8.- APOGEE OF THE PRECISION MECHANICS
9.- CURRENT TECHNOLOGIES
10.-QUALITY AND COMPETITIVENESS
12.- THE MAN
8.-APPRECIATION OF PRECISION MECHANICS
The stage that goes from the first years “sixty” until the mid-seventies “was important for humanity. It opened with the North American presence in the Vietnam War and closed with the Arab-Israeli wars and the great oil crisis. Between both many key facts: The assassination of JF Kennedy, the death of “Che”, the French May of 68, the arrival of man to the moon, the birth of the microprocessor (the “chips”) … and many others. All of them were going to configure an era that even today lets its influence feel.
During it the packaging industry continues its expansive period that had already begun in the previous one and now reaches its maximum “splendor”. On the one hand, the processes and equipment are further refined (taking as a product the containers already developed in previous years) and, on the other, the most important companies complete a period of expansion and alliances. Thus, the large multinational groups with interests and facilities in different continents were formed.
In the mid-fifties, Continental Can, which had renewed its agreements with Metal Box, extended its network of partners to several European companies, including Carnaud (France) and Schmalbach-Lubacawerke (West Germany). This association generates a great boost in industrial improvements in the Old Continent. It was a cooperation with a wide open-mindedness, since it accommodated a few years later -in the sixties- to other companies coming from almost all the countries that formed then the free Europe (Belgium- “Sobemi”, Holland- ” T & D “-, Switzerland-” Sauter “, Germany -” Schmalbach “-, Spain-” International Packaging Company “-, Denmark-” Haustrups “-, Finland -” Noblikk Sannem “-, Sweden -” PLM “-, Greece – “Helas Can”) giving rise to a dynamic information network, which worked under the name “Informatión Exange”, with Metal Box acting as its secretary. The exchange of information extended equipment manufacturing and construction techniques, not including commercial policy. Ten years later, with the sale and slicing of Continental, that association collapsed.
A new raw material is placed on the market in 1965. It comes from Japan. The Japanese steel industry, in collaboration with a major container manufacturer – Toyo Seican – develops the product TFS – “tin-free steel -, in which tin tin is replaced by chrome. Initially it takes different commercial names, depending on its manufacturer, such as “Can super” or “Ancrolite”. But in the end its name is generalized as TFS. It is a material that has certain limitations, such as its delicacy or its difficulty in being a soldier, but little by little, it is opening a global path as an alternative to tinplate, especially for the manufacture of sausage and tapas.
Until then, the largest equipment manufacturers had been the packaging producers themselves, as we discussed earlier, as they had the technology, the experience and the market. But now also start to emerge independent machinery companies. Almost always, its creators were men from the sector or even in some cases the metallurgical machinery workshops that broke away from the parent company.
Within these fabrications, the complexity and quality of the tools, die-cutting and die-making that are developed stand out. For example, the precision of the “bodymakers” of the beverage packaging lines including their tools is formidable. But above all it is the birth of an unprecedented product, the easy to open covers – later we will deal with them again – which favors the development of tooling with multiple operations and extreme accuracy. New materials such as tungsten carbide make these achievements possible, as well as an updated generation of high precision presses. Names like DRT, Minster, Stolle, Bruderer … made these advances viable.
The United States had until now been the clear leader in technology and equipment manufacturing but now in Europe several companies – which collect the professional legacy of previous decades – begin to build machinery developed by them. The success is remarkable and they are the big promoters of new small and medium size packaging manufacturing companies that, taking advantage of the strong demand of the market, are installed mainly in the Center-South of Europe. Among these team builders include the Italian FMI, Cevolani, Comaco, MGR … the German Krupp, Blema, Lanico, Kargerhammer, Naroska, Klinghmmer, Bibra … …
Continental Europe, which was already the owner of Schmalbach, in the year 1970 acquired Thoamassen & Drijver and Verblifa, (T & D) – a prestigious Dutch company, founded in 1919 and which had grown with the incorporation of Sobemi (Belgium) in 1964 – forming a large group in Central Europe.
The proliferation of can manufacturers causes – especially towards the end of this period – the development of strong competition originating the search for competitiveness. As a good example of this, the appearance of a new task in the sector can be taken: the cutting of tin coils by the metalgraphic ones. Previously this work was done by the coil manufacturers – the steel industry – but the need to optimize the basic raw material triggered the new criterion. Suitable lines for this work were put on the market by Littell or Delta.
