FOOD & DRUG PACKAGING March 2001
PRODUCTS IN ACTION    

  Avon gets the tube filling
'flex' it needs
 

Every two weeks, with the printing of its latest catalog, Avon Products Inc. begins a new sales campaign. Add to this an aggressive heaping of new product introductions - more than 200 products alone last year just in tubes - and you've got a production schedule that shifts as quickly as a race car driver.

Long Ago, the company learned that using container pucks on its filling lines helps keep the lines flexible and speeds up changeovers. Matt May, Avon's project engineer in manufacturing explains. "Flexibility is key to reacting to marketing's demand. You get that flexibility with a puck line."

When it recently replaced the container pucks on one of its tube fillers, Avon was able to improve on an already-good thing. The special design of new pucks from State Mfg.

& Engineering Co. gives Avon the added flexibility of handling even more tube sizes and shapes. Misfills have also been cut by 15%, May estimates, because the tubes stay in place better in these pucks.

Tubes are automatically loaded into the pucks. They enter the Norden volumetric twin-head tube filler in a horizontal position (two at once) and are raised 90-degrees over the empty pucks. An air cylinder pushes the tubes down, firmly seating them into the pucks.

Here's where the special design of the puck pays off. The inside of the polypropylene pucks have flexible ribs (they look sort of like fish fins) which overlap each other (like dominos, as they fall). These ribs have enough "give" in them so that they can hold both round and

hard-to-handle oval tubes and both U.S. or metric diameters. The puck's flexible ribs provide an interference fit - that is, they grip and hold the container in place. This keeps the tube from floating up as it travels along the filler's oval track.

This specific filler can handle tubes from 3/4-inch to 2-inches in diamteter. The company has six or seven different sizes between this span. According to May, this line can - and does - run an unlimited number of products. Speeds vary depending on the prduct and package size. The day we were there, the line was running 15-milliliter coextruded tubes of Avon Cleareskin acne treatment cream at about 80 tubes a minute.

The injection molded polypropylene pucks are naturally resistant to impacts,

chemicals and scratches. The smooth surface doesn't mar the decorated tubes as they're loaded and unloaded. All the pucks used on any of the tube fillers share a common footprint. And, because the different-size tubes are all centered inside the puck, their openings are in the same position for filling, which further cuts changeover time.

This is just one of 10 tube fillers at Avon's facility in Morton Grove, Ill. The packaging room huses 75 different filling lines and extends 100 feet across and 400 feet down - you can barely see the back wall from the front of the room. The machines in this area package Avon's cosmetics and personal care products in rigid containers, flexible packages and tubes. In 2000, the 10 tube fillers alone pumped out 60 million units.


IN A NUTSHELL

Goal:    Minimize dowtime by improving tube filler's flexibility

How:    Switch to pucks with flexible inner ribs

Result: Misfills are cut by 15%, production keeps up with              vigorous shifts in product sales


The tube filler's oval track indexes two tubes at a time through it's five stations: orienting, filling, hot air heating, crimping and trimming. Marble blue pucks pop in and out easily from cups attached to the belt for quick changeover and minimal downtime.

flex rib pucks in action Norden Pac Machinery
(908) 707-8008
www.norden-pac.com


STATE Mfg. & Engineering Co.
(773) 533-6367
www.statemfg.com


Article reprinted by permission