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Empire Precision Plastics acquires assets of optical company

Empire Precision Plastics Inc. (Rochester, NY) has purchased the physical assets of Light Wave Enterprises Inc. (LEI), a Rochester-based polymer optics, diamond turning and thin-film coating company. The acquisition of LEI's assets will give Empire Precision new capabilities in optical tooling and molding with a high level of precision, according to the company.

LEI's equipment has been moved into Empire Precision's Rochester facility and should be operational soon. In addition to the equipment acquired by Empire Precision, LEI's technical staff has been hired on. Additionally, LEI's founders, Rex Fisher and Chuck Devereese, will continue to provide consulting services to Empire Precision under their new name, Devtex Consulting Group.

"Integrating optics design and production capabilities into our precision molding operation will help make Empire a complete solutions provider for many engineered injection molding applications," said Neal Elli, Empire's president. "Acquiring this capability—both the equipment and a highly skilled support staff—complements our existing business plan, allowing us to offer our domestic and international customers a much broader array of precision component and contract manufacturing services."

Empire Precision is a privately held firm specializing in design, engineering, molding, component assembly, testing and inventory services for the medical/surgical, military, aerospace, electronic, and consumer products industries. The company operates 45 presses, including the molding equipment bought from LEI, ranging from 20 to 300 tons, in a 42,500-sq-ft facility. The company is ASQ-Certified, ISO 13485-2008 registered and has a staff of more than 60.

"We did a limited number of optical components previously, but this gives Empire Precision the capabilities to build the precision required for optical parts," said Markus Lettau, director of sales and application engineering for Empire Precision. "The high level of expertise of LEI in optical parts now allows Empire Precision to provide full sub-assemblies. Previously, LEI was supplying the optics, and its customers would get the other parts for the assembly from other companies. We can now supply the complete optical and other molded components sub-assembly. It will be a good fit for Empire Precision and complements our business quite well."

Elli added that the new cutting-edge manufacturing and metrology operation will ensure that stringent customer specifications for optical applications are consistently met. "We also see benefits of applying our engineering support and knowledge on optical assemblies," said Elli.

FDA prepares decision on BPA ban in food packaging

I went to purchase a plastic coffee mug the other day, and as I looked at the various selections, one caught my eye. Highlighted all throughout the packaging was, "made from durable, BPA-free plastic."

Soon, we might be seeing the BPA-free label on not just select items, but on all of food and beverage packaging.

It was recently announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will make a decision by the end of this month on whether to the ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in food and beverage packaging.

BPA, which is present in most food and beverage cans, is a widely used industrial chemical to make polycarbonate a hard clear plastic. It is typically used in food and beverage packaging because it helps the product withstand the high temperatures of the sterilization process and, overall, increases products' shelf life.

But physiologically, BPA mimics the hormone estrogen and has been linked to increased breast cancer risk. In addition, about 90% of Americans have traces of bisphenol A in their urine, according to the Endocrine-Related Cancer Journal.

Although some studies indicate current, low levels of human exposure to BPA are safe, the FDA and the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health "have some concern" about BPA's potential effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children. The government is spending $30 million to study the chemical's effect on people.

If the ban goes through, the FDA will follow the lead of French lawmakers who voted to keep BPA away from food packaging, beginning in 2014. Canada, in 2007, banned BPA in bottles, and Denmark has banned BPA in all baby-food products.

In February, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service released a report on the potential impact of the French ban on U.S. exports.

The report discussed how Dow Chemical and Bayer AG produce "the bulk of BPA in the world," and it is estimated that most, if not all canned drinks and canned foods, as well as many drinks and food in plastic containers, are in contact with BPA. In addition, BPA is found on about 10% of plastic containers (those made with polycarbonate) of the U.S. Tupperware brand. None of Tupperware's children products contains BPA.

The report went on to say that this ban in France could "jeopardize the U.S. processed and other food exports to France." The primary products targeted will be beverages, notably Florida orange and grapefruit juices using plastic containers; France is the second-largest market for Florida juices with $21 million in sales. Imported beer will also be targeted by this action, and this law may affect any product that contains a plastic packaging or a plastic component, the report stated.

However, the report did state that many companies have developed non-BPA containers and BPA alternatives.

