see the next evolution pouch makers can bring to the marketplace.