Redacción Alabrent"Technology must not restrict us in any way. We can only enjoy market success if we make all the options available to our customers," states Dr. Stefan Rhiem, expressing his corporate credo as managing partner of the RHIEM Group, which has its headquarters in Voerde on the Lower Rhine. Accordingly, flexibility and versatility play a central role in the packaging manufacturer's investment considerations. New machine technology should offer opportunities over many years to create a distinctive position in the market with innovative products and services. The motto is to think outside the box. Stefan Rhiem says, "However, companies generally only offer their customers what they can do. You're hardly going to find any Peking duck on the menu at your local Italian restaurant." RHIEM tries to overcome this kind of barrier.
Take innovative gluing technology as an example. "We have had both the MASTERFOLD 75 and the MASTERFOLD 110 fitted with special modules by BOBST to allow us to make even the most exotic boxes," says Franz Rhiem, managing partner like his brother, stressing the group's philosophy. "After all, anyone can produce 08/15 boxes."
Length is the soul of wit
It is specifically the length of the MASTERFOLD 110 - a good 30 meters - that is opening up opportunities for RHIEM to break new ground in packaging production. "The longer the path and the more modules you have, the more you can do," states Franz Rhiem, who is responsible for the corporate group's technology. The GYROBOX pivoting module also plays a particularly key role in this machine, allowing the carton blanks to be turned at any angle up to 180 degrees to the direction of travel. This enables a wide range of workable box types. In addition, the GYROBOX provides RHIEM with further options in terms of feeding the blanks into the machine the other way round from normal.
"The MASTERFOLD 110 allows us to easily make several folds and bonds one after the other in a single pass. For example, more intelligent packaging with complex internal gluing is now often required for lighting products," says Dirk Nondorf, describing the flexibility and productivity in day-to-day work. As an example, RHIEM Druck's Managing Director shows us the packaging for a high-quality bulb – on the outside, a conventional folding carton, but internally a cavity filler with sophisticated folding. This folding box design developed by RHIEM's packaging designers protects the 'entertainment lamp' from shocks and impacts. At the same time, it minimizes material consumption.
"The GYROBOX can be moved sideways. One of the ways this really helps is in producing this kind of internal cavity filler with unusual contours," comments Dirk Nondorf. The WONDERFOLD independent rotating folding hook rounds off the flexibility. It can be positioned virtually anywhere in the machine to fold flaps counter to the direction of travel. Franz Rhiem says, "WONDERFOLD is the ace up our sleeve, whether hooking is involved in the production of specific packaging or anywhere else. You already have a competitive edge if you can glue round the left-hand corner as well. "
The applicators which apply glue strips on the packaging offer additional flexibility. Here alone, Stefan Rhiem sees "an incredible number of opportunities for manufacturing a very wide range of packaging." Above all, the company can also work on the MASTERFOLD machines with other materials such as plastics, in addition to carton board with a grammage of up to 800 g/m2. "Instead of simple brown shipping envelopes, online mail-order companies are increasingly using smartly designed packaging as an advertising medium," says the Director of the corporate group responsible for marketing, addressing a further field that is virtually crying out for intelligent packaging solutions.
All told, several hundred different types of boxes are now being made at RHIEM on the new folder-gluers. There is still plenty of potential for the future – after all, a total of 3,000 box versions are possible with the MASTERFOLD.
Incentive for machine operators
"In most cases, there are various possibilities for folding and gluing packaging. The approach is the decisive factor," states Franz Rhiem, indicating the challenge for machine operators. They need to find out how they can best exploit the productivity and versatility of the machines. And the wide range of possibilities is precisely what makes working with the new folder-gluers so interesting for them. Because the more tools and features there are, the less restricted machine operators feel in terms of finding solutions.
"Many boxes can, of course, be produced on shorter machines as well. However, this is at the expense of productivity, since more complex packaging needs to run through the machine twice," adds Dirk Nondorf, getting to the heart of the difference. Some boxes, which in the past achieved a maximum throughput of 8,000 items an hour, now rattle through the MASTERFOLD 110 at production speeds of 30,000 or more. Equally it was perfectly possible previously for there to be problems with double feeding boxes, depending on the circumstances, and this too is now a thing of the past.
Higher productivity and quality
On the other hand, Franz Rhiem sees the MASTERFOLD 75 "to some extent as our marathon runner". It has been fitted with the HANDYPACK GT manual collector and the patented SPEEDWAVE GT device, the only one of its type on the market, which considerably simplifies the set-up of crash-lock bottom boxes and therefore reduces set-up times. "The degree of smoothness the SPEEDWAVE GT brings is a huge contribution to production in itself," says Franz Rhiem.
The machine operators were fully behind management's decision to install the BOBST folder-gluers in the summer of 2012. In their opinion, in addition to versatility, the key elements above all are the short set-up process and the ease of use of the MASTERFOLD. Now they no longer need to run the machine's individual stations, set the values by hand with crank handles and fiddle around with Allen keys. Instead, they can carry out all the settings with just one mandrel. At BOBST this is known as the single tool concept.