Several U.S. companies have already started to remove BPA from its food packaging, such as Hain Celestial, ConAgra, H.J. Heinz, and, to a lesser extent, General Mills and Nestlé. Other U.S. food companies such as Eden Foods, Muir Glen, Edward & Son, Trader Joe's, Vital Choice, Wild Planet Foods, Oregon's Choice Gourmet, and Eco Fish, among others, also package all or part of their product in BPA-free containers.

"Thus, proponents of the French bill say that a ban on BPA food packaging, if implemented wisely, could provide some market opportunities to innovative U.S. companies," the report stated.

What are your thoughts about the potential BPA ban? How will it impact the industry and your company? Does it provide an opportunity for companies to innovate?

MIT spinoff develops wireless, implantable lab-on-a-chip

The future of drug delivery may be a programmable, wirelessly controlled microchip implanted in a patient's body.

A team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology conceived the idea 15 years ago, helped form a company called MicroCHIPS to explore commercialization, and recently announced results of a successful in-body test.

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"You could literally have a pharmacy on a chip," says Langer, a professor and longtime plastics expert at MIT who cofounded MicroCHIPS. "You can do remote control delivery; you can do pulsatile drug delivery; and you can deliver multiple drugs." Langer tells PlasticsToday that metals are used as seals in the chip that was tested, but biodegradable chips made from polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) have also been studied. There are other small plastic parts in the device that the company declined to identify.

In the new study, the programmable implants delivered an osteoporosis drug called teriparatide to seven women aged 65 to 70. The device delivered dosages comparable to injections, and there were no adverse side effects.

"Patients with chronic diseases, regular pain-management needs or other conditions that require frequent or daily injections could benefit from this technology," says Robert Farra, president and chief operating officer at MicroCHIPS.

In 1999, the MIT team that included Langer and MIT Professor Micahel Cima published its initial findings in Nature, and MicroCHIPS was founded and licensed the microchip technology from MIT. The company refined the chips, including adding a hermetic seal and a release system that works reliably in living tissue.

"Compliance is very important in a lot of drug regimens, and it can be very difficult to get patients to accept a drug regimen where they have to give themselves injections," says Cima. "This avoids the compliance issue completely, and points to a future where you have fully automated drug regimens."

Human clinical trials began in Denmark last year. Chips were implanted during a 30-minute procedure at a doctor's office using local anesthetic, and remained in the patients for four months. Patients said they often forgot they even had the implant, Cima says.

Chips used in the study stored 20 doses of teriparatide, individually sealed in tiny reservoirs about the size of

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MIT Professors Cima (left) and Langer developed idea for an implantable lab on a chip. Photo: MIT

a pinprick. The reservoirs are capped with a thin layer of platinum and titanium that melts when a small electrical current is applied, releasing the drug inside. MicroCHIPS is now working on developing implants that can carry hundreds of drug doses per chip.

Dosages can be scheduled in advance or triggered remotely by radio communication over a special frequency called Medical Implant Communication Service (MICS). Implantable microchip devices can also provide real-time dose schedule tracking, and as part of a network, physicians can remotely adjust treatment schedules as necessary.

MicroCHIPS expects that it will take up to four years for its first product to be on the market. During this time, the company tells PlasticsToday it will refine the product design for a microchip implant that can deliver drug for one year or more, and complete the clinical studies for approval by regulatory authorities.

Langer adds: "The convergence of drug delivery and electronic technologies gives physicians a real-time connection to their patient's health, and patients are freed from the daily reminder, or burden, of disease by eliminating the need for regular injections."

MicroCHIPS was founded by John Santini, Cima and Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Terry McGuire of Polaris Venture Partners. Investors include:  Polaris Venture Partners, Flybridge Capital Partners, Medtronic, Novartis Venture Fund, CSK Ventures, Intersouth Partners, Saints Capital, Care Capital and Boston University.

Toray in global carbon fiber push; receives Japanese government support

Toray Industries, Inc. (Tokyo) has announced plans for a significant boost in production capacity for carbon fiber. Facilities will be added at four of the company's global locations, boosting capacity by 6000 tonnes annually to 27,100 tonnes/yr by March 2015.

Japan, the U.S, France and South Korea are in line for production boosts. The Toray Group currently has an annual production capacity of 17,900 tonnes of carbon fibers globally, and will increase this to 21,100 tonnes per year by January 2013 with two new lines currently under construction. Further, the Group's overall production capacity will rise to 27,100 tonnes by March 2015, which would ensure a stable supply structure for industries such as automotive and aerospace.

