Tertiary Packaging exploring the world of Paper wrapping
From manufacturers to consumers. It is the function of tertiary packaging, representing the third level of packing.
Thanks to end-of-line industrial systems, now highly automated, goods are loaded on pallets while wrapping systems secure the load to be carried and delivered to general merchandise stores or other channel specialists in perfect condition.
Security is paramount; an inappropriately secured load puts at risk both the goods and the shipping, heavily affecting the supply chain and integrated logistics as well. However, sustainability is also an important point to mention.
Enterprises in this industry are going in this direction towards the use of less plastic film; they are exploring paper wrapping, that is using paper instead of a traditional stretch film to wrap palletised loads.
Innovation with the greatest respect of safety and sustainability
Among major Italian companies in the tertiary packing industry, Tosa Group, a company based in the Cuneo area, comes out as manufacturer of end-of-line packaging systems it has been making for forty years. Focusing on food & beverage, representing 50% of its business, Tosa Group has already installed ten thousand units in more than 115 countries.
“We work in the tertiary packing industry where sustainability is paramount, however safety is still our top target”, states Fabio Tosa, who has been leading the family business with his sister Serena since 2007, after the death of their father Beppe, who had established the company in the eighties.
“In the last fifteen years we focused on the development of our product paying great attention to what we call the ‘voice of the customer’. Besides developing more and more advanced machinery, that needs less maintenance and lubrication, we started to consider consumables used on our machines (mainly plastic stretch film) to secure loads”, explains Tosa.
“We work in compliance with the directions of the European standards on safety and loads that defines the stress a palletised packed load shall stand during transportation on a lorry”.
Towards plastic reduction
The European Union is on the forefront fighting to reduce the use of plastic and we all are aware of the reason.
“But there is plastic and plastic”, argues Tosa. “The European set of standards in force, SUP (Single Use Plastic) concerns single use items and containers; hence it does not concern tertiary packing, where in any case research is going on to find plastic materials including a high percentage of recycled components”.
In fact, today by far more sustainable stretch films exist, both in terms of thickness and of recycled plastics that allows reducing the use of virgin material. The research goes towards films that are more technical, made applying nanotechnologies to obtain interesting stretch features while reducing the consumption of material.
Paper Wrapping, the only alternative to plastics
Last year Mondi, an Austrian multinational company in the paper industry introduced an innovative project using kraft paper instead of stretch film. Later on, several Italian companies in the end-of-line machinery industry have developed a first range of technical solutions to use this type of paper to secure a load.
Tosa too is part of the project. They consider cooperation of all players in the supply chain paramount, including end users who shall request paper mills to deliver solutions offering a performance able to meet the demand of tertiary packing.
“The prototype of our machinery allows enlarging the range of applications of paper to replace stretch film to wrap non regular products. It will meet the market demand of more flexibility”, explains Tosa.
“This system, recently on show at Drinktec in Munich – a trade exhibition for the beverage and liquid food – was extremely successful, mainly among food & beverage multinational companies; on the contrary, Italian players in this industry are rather sceptical, if for no reason because of higher costs of paper”.
The system is in an advanced test stage to obtain paper that can meet various requirements connected to the transport step of the process; as regards the machine, Tosa Group is working on the development of a system to use both stretch film and paper to offer the maximum possible flexibility.
In fact, inputs from the market deserve a great attention; today, the market asks for paper to wrap premium products, with a plastic film still being the best choice for other categories. However, the trend goes towards sustainable products, including packaging, as sustainability is a major purchase driver.
Digitalisation and 4.0 for efficiency and productivity
Data from a machine deliver valuable information to increase both efficiency and productivity. It is Industry 4.0, a topic of the last decade. “At Tosa we have automated and digitalised our manufacturing processes. Our machines are 4.0 ready; to us 4.0 is quite normal”, adds Tosa.
“To be able to manage data we built T-hypothalamus, a web-based software platform to collect and analyse data both from the manufacturer and the user as well”.
T-hypothalamus is cloud-resident and connects Tosa Group’s machines to any device in real time. It allows displaying and analysing production and performance data, KPI, energy footprint data, operating conditions and maintenance status (both preventive and predictive, including a timeline).
The project is now five years old. “We introduced an industrial PC in our machines to collect all data, e.g. data of wrapping cycles to improve the performance of the unit”, explains Tosa.
“An interesting case study covered the performance analysis of a machine. The recorded top performance was 95-96%. We analysed data and context to discover that during the night shift operators did not promptly intervene on the machine. We then suggested carrying out a specific training that resulted in a higher performance of the machine”.
Data collection is a widespread trend: machine manufacturers offer their hands-on experience of the possibility of improving the performance of systems: on the other hand, as regards users, besides the benefit of a higher performance, the processing of data combined with other variables will allow creating a distinctive value added on their market.