Today’s technologies are quickly transforming many facets of our lives: drones deliver our online purchases, we can live-stream our thoughts on social media, and our cars are driving us around. Folding cartons have not been left untouched by all of this technological advancement. Today’s converting technologies allow for greater quality control, efficiency, and overall operations optimization than ever before. We truly have entered a new era of “smart converting”.
Do More, Faster
If time is money, then smart technology can help carton converters see green by boosting speed and efficiency. For example, many of today’s printing presses are designed to carry out different processes at the same time. A press may be able to wash one printing unit while others are in use, or it may be able to adjust for paper stretch while running by automatically altering the image. Some presses even have integrated Pantone libraries for split-second color adjustments. With digital presses, makeready becomes quick and plateless, and sometimes can be done with a single push of a button. Cold foil can be applied on press. Down the line, laser cutting is offering an alternative to traditional tooling, while automation is adding efficiency in post-press palletizing and the loading of boxes. With the help of ingenious technological advances, we are making cartons faster than ever before.
Perfect Cartons, Every Time
The era of smart converting is fast and efficient, but this in no way compromises quality. In fact, today’s converting equipment is largely built around the premise that cartons coming down the line are bad until proven good. Post-press technologies include inspection systems that check cartons for proper scoring, color correctness, unwanted blemishes, and other quality criteria. Some systems assign a serial number to each and every piece, using a cloud-based data collection system. The operator can then access information about any carton and how the machinery was functioning when the carton was converted. This way, imperfect cartons can be discarded before they leave the line—long before they reach the customer.
Individual carton inspection is just one part of a larger system of overall operations inspection that new technology and data collection have enabled. With cloud-based reporting systems, data from the entire converting process can be collected and configured into valuable insights about, for example, machine speed or the space between cartons. This data can also be sliced, diced, and analyzed by any number of specific criteria—by job, shift, or machine. And over time, the data can become predictive, alerting converters to issues on the horizon. What’s more, the data and reports can be accessed on mobile devices so issues can be addressed anywhere and at any time. When it comes to modern converting processes, continuous quality improvement is a given.
In the era of smart converting, the paperboard packaging industry is making its product faster and with fewer errors than ever before. By harnessing technology and honing its skills, the industry is getting better and better. And with even newer technology coming just around the corner, it will be incredible to see how far the industry can go.