About 50% of the total investment will be made in Japan to build an integrated production facility for precursor (raw material fiber for carbon fiber) and high-performance small-tow carbon fiber, mainly used in aircraft and premium automobiles, at its Ehime Plant. The line will have a production capacity of 1000 tonnes/yr and Toray aims to start operation in March 2015.

While Toray has already been carrying out construction work to increase its Ehime Plant's production capacity of high-performance small-tow carbon fiber by 1000 tonnes for a September 2012 start of operations, demand from the market has been increasing and the proposed additional expansion is expected to fulfill this demand. The project will receive Japanese government support under the Subsidy for Domestic Location Promotion Projects for fiscal year 2011 of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI; Tokyo).

While Toray has positioned the domestic production bases as "global mother plants" and pursued a core strategy of maintaining and strengthening them as production centers for advanced materials and high value-added products as well as the base for development of new technologies and new products, approximately 90% of the demand for carbon fibers is from outside Japan, and the persistently strong yen has created a tough business environment for exports from Japan. Toray, however, intends to continue with this basic strategy to maintain and strengthen domestic production bases by leveraging government policy for improving the domestic business environment including the aforementioned subsidy.

In the case of Toray's three overseas bases, because share of production for aircraft applications at existing lines has been increasing due to full-scale production launch of the Boeing 787 aircraft, the company will bolster production capability for high-strength standard modulus fiber, which has become the de-facto standard for industrial and sporting goods applications, to ensure stable supply to those markets.

France's Toray Carbon Fibers Europe S.A. (CFE; Abidos) will build a production facility for precursor. The facility will be the third globally for the Group after the plants in Japan and the U.S. CFE is currently importing precursor from Japan but will switch to its own precursor once the facility becomes operational and also plans to supply the fiber to Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc. (TAK; Seoul).

In addition, Toray Carbon Fibers America Inc. (CFA; Decatur, AL) will add a new carbonization line with an annual capacity of 2500 tonnes, which will start operations in September 2014. The move is aimed at catering steadily to the expanding market for environmental and energy-related applications, including the growing market for natural gas pressure vessels reflecting utilization of shale gas in the U.S. The Toray Group also plans to further expand the business for the Latin American market, mainly Brazil, where the market is expected to grow rapidly in the future.

TAK in South Korea will also be constructing a new carbonization line with the same specifications as CFA, with an annual capacity of 2500 tonnes at its Gumi Plant (Gyeongsangbuk-do), which is expected to start operations in March 2014. TAK is currently installing a production facility for high-strength and standard modulus fiber with annual capacity of 2200 tonnes to start operating in January 2013, and is in the process of enhancing its structure to address the growing market for industrial and sporting goods applications in South Korea, where the government is strategically nurturing green technology industry, as well as exports China.

Global demand for PAN-based carbon fibers was estimated to have expanded to 37,000 tonnes in 2011 and it is expected to grow at a rate exceeding 15% a year. —[email protected]

Goodbye, water bottle; hello, pouch?

Goodbye, water bottle; hello, pouch?

Colleges across the country made headlines this week, not due to March Madness, but because more than 90 schools, including Harvard University, are banning or restricting the use of plastic water bottles.

Students are encouraged to use stainless-steel bottles, and various hydration stations where free water is available.

In response, the International Bottled Water Association released a statement proclaiming the water bottle ban "fails students."

"Bottled water is most often an alternative to other packaged drinks, which are often less healthy, and is not necessarily an alternative to tap water," stated Chris Hogan, IBWA vp of communications. "The EPA has calculated that plastic bottled water containers make up just 0.03% of the U.S. waste stream. So, getting rid of bottled water on campus will not make a significant improvement to waste issues."

As colleges and the bottled water industry continue to state their respective cases, R. Charles Murray, CEO of PPi Technologies Group, sees nothing but opportunity for delivering hydration through a pouch.   

"The banning of the bottle as a package to deliver hydration water, which is freely available from many water outlets at little cost, is to my mind the 21st century solution and in time will save lots of money and energy and reduce the recycle bottle handling process," he told PlasticsToday. "To fill the gap for an economic portable hydration water package, it takes a lot to beat the pouch."

Pouches have gained traction recently with more packaged food makers switching from bottles and cans to pouches. John Kalkowski, editorial director of our sister publication Packaging Digest, recently told the Chicago Tribune that pouches are becoming more prevalent because technology has improved, doubling average shelf life from one year to two.

PPi Technologies is the largest stand-up pouch machinery company in the U.S., with about 35% of the market, according to Murray.

