Paying Attention to Problems Can Lead to Significant Innovation
To grow, companies need to develop new products and find solutions for existing needs or problems. However, innovation is oftentimes not easy. Inventing new products and systems require focus, planning, discipline, resources, and talent.
Typically, one of the biggest hurdles is deciding whether the innovation will be in a totally new direction, or an enhancement in the current portfolio of products and processes. Significant innovations tend to occur when we try to focus on our challenges, hurdles and shortcomings. As the adage goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”
However, this process needs a lot of brainstorming and planning. Gathering information from the major stake holders and the “on-floor” personnel that are experiencing these issues is critical. Having a good understanding of the problem is a must and charting out more than one possible solution is prudent as things often don’t progress as anticipated.
Frequently, problems can be quality related, such as achieving consistency in reducing scrap to meet performance specifications.
With increasing emphasis on using post-consumer recycle (PCR) material, there must be new learning on how to process and test these materials so that performance specifications can be met. The learnings in these cases are not necessarily natural extensions of how virgin resin was manufactured, processed, or tested previously. A case in point may be drying recycled PET (rPET) resin and flakes. Does it need the same temperature, airflow, and residence time?
What happens if the infeed quality keeps on changing as is often the case? Is there a way to close loop the feedback system so that an intelligent modification is made to all relevant parameters based on some key inputs? Answers to these issues are likely to drive the design of new feeding and delivery systems along with new screw designs and monitoring systems.
For bottle blowing, we have developed systems where freshly blown containers can be tracked for thickness, color, holes, and other defects. However, we haven’t seen the advent of systems where pellets or preforms are monitored for color, odor, black specs or inline intrinsic viscosity where drying or molding parameters are modified based on a closed loop feedback system. These solutions are not limited to PET packaging. They are universal across all sectors that see a demand for increasing use of PCR. These innovations can also lead to changes in secondary and tertiary packaging, as well as distribution systems.
In summary, there are a number of near-term innovations that the industry can be excited about in the coming years that can lead to cost savings and improved performance efficiencies.
Author: Sumit Mukherjee is the chief technology officer of PTI. He has 25 years of experience in package design, materials characterization, process simulation and modeling, and finite element analysis (FEA) for package performance prediction.
PTI is recognized worldwide as the preferred source for preform and package design, package development, rapid prototyping, pre-production prototyping, and material evaluation engineering for the plastic packaging industry. For more information: www.pti-usa.com.