9.- CURRENT TECHNOLOGIES
In the mid-seventies, humanity tried to assimilate the oil crisis, which had shaken the world economy. We are already in the yesterday of our history. Events such as the beginning of the reign of Juan Carlos I in Spain, the death of Mao, the appearance of the first personal computers, the war of the Malvinas or the first cases of AIDS, are all known to us, either for life or for a few first hand. The period we are dealing with closes in the middle of the “eighties” with the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika.
The characteristic of the same in the sector is the accentuation of the fight for the market. Which is no longer growing as in previous times except for some exceptions such as beverage containers. The demographic growth in the industrial piases (high purchasing power) stops and on the other hand other forms of food packaging are consolidated, although many of them are not new, now they reach the appropriate degree of technology and competence (the cold, the dehydration, pasteurization, vacuum, etc.)
From that moment the final consumer becomes the main protagonist. In the First World, the strength that the final recipient has through the means that society puts at their disposal (associations, parties, unions …) decisively influences in defining products that do not harm health or the environment and They are both practical and easy to use. The market of the container is influenced by this current and thus new applications are developed such as easy-open covers, electric welding and two-piece packaging.
Easy opening covers .
Its antecedents go back many years back with the use of systems that in some way favored the opening, throughout the time they were enough, between which they can be enumerated:
– Containers with lateral opening by means of tongue on the body, being the most typical those used for “corned beef”. It had its origin in the American market
– “Norwegian” opening lids (usually of rectangular shape with tongue on one of the smaller sides, the closure in the area of the same lacked a lid hook, was used for semi-preserves). It was developed in the North of Europe for the conserve of fish.
– Package to “decollage, of which we have dealt with previously.
– Package “box bande” (lateral opening by tape). He was the last employee before the new easy-open lid. It consisted of a snap-on lid on the body without flange, both joined by a welded tape. The opening was made by the start of the tape.
Almost all – except for the “Box Bande” – had common points:
– Open with the help of a small key.
– Have a tongue to start opening.
– Specify a weakened area by means of incisions, for tearing.
Now designs are developed that are quite different from those and that in all cases eliminate the use of an instrument for opening. Although well looked at has much to do with the previous ones since it is based on “a weakened area by means of incisions to tear” the cap, which requires a ring – an old key – to start the operation.
It was the year 1959, when in Dayton – North America- Ernie Fraze, a former Alcoa technician, well versed in the properties of aluminum and also an expert in die cutting, had the first prototype of easy opening covers ready The first industrial versions are presented beginning of the “sixties” and develop rapidly.
Two basic models appear, one with a partial opening in the form of a tongue – used for liquids and drinks – and another with a total opening that allows the cover to be completely removed – used for solid foods. The latter, initially had an incision in the form of triple C and once opened had the appearance of a pig tail, receiving hence the name of “pig tail”. These designs are improving over time and taking another configuration.
Several American companies offered, in a short term, tools and equipment suitable for the manufacture of easy opening covers. The tools required a very high design and precision. The manufactured by Dayton Realiable Tool (DRT) stood out for its high quality. To work with them, very reliable presses were required, being those manufactured by Minster – an American company with more than a century of experience – the most widespread solution. Also Stolle (USA) or Bruderer (Switzerland) were very used presses.
The material used in the United States was – and still is – aluminum, which is logical in a country where energy is cheap. Europe, where energy is expensive, soon changed to tin in the case of total openness. This meant a reworking of equipment and tools, quite complex. In addition, he applied this technique to non-round shaped covers (rectangular and oval) for the fish market. Carnaud was the first to develop these covers, in the “seventies”, highlighting the work of a veteran engineer: Y. Cauzac
The easy-open lid was gaining market safely. Today, 100% of the cans for beverages use these caps and also a very high percentage of food containers.
The beverage containers have taken advantage of its use, to decrease, as far as possible, the consumption of aluminum in its manufacture. So since its appearance, the diameter has been reduced, going from the 211 format (65 mm.) In successive stages to the current 202 (52 mm), which appeared on the market in 1991. This has been feasible with the use of the technique of reducing the diameter of the mouth of the container.
Electric welding :
The current system, tin-lead alloy welding, began to be seriously questioned by the health authorities due to the contribution of lead to food. Said metal is toxic and difficult to remove by the human organism Soon, the prohibition for alimentary uses of this technique was generalized in most of the countries.