All pouches are made with various laminations based on compatibility and shelf life. Water has a far more stringent specification because the materials must be organoleptic as well; meaning no off odors present, he said. The structure used is PET/AL/PE.

Murray said while the latest water bottles on the market are lighter than before, he believes they are still hard to handle, stack, and open. The pouch stands up just like a bottle, but once it empties, the area it occupies is much less than a bottle, he said. In addition, the pouch uses a fraction of PET material compared to standard PET bottles.

"The pouch for sure reduces our need for millions of pounds of PET material," he said. "The bottle uses more energy to get made and delivered for filling. The pouch, in comparison, uses about two-thirds less and has the lowest carbon footprint of any package."

Murray said the pouches do not require huge recycling efforts, and in Florida and Germany, the empty pouches are actually used in garbage incinerators for recovery of energy.

PET bottled water industry growing

Despite bans and public outcry on certain college campuses, bottled water continues to experience growth.  

PET bottled water has had solid growth in each of the last two years, according to Gary Hemphill, senior vp of the Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York consulting firm.  

In 2011, more than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S. and volume growth exceeded 5%. Hemphill said aggressive pricing has contributed to the strong performance of the category.

"Bottled water is the ultimate health beverage and this positioning has helped to propel much of the category's growth," he said.

He said bottled water companies are seeking to make their products more environmentally friendly, but without adding significant additional cost. While much has been done with lightweighting of both the bottle itself and the closure, more efforts are underway and the firm sees bioplastics as one area companies are putting energy behind, he said.

Hemphill said he didn't have much information on pouches for the beverage sector.

"I can only say intuitively that while there is a market for pouches it tends to be niche and still tends to be dominated by beverages targeted to kids," he said.

Certain pouches are commonly marketed toward children, such as the popular Capri Sun line of juice drink blends, and other fruit juice drinks. However, Murray said there are endless opportunities for pouches, and he personally sees the pouch as being a green and convenient method to deliver hydration based on different needs.

"So, just like the glass bottle disappeared over 10 years, we do expect that over time, as people understand that the PET bottle is a huge cost factor in their lives, they will move away and use easy access hydration water systems," he said. "However, for camping, trips in the car, places where water quality is questionable or suspect, the pouch will become the package of choice."

Design competition opens up online voting

Burial vaults, bowls, Navy chairs, caps, bottles, syringes, an ice cube tray and more…the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) has opened up public voting of its second International Plastics Design Competition (IPDC), and anyone with an interest in plastics design can now go online to view the entries and even vote for their favorite in the “People’s Choice,” category (last year’s winner pulled in more than 10,000 votes). Winners in all categories will be announced during the NPE2012 international plastics exposition, April 1-5 in Orlando, FL.International Plastics Design Competition

Visitors to the IPDC website at www.plasticsdesign.org can view photos and information on candidate products by clicking on “View Entries” and can cast their People’s Choice vote by clicking on “Vote Now.” The system permits only one vote per site visitor.

Judging for all other awards will be performed by a panel of nine. The products will be on display in the IPDC pavilion, Booth 21062, in the North-South Building of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Award winners will be announced at a reception and ceremony during NPE2012 on the evening of Tuesday, April 3.

The judging panel includes nine individuals based in six countries:

  • Andy Beevers, Head of Business Publishing, Applied Market Information (UK)
  • Tom Conklin, Senior Manager, Training & Education, Society of Plastics Engineers
  • Tony Deligio, Editor in Chief, PlasticsToday
  • Bárbara Gaxiola, Gerente Editorial, Mundo Plastico (Mexico)
  • Matthew Miller, Engineering Content Manager, GlobalSpec
  • Matthew H. Naitove, Executive Editor, Plastics Technology
  • Maria Natalia Ortega, Editora, Tecnologia del Plástico (Colombia)
  • Mark Stephen, Editor, Canadian Plastics (Canada)
  • Dr. Stephanie Waschbüsch, Editor in Chief, TPE Magazine (Germany)

The IPDC is supported by Design News, GlobalSpec, the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), Plastics News Global Group, and Resin Technology Incorporated (RTi).

More show than tell: Static displays for exhibitors are out – partnerships are in

I can remember years ago, nearly two decades now since I’ve been covering NPE trade shows, when moldmaking companies would exhibit at NPE: it was pretty boring. They’d set up their booth – usually a 10’x10’ – hang some pictures of molds on the back wall, and fill a glass case with plastic parts representative of the types of components that come from the molds they build.

