The in-house production of PET bottles has grown in popularity with beverage producers. The ability to produce bottles on demand at the point of filling offers myriad advantages, including cost containment, reduced warehousing and transportation costs, improved inventory control and increased production flexibility, according to Agr International Inc. (Butler, PA). The company develops and manufactures blowmolding process management systems as well as a full line of precision laboratory and on-line testing and quality control devices for plastic containers and similar products.
Along with the advantages, however, come some new challenges, noted Agr. For instance, many companies that manufacture PET bottles in-house struggle with PET bottle processing. This often involves determining the proper recipe for a given bottle, taking into consideration the local plant and regional environments and dealing with preforms from different sources or lineages. Sometimes it is just a challenge to produce bottles with consistent quality and performance that do not compromise downstream operations.
“And, let’s not forget about the scarcity of experienced blowmold machinery operators and processing personnel,” said Agr. “These are just a small sample of some of the issues that self-manufacturers face.”
The Agr Process Performance and Optimization Group was established to provide in-house manufacturers with a ready resource to help overcome some of these everyday challenges. The approach of the process group is somewhat different than what is traditionally offered by blowmold machinery manufacturers. The Agr process group takes a holistic approach toward optimization that not only focuses on the blowmolder but goes beyond to understand issues affecting the efficiency of the entire production line. Since Agr is not affiliated with any specific brand of blowmold machine, the group can provide plant-wide assistance in operations with different blowmold machinery brands in the same facility.
Some of the offerings now available through this group include working directly with a plant’s process engineers and plant floor personnel to help manage challenging lightweight applications, develop effective processing recipes, address process variation and quality issues and implement downstream process improvement efforts that can improve pack rates.
The services of the group are offered under the following categories:
- Blowmolder management and optimization—individual assessment of individual blowing lines;
- effective use of basic quality tools for blowmolder management;
- optimizing Pilot Profiler and Process Pilot automated tools to manage blowmolder and production quality;
- production line auditing and optimization planning;
- job-specific services, such as recipe design and startup assistance.
According to Robert Cowden, Agr’s Chief Operating Officer, “our primary mission is to work with our customers to optimize production efficiency, both in terms of blowmolding and total line efficiency. Agr’s consulting professionals work directly with plant personnel to optimize blowmolding and container flow downstream in order to reduce manufacturing costs.”
Agr is not a novice when it comes to managing blowmolder performance. The Process Performance Optimization Group is an outgrowth of the Agr Process Pilot automated blowmolder management program. With over 400 Process Pilot systems operating in the field, Agr system engineers have encountered many of the issues that traditionally plague PET bottle manufacturers. As part of the installation and commissioning of these Process Pilot systems, Agr engineers have been tasked to provide some of the very services that are now being offered through the Process Performance and Optimization Group. However, through this group, the services have been greatly expanded and are no longer limited to facilities only using Agr’s Process Pilot system.