Electrical welding by points, was a technique commonly applied in the industry in general and had already found some applications in the manufacture of packaging, especially in those for industrial use, as for example in welding the sewing of large capacity drums , soldier of handles and supports of boats for paintings, etc. However, the speeds achieved were low, except in the “conoweld” technique developed by Continental Can, which transformed conventional bodymakers into electric welding machines, incorporating rotating electrodes. The biggest problem was the low melting temperature of tin. surface of tinplate This melted, contaminated the electrodes before it could weld the steel, making it very difficult to control the process.
A Swiss company (Soudronic), had started a few years ago to manufacture machines that were going to give the ideal solution to these problems. Founded in 1953 in a town near Zurich, Soudronic began to manufacture very simple hand-feeding welding machines, which solved the problem of contamination of the electrodes, getting them to be continuously renewed, using a copper wire moved at the same speed as the container to be welded.
The success was total and in a few years the technique improved a lot, allowing to put on the market equipment capable of working at the same speed as the old “bodymakers”, and even overcome it.
Soudronic became the world leader in this technological change, basing its policy on a great effort in research and development, which led it to patented a number of novelties and improvements, which revolutionized the technique of forming bodies of metal containers.
Packaging “two pieces”
The idea was not new, for a long time they were in use the sausages that received the name of “two pieces” because they were formed by two elements instead of three, the lid on one side and the bottom and body in one piece for another. The body was obtained by simple stuffing in long stroke presses and greater power than those used for caps. The thickness of the walls of the body and of the bottom was practically the same, since the metal when undergoing the drawing operation stretched very little. The height of the container obtained was small, since the value of half the diameter of the container could not be exceeded; if it increased, the breakage of the material originated. This restriction had its origin in three factors: limitation of the properties of tinplate existing in the market (embutibilidad), type of available equipment and design of tools (traditional).
Although the first containers of this innovative type appeared in 1964, the great jump occurs in the present period and comes hand in hand with new developments on three fronts, resulting in two kinds of packaging that differ in the technique used and in the use thereof.
Manufacture of a DRD container
DRD containers (sausages and re-sausages) obtained by a series of successive embossments starting from flat metal (usually in coils). In general, in each of them the diameter is reduced and the height is increased, until reaching the desired dimension. In the last, the background is formed and the excess material is trimmed. Both the press and the tooling are of several operations.
This type of containers can support both the vacuum and the internal overpressure, since the walls maintain a thickness very close to the initial and are designed for food that need sterilization process. This new technique also demanded original equipment. Several manufacturers of presses offered the suitable facilities – presses multipunzón -, emphasizing soon the American signature Stolle, among others.
DWI packaging (sausages, drawn iron). In this case, the first operation is the simple drawing of a “cup” that in the following is subjected to a series of stretched and pressed, until the final shape is achieved. This achieves a very thin wall, with an optimal use of the material. They are designed to withstand only internal pressure and are the typical beverage cans of the current market.
The manufacturing lines for this type of packaging are extremely complex, due to the complication of the technique used as well as the high production rates. This gave rise to the arrival in the metal market of a series of equipment manufacturing companies, which until now had not had a presence in it. On the contrary, little contributed the traditional ones of the sector. So Standum – manufacturer of bodymaker -, Rutherford – printing on packaging – Reynolds – rebarnizado interior -, Belvac – testers – etc., all of them American, took a position in the new business.
Both DRD and DWI containers require internal protection to eliminate metal exposure, coating it with two or more layers of sanitary varnish of complex application.
Both tin and aluminum are used as raw materials for its manufacture. The technology in both cases originated in North America, as we have already indicated, although it soon spread throughout the world. The investments to be made are very high and therefore its start-up is limited to large multinational companies.
10.- QUALITY AND COMPETITIVENESS
We are located in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Our story comes to an end – with it also the end of a century and a millennium – and understands from the fall of the Berlin Wall (and with it a whole way of looking for solutions for society) until the “September 11 “(In which the same society becomes aware of what terrorism can mean in the 21st century).
The metal packaging industry is currently the typical sector of a mature market. Production capacity exceeds demand, technology is available to everyone who pays for it. Only the amount of the investments acts as a barrier to limit access to some segments exclusively to the largest companies (beverage market). Therefore competition is accentuated and commercial margins are reduced, selling in many cases at cost or below prices to obtain turnover and cover fixed costs.