A few mold companies would actually bring a mold and set it up in the open position in the booth, and while impressive you could never tell much by just looking at them. These “static displays” didn’t have much to offer. A number mold companies finally stopped attending NPE as exhibitors because it just didn’t seem to bring the rewards they’d hoped.

Haidlmair crate mold
Haidlmair's stackable folding box mold will run in a WittmannBattenfeld machine at NPE 2012.

Moldmakers aren’t the only type of company that needs more PIZAZZ at a trade show. Mold component suppliers have it worse than the moldmakers. At least molds can be set up and admired by the passing crowds. But how do you really show off a hot runner system? Most machinery and equipment needs to be doing whatever it is that it does best. It’s taken awhile but moldmakers have finally figured out that they need the machinery suppliers – as badly as the machinery suppliers need the moldmakers and other machinery suppliers.

There are many mold manufacturers involved at this year’s NPE, and you can see some incredible technology by visiting the various machinery suppliers’ booths including injection machinery, thermoforming machinery, and automation equipment. Combining the talents and technology innovations of mold manufacturers, mold component suppliers, processing machinery and automation has the makings of some exciting stuff!

Inside these molds that are running in machinery suppliers’ booths are some fantastic new technologies, such as new hot runner technology that can help processors knock seconds off the cycle time. Static displays for molds are pretty much a thing of the past, and NPE is the ideal place to showcase a mold’s – and a moldmaker’s – best attributes. “Show” has finally replaced “Tell” in the world of trade shows.

Rick Finnie, President of M.R. Mold & Engineering, specialists in liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molds, will hit the trade show floor big-time once again with three LSR molds: one in Alba’s booth (#1170) running in a Babyplast; another in the Boy Machinery booth (#2819); and a third in the Maplan’s booth (#7571) running with a Kistler pressure transducer.

Many partnerships have been formed as companies have worked together for most of last year preparing complete molding manufacturing systems to showcase what everyone does best. The results of the efforts of six companies can be seen at CBW Automation’s booth (#3169) where a Milacron molding machine will be running a 16-cavity mold built by Tech Mold containing a Melt-Cube hot runner system from Mold-Masters, for IML technology with labels from Inland Label, molding material from PolyOne and of course the IML automation system from CBW. Whew!

There is also a stack mold built by StackTeck Systems Ltd. running lids for a major housewares company in a 500-ton Milacron at Milacron’s booth (#2803), complete with Telescoping Side-Entry robotics, again from CBW.

If you want to see something novel in cube technology, head over to the KraussMaffei booth (#1503) and be amazed by new Total Integrated Manufacturing (TIM) 2x4 stack mold from Zahoransky Formenbau GmbH where push-pull plugs will be molded on a 200-ton, two-color injection molding machine.

T/Mould (Tandem Mould) will demonstrate its tandem mold technology in a 200-ton Niigata (#548), helping Niigata showcase its newest all-electric MD-W6000 series, which runs two separate material profiles for the same mold molding two parts.

A micro mold from Mold-Craft Inc. will be featured in the new Sodick Plustech LP20EH2 Micro Molding series press (booth #363), with a 12-mm diameter plunger. The funnel tip, molded of PEEK, has a minimum thin wall section of 0.008-inch designed and built by Mold Craft, and incorporates the patented MeltFilpper technology from Beaumont Technologies.

Haidlmair GmbH will be running a mold in a molding machine at Booth #2843, home to Wittmann Battenfeld. This high-performance mold produces a stackable folding box with all five components of the box (600 x 400 x 193 mm), including base plate, and four side walls, shot in a “family mold.”

Running actual molds in molding machines complete with automation equipment pays off, not only for the machinery and equipment manufacturers but for the moldmakers as well.

So get your exhibit-floor planner out, and make it a point to visit all these fascinating machinery and equipment booths and be ready to be amazed! You won’t see this much speed unless you go to Daytona, which is not too far from Orlando. But you probably won’t find your next business venture there.
 

Medical Musings: Hospital purchasing kicks into high gear

Hospitals and other health care organizations long known for weak purchasing practices are starting to adopt world-class procurement strategies, creating a new, more cost-competitive landscape for medical devices.

