Walk into any auto parts store in the U.S., and the smell of rubber and oil (and maybe air fresheners if you walk down the right aisle) will likely be all around you. What will also be around you? How about a variety of rigid containers for windshield washer fluid or motor oil, and the standard packaging for gear oil is a tall, rigid, cylindrical container with a Yorker cap at the top.
But Valvoline bucked that trend after asking the question: “Is this the best design for the consumer experience?” The answer was, “No.” Instead, consumers wanted a package that allowed them to easily apply gear oil in tight, awkward spaces around the vehicle, without spill and waste. The company’s solution to its customers’ needs was a flexible pouch.
FROM START TO FITMENT
The Valvoline team began its redesign with several uncertainties:
- Shelf constraints and stand-up stability
- Developing a new supply chain
- Ensuring this package would hold up to the rigors of drop testing and distribution
- And the most unexpected: complete and launch this product during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help navigate these new technical challenges and logistics, Valvoline engaged Hammer Packaging. Tom Vogt, Hammer Packaging’s business development manager for flexible packaging, quickly went to work. Vogt convened an internal Hammer team dedicated to executing Valvoline’s vision and meeting the target launch date.
PRINTING AND CONVERTING
The new pouch size and complex graphics fit the unique press configuration of Hammer’s variable sleeve web offset press (VSOP). Hammer says the VSOP offers superior registration, exacting colors, high print speed, no plate costs and the ability to run a variety of film thicknesses.
In early 2020, Hammer installed a state-of-the-art pouching line and fitment inserter, and it says that it’s one of the only converters in North America to have an onsite turnkey operation for printing, pouching and fitment insertion. The pouching line is unique in its ability to produce a pouch using three different films: one for the front panel, one for the back panel and the third film for the gusset.
This capability, coupled with the option to add digitally printed variable information on any of the three panels, provided numerous possibilities to the creative team.
The insertion line is configured with a new state-of-the-art capability to mechanically insert a fitment in line, followed by six heating and cooling stations for leak-proof sealing and visually pleasing seals. The end-result is a functional pouch of superior quality, boasting precise detailed graphics and optimized for one of the most challenging products to package, liquid oil.
SEAL AND DROP TESTING
Once the technical process was established, Hammer needed to ensure that the package — specifically the pouch seals — would withstand the rigorous tests required to ship and handle the pouches. Extreme shipping conditions that followed the Amazon protocol for testing pouches needed to be created. The results concluded that the pouches met all required testing, giving the Valvoline team confidence in the integrity and quality of the package.
Prior to completion of the pouches, Valvoline asked Hammer to identify new pouch filling equipment. Utilizing Vogt’s extensive background in flexible packaging, Hammer was able to assist Valvoline in providing several filling options, costs, benefits and considerations. The Valvoline team determined that onsite filling in its production location provided the greatest benefit, and Vogt was able to help the team obtain the equipment necessary to fully complete the package.
Hammer’s ability to print, convert the film into pouches, source fitments, insert the fitment into the pouch, test the pouches, consult in the filling process, and deliver a complete package eliminated the complexity of Valvoline sourcing each of these components from multiple suppliers.
This packaging is proving to be a game-changer in the automotive products industry. The team approach to this complex conversion was critical in achieving Valvoline’s objectives.