Innovation in Service Flexibility: Multiple Designs. One Machine.

Production flexibility. In a world of heightened glass bottle innovation, it is something with which glass container manufacturers struggle.

Whether adding a customized embossment to a stock bottle or creating an entirely new design with one-of-a-kind features, it has never been easier for brands to enhance their shelf impact through custom glass design using Ardagh Group’s Flex Run® service.Ardagh Group’s North American Glass division developed the Flex Run service to allow for the production of two unique glass bottles on the same IS Machine simultaneously.Originally developed for the wine industry, this technology provides increased flexibility to run specialty bottles with limited investment.

Dedicated to innovation, Flex Run is designed to help customers benefit from a unique production run for small or limited series items, such as product launches, market tests, limited editions and commemorative bottles. Ideal for customized embossments, unique bottle shapes, custom punt designs and a variety of finish options, Flex Run also provides the opportunity to sample multiple products prior to completing a full production run. Currently offered to wine customers in four distinct colors– Antique Green, Champagne Green, Dead Leaf Green and Flint – for orders as small as 1,500 cases, the possibilities for individual designs are endless.

Flex Run utilizes a “variable weight feeder,” which allows for the automated delivery of variable weights of glass gobs to the individual forming sections. This service can produce containers at varying heights and weights, accommodating up to a 10 percent difference in bottle weights. In addition, this service gives the option of producing ware from just a single section up to the entire machine, as required. By optimizing the number of sections required for a production run, this service can result in greatly reduced mould equipment costs. Sampling capability is also enhanced, as it is no longer necessary to idle the entire machine to sample ware on a single section. The remaining sections can remain in production while sample mould equipment is placed on the machine, allowing bottle makers to configure the sample job to their satisfaction. This helps ensure better start-ups on full production runs while improving the ware quality being sent to the packaging area.

With Flex Run, it is required that the same bottle manufacturing process be used – either Narrow Neck Press and Blow (NNPB) or Blow and Blow (BNB), due to the type of moulds required. Although no specialized equipment is required, it is important to ensure the entire line is able to handle the varying container sizes for inspection and packaging. The Flex Run service enables varying gob shapes to be produced, creating a broad range of possibilities for blank design. Essentially, as long as the weight remains within a given range, the Flex Run process can deliver a gob to the mould equipment.

In a typical production run, the IS Machine must be stopped completely and reconfigured so the entire production line can be equipped for the next glass container, thus causing production efficiency to drop dramatically, resulting in very costly downtime. A full set of mould equipment is required for the entire machine, even though the periodic volumes may be low. Running a ten-section machine certainly produces a customer’s ware much faster, but for small orders, the annual volume may be so low that the mould equipment costs can’t be adequately justified. If it is possible to order mould equipment for a smaller number of sections, then the cost to purchase custom mould equipment becomes much more cost-effective. Suddenly, custom bottles are within reach for a much broader customer base and smaller-volume customers can develop designs that help differentiate their product on the shelf.

With fewer sections in production for a particular item, the result is fewer job changes. A fixed volume order run on fewer sections will require more time to complete. In the meantime, the remaining sections continue to produce the matrix job, while the custom ware is stabilized and packed over a longer period. When the custom production is completed, those sections can be reset to run the matrix job or moved to the next set of custom moulds for another Flex Run job. Having the ability to meet customer needs for two different ware types certainly has its advantages.

Historically, glass production has been focused on high-volume, high-speed production capability. As our customers respond to rapidly changing consumer demands, Ardagh Group has found a means to meet these needs with an affordable, innovative alternative to full machine scheduling.

As a market leader in glass container manufacturing, Ardagh Group continues to innovate in service flexibility by creating unique, eco-friendly glass wine bottles. With Flex Run, production flexibility has never been easier, helping Ardagh Group to meet the growing innovation demands of its customers.

For more information on Flex Run, visit the Ardagh Group website.

600450 Innovation in Service Flexibility: Multiple Designs. One Machine.
Date: 1 September 2015

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