Typical of the concerns by suppliers is this statement from a financial document filed two weeks ago by West Pharmaceutical Services, a major medical molder and consumer of plastics:

"Group purchasing organizations and integrated health delivery networks have served to concentrate purchasing decisions for some customers, which has placed pricing pressure on suppliers. Further consolidation within the industries we serve could exert additional pressure on the prices of our products."

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Healthcare buyers are increasingly focusing on strategic suppliers of surgical tools and other medical devices.  Photo: Phillips-Medisize

Major evidence of a shift  came in January when Kaiser Permanente, which spends $1 billion annually on medical supplies, announced it will no longer use intravenous (IV) medical equipment made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and DEHP (di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate) -type plasticizers. Kaiser said it made the shift for environmental reasons, but also said it racked up close to $5 million in savings through consolidation of the purchase. Kaiser Permanente purchases 4.9 million IV tubing sets and 9.2 million solution bags each year.

That kind of purchasing power does not come easily. It requires organization, a lot of homework, and support from the very top of the organization. Several factors are pushing a healthcare supply chain overhaul. They include rising costs, consolidation, pressure to reduce costs from regulators and insurers, and growing recognition by hospital administrators that they can successfully adopt procurement practices implemented with great success at Fortune 500 companies.

These strategies include:

  • Spend analysis
  • Item standardization
  • Spend aggregation
  • Strategic sourcing
  • Spend management by sourcing professionals
  • Tracking of stretch objectives
  • Executive level support and involvement

"Although hospital leaders are optimistic that their budgets will grow during the next five years, they expect to continue to scrutinize purchases and use multiple levers to manage procurement costs," says Bob Lavoie, VP and head of L.E.K. Consulting's global MedTech Practice.

GPOs expand role

In a recent survey by L.E.K., 62% of hospital administrators said they will make greater use of group purchasing organizations (GPOs) in 2012, up from 52% last year. "Hospital GPO use is expanding beyond low-cost, high-volume supplies and is increasingly used to purchase higher-priced medical equipment," according to the survey.

The Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HCSA), which represents 15 GPOs, says that these spend-aggregating groups save hospitals and nursing homes between 10% to 15% off their purchasing costs. GPOs, which are often owned by health systems, enable hospitals to save up to $33 billion each year through lower product prices, according to the group.

One example of a GPO is Novation (Irving, TX), which describes itself as the nation's leading supply contracting organization. In 2010, VHA Inc., University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) and Provista members used Novation contracts to purchase nearly $40 billion in products and services.

When one major corporation buys another (for example, Dow's purchase of Union Carbide) one of the drivers is the ability to study another company's purchasing records to find better deals, and then aggregate.

The GPOs do that on an ongoing basis for thousands of members. Aggregation of business into single contracts attracts major suppliers, who offer price discounts, inventory management, even special technology collaboration. Reduction of the supply base and focus on strategic suppliers is a key component of advanced procurement strategy.

Standardizing the buy

Another important step in the process is identification of standard products to dramatically reduce the number of products being bought, and develop more aggregation opportunities.

The HSCA and the Healthcare Industry Supply Chain Institute (HISCI) report increasing adoption and integration of unique product identification and location codes (Global Location Numbers [GLNs] and Global Trade Item Numbers [GTINS]) that are used to track items in the health care supply chain.

A survey conducted by the University of Arkansas Center for Innovation in Healthcare Logistics (CIHL) last fall found that 71% of respondents are moving toward universal standards. "The 2011 data showed that the health care system continues to make steady progress towards the adoption of a data standards system in the next five years, with improving efficiency as the key driver for implementation," says Edward Pohl, Ph.D., the lead researcher on the study.

According to the survey, 66% of group purchasing organizations are using GLNs in some or all appropriate transactions compared to 39% in 2010.

Geisienger tries P.I.P.E.

Geisinger Health Systems (Danville, PA) transformed its supply chain approach into what it calls P.I.P.E. for Process Innovation, Perfect Execution.

One step is a process called clinical use evaluation (CUE).

Geisinger puts it like this: "By utilizing the CUE process, Supply Chain Services will be able to review all products and equipment used throughout the system. This process will allow us to avoid duplication, reduce inventory and reduce cost. We will educate and involve staff in the process and communicate changes in products, equipment and practices, while effectively and efficiently managing the system assets."

Specific cost targets are identified, and then tracked, for 16 spending categories, including food services, information technology, contracted services, hospital pharmacy, hospital lab, operating room and radiology. In addition to tracking patient outcomes, it also studies costs of implants per surgeon, and amount of time spent in the operating room.   A dashboard called QSight keeps online track of inventories. Delivery systems in the hospital are modeled to improve logistics.