In this phase, a strong struggle with the control of the world market is unleashed among the big companies. As the increase in turnover is very difficult to achieve by simple sales growth, the purchase of other smaller companies is resorted to. This way you enter a dynamic of buying, selling, merging, absorbing … in which many companies disappeared and others grew not always to be more profitable.
Another peculiarity of this period was the evolution in the mentalities of the companies, until then the technological development had been the priority, now the organizational and management techniques prevail over the previous ones. The search for competition is essential in an aggressive market. In this sector, as in others, the book “In Search of Excellence” by Peters and Waterman is the obligatory reference.
This situation animates some enterprising entrepreneurs, creators of their own company, who until now had kept their property, to put them on sale. Financial entities that have a cash register buy them, with this the need to obtain short-term results becomes more necessary, investments slow down and the immediate benefits are important.
In 1983 Jean-Marie Descarpentries, a senior executive who is in line with the time he has lived, is put in charge of Carnaud. Rapid initiates an aggressive policy of business purchases, especially in southern Europe: Spain and Italy, which shortly after – 1984 – joined the merger with Metal Box, creating a new company of colossal dimensions under the name of CMB. This common adventure did not fully respond to the expectations expected and the most significant shareholder in 1996 sells the company to Crown Cork, which becomes the largest company in the sector in the world although it has to part with a part of plants, forced by the “antitrust” laws of the European Economic Community. So other societies, are made with part of this cake. For example, the American US Can buys a series of aerosol factories in Europe.
In the following years, Crown began a divestment policy, selling or closing facilities, respecting the most competitive ones.
In this context, company policies focus on reducing costs in order to improve margins and increase customer loyalty through quality and service to ensure industrial activity.
To reduce costs, the actions focus on:
– Design a purchasing strategy that, by using centralization and negotiating high volumes, tries to reduce its cost. It starts in the automobile market and is inspired by the ideas of the engineer Lopez de Ariortua.
– Reduction of consumption of raw materials (especially metal) taking advantage of the technical improvements introduced.
– Automation of all tasks and possible jobs using robots, programmable automata and mechanisms. This mechanization not only affects productive equipment, but also quality control systems are automated. As a result of these actions, labor is substantially reduced. Examples of this.- a) In the manufacture of covers and bottoms: automatic joints in zigzag cutting shears and their presses, automatic packaging, 100% quality control by “vision” … b) In the manufacturing lines of packaging: automatic joints between circular shears and electric welding machines, automatic feeding of caps to the seamer, 100% proof of the tightness of the cans
To improve the quality and services among other actions, it stands out:
Implementation of integral quality systems throughout the company. The most used tool is the ISO 9000 Standard
Development of an environmental management system through the introduction of ISO 14001
Use of “intranet” and “internet” networks in management and marketing.
All of this means that, even when practically maintaining “constant” sales prices in absolute values during this period, companies maintain a certain profitability.
Perhaps as an epilogue, it is convenient to make a brief description of the companies that, at the beginning of the new century, are going strong worldwide. They are few, but they alone accumulate the “lion’s share” of this market. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the next few years, since capital movements are vertiginous and societies are created and destroyed with great ease. But it is presumable that these that we reviewed here, will have long life, although they can change of name. Because a company of the scale of these, does not come out of nowhere. It takes many years of experience and large doses of knowledge to reach these heights. The proof of it, is that all the companies that we comment, are not but the new suit that now dress old companies. That is to say, all of them are the simple grouping of old, almost always smaller ones, that trace their birth at least a hundred years ago. The great buildings are no more than many stones placed in a careful order.
– CROWN: We have already spoken several times, to the lake of the history of the metallic container, of this American company. It began its journey in 1892, linked to the business of the crown cap, opening to other products of the sector at the end of its life. In the last 30 years, with the purchase of several outstanding companies as a part of the former Continental – 1990- and the Carnaud-Metal Box -1996- Group, it achieved world leadership. In addition, it participates in the PET business – purchase of Constar in 1992 – and in other packaging sectors. At the present time, it has more than 150 plants spread over five continents, of which 64 are dedicated to the beverage boat and 58 to food packaging.