The machine operators save all the job data in the C.U.B.E. controller of the MASTERFOLD machines. This allows the information to be retrieved at the push of a button at any time for follow-up jobs. For example, roller side plates are then automatically moved to the required positions. Last but not least, the machine operators no longer need to install and remove the rotating folding hook. Including the millimeter-perfect adjustment of the hook, this part of the work alone previously required between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on the type of box. The folding hooks are now simply moved up or, if needs be, back down again using the relevant equipment. 90 per cent of the tools remain in the machines.
Up to five hours less set-up time per machine
All told, the set-up times have been reduced by an average of at least 20 to 30 minutes per job. With around 10 jobs per day, per machine, this amounts to a considerable gain in production capacity – which means that on peak days significantly more jobs are also handled by the plants. "The run lengths are not getting any longer for us either," states Stefan Rhiem. Thanks to the MASTERFOLD equipment's shorter set-up times, RHIEM is now in a position to produce packaging for a major German online print shop efficiently – even in runs of under 1,000 items.
"We achieve one hundred per cent quality more quickly and reliably. And we achieve both uninterrupted, non-stop production and full output on the machines sooner," says Franz Rhiem, stating what is, in his eyes, the decisive advantage of the easy set-up process. This is already the case, simply because the machine operators have access at any time to the finely-tuned production data: figures based on experience and distinctive characteristics which have been stored in the controller for the individual jobs. The machines no longer need to be stopped after start-up because settings need to be changed. The amount of rejects is also correspondingly reduced.
Perfect quality to be relied on
From the machine operators' point of view, the Accufeed blank aligner has also brought significant progress in terms of quality in production. Operators can feed the blanks in a variety of ways, with the individual boxes being perfectly aligned at the stop in every case. They then go absolutely straight out of the feeder into the machine. In the process, sensitive edges are carefully handled. Both are basic requirements for precise folding and gluing. The same applies to the box flow control, which is another important factor as far as high gluing quality is concerned.
Last but not least, the various possibilities for quality control mean less stress for machine operators. Firstly, the code reader allows them to be absolutely certain that mix-ups are completely ruled out – a particularly welcome certainty for gang forms. Secondly, the MASTERFOLD machines monitor the glue lines reliably, which means that the machine operators can easily set both the glue quantities and the tolerances in percentages on the C.U.B.E. controller for individual jobs. If the glue line control detects any discrepancies, the flipper automatically and reliably discards the corresponding boxes. The rejection of boxes has no effect on either the productivity of the machines or the regularity of the box flow.
In short: the MASTERFOLD equipment is allowing RHIEM to produce packaging ready for bulk-loading in a packaging machine more reliably than ever.
"The art is finding the option that the market really rewards out of the virtually infinite number available," says Stefan Rhiem, stressing what the business is ultimately all about. In addition to technology, staff know-how and flexibility have a particularly key role to play. RHIEM is currently looking for two additional, qualified employees capable of experimenting with the possibilities of the latest gluing technology and keen to take them to their limits. "There are hardly any other functions for folder-gluers that we don't have with the MASTERFOLD equipment", comments Franz Rhiem, emphasizing the attraction of these machines.
The decision to take folding-gluing technology to a new level had already been taken at RHIEM in the spring of 2011, but then it took a full year to make the selection. "Proficient advice during the selection phase, including the configuration of the machines, was another strong argument in favor of BOBST," says Franz Rhiem, looking back. "The same applies to the test phase, during which we sent a varied portfolio of jobs from our day-to-day business through the MASTERFOLD equipment installed at the company's Competence Center in Lausanne – including of course a few particularly tricky items of packaging. The performance of the machines, the quality of the boxes produced there and the competence of the staff were the persuasive factors."
"We already had customer status with BOBST Meerbusch, even before we started working with the company's machines," comments Stefan Rhiem, looking back at the years before the investment decision. "Staff there always supported us with competent advice." Today, there is also close cooperation when the packaging manufacturer wants to try out something new, with the training of machine operators being outstanding in every case, he says. All this induced RHIEM to install a pre-owned SP 102 BMA foil stamping press from BOBST as well, which is used for specific stamping jobs.
"The machines have lots of possibilities," said Franz Rhiem, looking forward to the potential the MASTERFOLD equipment offers the company for the future. But this is precisely why the company installed the lines. "Anyone who takes on these kinds of investment volumes must already know exactly what they want."
RHIEM is an owner-managed fulfillment services company with its headquarters in Voerde and existing corporate structures in North America, Asia and Europe. The corporate group was founded as a print shop in 1958 and has now grown to be a global service provider with a current workforce of over 380. It comprises the following units: RHIEM Druck, RHIEM Services, RHIEM Intermedia, RHIEM Distribution Systems and PPS Solutions.