The drive to operate more efficiently will grow as emerging technologies raise costs and new federal laws, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, take effect.

"This dramatic shift in how medical devices are being purchased requires companies to re-evaluate their commercial models and develop clearly defined sales approaches that go beyond the traditional physician call point to also include hospital executives, department heads and procurement groups," says Lavoie.

Doug Smock is medical channel content editor of Plastics Today and co-author of Straight to the Bottom Line and On-Demand Supply Management.

EDI acquires Premier Dies in slot-coating deal

Extrusion Dies Industries (EDI) has augmented its slot coating and flat polymer extrusion dies with the purchase of fellow Chippewa Falls, WI company, Premier Dies Corp. EDI is a portfolio company of Bertram Capital, which acquired it in late 2010.

"Putting these two organizations together immediately provides our customers with a broader product portfolio and access to an expanded global sales and service network," Gary Edwards, CEO of EDI, said in a release. "The combination of EDI's global distribution and Premier's differentiated technology will enable us to capture multiple new opportunities within existing and emerging markets."

In addition to extrusion and coextrusion dies, coextrusion feedblocks, and auxiliary equipment, EDI supplies slot die coating systems, including adjustable lip slot coating and Liberty brand fixed slot coating dies. On the adjustable side, EDI offers the Ultracoat range, as well as hot melt coating systems. For fixed systems, EDI has Liberty Fixed Lip standard slot dies and Liberty cascade slot dies.

Founded in 2001, Premier Dies supplies liquid and emulsion coating equipment and systems for web coating applications, including single and multi-layer slot dies, slide dies, curtain coating dies, die positioning systems, fluid delivery systems, vacuum systems, filtration systems and supporting auxiliary equipment. The company also supplies a variety of specialized extrusion dies for polymer processing into film, sheet, and strands in pelletizing applications. Premier Dies' engineering and design departments utilize SolidWorks, and the company has a 40,000-sq-ft manufacturing area, with a separate temperature controlled area for inspection.

Borealis launches random copolymer PP for rigid packaging applications

Borealis has introduced its high-flow random copolymer polypropylene (PP) RJ901MO to the rigid packaging market.

The company said the material can be used for thin-wall packaging and houseware applications, such as storage boxes, CD and DVD cases. The grade is manufactured using Borealis' proprietary Borstar technology.

The material has a melt flow rate (MFR) of 110, which enables lower processing temperatures. For packaging converters, this creates the potential for increased productivity through optimized cycle times and energy savings. Compared to MFR 70 materials, it is possible to obtain a 20°C reduction in melt temperatures resulting in a 20% cycle time reduction.

When compared to MFR 70 materials, the material has a 10%-15% reduction in maximum injection molding pressure.

Borealis states the RJ901MO offers a good balance of stiffness and impact performance comparable to that of MFR 70 random copolymers at ambient temperatures, which allows stable stacking of finished articles. The flow and stiffness combination also makes the material qualified for the production of complex shapes or long, narrow lengths.

Borealis touts the material's high transparency, gloss, and a non-yellowing effect. Transparency is achievable also at low processing temperatures.

"The launch of RJ901MO reinforces our commitment to provide the rigid packaging market with value-added, sustainable solutions for the value chain," Rainer Höfling, Borealis, VP business unit molding, said in a statement. "The potential for lower temperature processing created by the grade's superior flow results in clear productivity advantages for converters and more environmentally-considerate processing, with converters able to offer the market finished articles displaying highly-appealing transparency."

NPE2012

At NPE2012, Borealis will showcase some of its products together with its machinery partners. Borealis resins will be demonstrated on the stands of Engel Austria (booth #943) and Arburg (booth #3927).

Some of the products featured include:

BorPure MB6561, which was developed to meet specific cap and closure needs for still and sparkling water and carbonated soft drinks. The company claims it offers benefits in terms of processing for the converter, and enhanced aesthetics for the brand owner. It is based on multimodal technology that gives improved organoleptic behavior with very low taste and odor.

Designed for the healthcare market, Bormed RG835MO is a specially modified polypropylene random copolymer with a high melt flow rate, characterized by good processability, high transparency, controlled low friction, and high stiffness-impact balance at ambient temperatures, the company stated. This grade can be sterilized with ethylene oxide or steam and has a high chemical resistance and solid printability.