– BALL CORPORATION: Founded in 1880 in Buffalo (New York) by the brothers Frank and Edmund Ball. It began as a small container factory for tin and wood for paints, varnishes and gasoline, giving access to other businesses related to glass over time. Then it drifted towards the metal containers. He began to specialize in cans for beverages in 1960 with the purchase of Jeffco Manufacturing Company of Deventer. Subsequently reached a “joint venture” with the French Saint Gobain. In 1998, it acquired the important Reynolds Metals company in the USA and four years later the Schmalbach beverage segment in Europe. Account with more than 60 plants distributed by North America, Europe, China and Argentina, of which 38 are of boats of drinks. It is also a power in PET bottles also for beverages.
– REXAM: An old company (London 1881) linked to the paper industry – in different types and uses – that changed its name to Rexam in 1995, started to stomp on the beverage can market in 1999 with the purchase of the Swedish company PLM – company with a solid knowledge of the sector that dates back to 1919 -, American National Can in 2000 – one of the leaders of the packaging since its origins – and the Brazilian Latasa three years later. All of them specialized in using aluminum as raw material. It has more than 50 factories, all of them in beverage containers, distributed throughout Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia. He is also present in the plastic packaging business for cosmetics, pharmacy and food.
– IMPRESS: Finishing the 20th century – in the year 1997 – a new company emerges with great force on the European scene. It is a young tree that has its roots in much earlier times. Two strong companies Pechiney – French – and Schmalbach – German – come together. Pechiney had previously bought companies as solid as American National Can or Capolo – Italian -. To this group is soon added Ferembal, US Can Europe and others from Eastern Europe, arriving at the dawn of the new century to have a presence throughout the world – more than 17 countries – and maintaining in operation more than fifty factories. It is the fruit of well-planned work, with a firm task in the area of R & D. A real challenge for the times and shows that when there is corporate ambition, large projects are still possible.
In this four large companies, we can see a series of common facets, such as: The priority dedicated to the packaging of beverages – in three of them -, the true engine of this industry in the present moment; be present in other markets of packaging (PET), and its globalization.
In Spain, three of these companies are well represented: Crown, which as buyer of the Carnaud-Metal Box group received all of its heritage in the peninsula; Rexam which is a similar case with Nacional; and Impress. However, the one that heads the market is a national company: Mivisa, created in 1972 by the Vivancos family.
We have reached the end. It is not the historian’s job to predict the future, this corresponds to analysts and fortune-tellers, but the temptation is great and he does not resist making some comments.
It is clear that in the developed world, the time of the “fat cows” has passed, it is not risky to predict a future where the sector will seek its self-regulation, but it seems that there are still paths that can lead to a good end: A) Find a segment of the highly specialized market from which it can become strong. It could be the solution of small companies with very imaginative and fighters leaders. B) Continue betting to control the large market with considerable volumes of business, logical output of large multinationals. In any case, flexibility and quality will be paramount.
Another approach has the “emerging” piases, in them the opportunities will be greater. The packaging travels poorly, transportation is an important factor in the final cost and therefore always have to be manufactured next to the packer. Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, even Africa … are promising geographical areas, some with obvious risks.
In all the ways we must not forget that the human being is creative and possibly new ideas that will bring other solutions that improve current packaging or respond to unprecedented consumer demands.
12.- THE MAN
Two hundred years have passed since Nicolas Appert, laboriously working in the workshop of his Parisian confectionery, took the first steps. Surely he was not aware of what the results of his studies would mean in the next few centuries. Going back more in time, many millennia have passed, since homo sapiens, in its Neolithic cave, detected that certain environmental factors, such as the heat of fire or the absence of moisture, favored the prolongation of the life of the meat that I used to eat.
But these facts, as well as the stone thrown into the water of a pond, have been generating, in the form of concentric circles, new steps in the way of the conservation of perishable products consumed by the human being. Behind each of them – or rather in front – there has always been a man.
Man is the only being of Creation, capable of modifying his environment to his advantage, for this he develops the right tools. Metal containers are a part of them and therefore occupy a place in culture. Because human culture is not just the paintings that cover the walls of a museum or the books that fill the shelves of a library. Culture is also the coins with which we pay for the bus or the key with which we open our door. Culture, in short, is also the can of soda that relieves our heat on a summer afternoon.
Therefore, without fear of falling into pedantry, metal boats are also a good realization of man, using his powers and faculties, gifts received from his Creator of which he is image and likeness.
This work, with its shortcomings and failures, does not pretend to be more than a small tribute to that man, those thousands of men who have dedicated their professional life to facilitate that of others, making good packaging. I have been lucky enough to meet a good number of them.
Pamplona 26 de Noviembre de 2007