That Still Small Voice

August 28, 2014

For those of us who know the story, we recall that something significant was not ushered in with a strong rushing wind or an earthquake, but in a small quiet calling. So it is with many signs of change that are not so evident unless we are sensitized to the calling. While many of us may not need to respond to global packaging initiatives because the end user does not ship all over the world; or we are not ultimately faced with declining fibre quality like the Europeans; or we may not manufacture UN Hazmat boxes; or we have a corrugator or sheet feeder that quantifies its board via certificates of analysis the physical properties of the corrugated it send us still, we are faced with change.

If you have built trust in customer relationships, go further! Bring differentiation and branding to the relationship. What separates you and your company from others? Be faster to respond, yes. Discuss the process controls you have in place that provides product assurance, yes. If you are not selling and delivering a perceived significant value, then the relationship defaults to price and the balance of power falls into the hands of the customer/buyer. Look at the progress of digital printing technology and the recent claims of printing at 8,000 sheets per hour. What a technology leap!

Become the specialist, the corrugated engineering expert. One success builds on another. Do not become diluted, keep that focus narrow. Always be testing competitor’s boxes, but not for basis weights or calipers, that’s not of any value. Consider third party evaluations. Learn the newest terminology and new methods of measuring board performance and multiple your value in the eyes of the packager. Create pathways of significance so that your customer cannot take your investment in them to a competitor.

Champion the changes that are coming, it’s not the unknown to your Association. Prepare yourselves and don’t be deceive by those who are not embracing better ways of design the corrugated structure and reducing variation in their processes. You can’t control what’s coming, but you can reduce the pain of not knowing. There are already pockets of excellence out there, the early innovators, and companies in the mid Atlantic, Texas, the Rocky Mountains, the upper Midwest, the Southwest and Los Angeles area.

To read the entire article follow this link:

Setting Seven Performance Standards with Your Sheet Suppliers

August 4, 2014

For the last several years we have prepared you well with the Key Characteristics of Linerboard and Medium and Their Impact on Combined Corrugated Board-Second Edition, how to Get the Best Box, and Understanding Box Performance-Third Edition.  Make sure you have these brochures in your library. (available at the AICC Store)

Then at the third Science of Paper School we shifted the focus somewhat from what converters need to know about containerboards in general to combined board characteristics specifically.  Recently when compiling a list of sheet feeders for the Associations’ Board of Directors we were reminded to provide members with the key quantitative quality requirements one might want to establish with their internal or external suppliers.  Several years ago we publish a series of spreadsheets for singlewall and doublewall combinations listing a few physical properties categories so a converter could establish incoming sheet specifications with their supplies.

Let’s review those and explore a more comprehensive array of properties.

ECT: Yes, it is well know but not completely understood. While the already known losses of box compression will varying with supply chain elements, deterioration rates vary by actual amounts of board crush or flute degradation and the use of semichemical or recycled mediums.

Caliper: spring back or recovered thickness after crushing.  While fluting is a resilient material and recovers from much of the sever deformation that occurs during combining and/or converting, its inherent strength contribution to the corrugated may be significantly compromised.

Flat Crush: This measure of actual combined board crush verses the potential resistance to crushing as predicted from the Concora strength of the medium. This, however, is not a good predictor of actual board crush.

Pin Adhesion: Determines the strength of the bonds between the liner(s) and the medium(s).

Four Point Bending Stiffness: Measures the rigidity of the combined board and the sidewall wall robustness of the corrugated box.

Torsional Stiffness: Relatively new to the US, but known elsewhere.  This maybe the single best overall determinant of board strength.

Warp: Should have no more than 1/8 deviation from flatness per foot.

Look for more details in an upcoming issue of BoxScore

Settling the “Score” with Sheet Suppliers

July 18, 2014

Chuck asks,

How can we, as a sheet buyer, communicate to our sheet suppliers what we mean by ‘heavy scoring’. Is there a TAPPI industry standard for how much score pressure should be applied at the corrugator on the substrate…based on the flute configuration and weight of combined board? Does the corrugator have gages that indicate how much scoring pressure is being applied to the combined sheet at the slitter/scorer?

We have multiple vendors, we find that we’re having difficulty getting some of the suppliers to understand what we mean by ‘heavy scoring’. Hence my questions. We need a consistent means to communicate to our suppliers what we require when we ask for ‘heavy scoring’.

Every sheet plant must set quality and quantifiable specifications with their sheet suppliers. In regards to this latter point those measurable and reportable properties should be ECT, Flat Crush, caliper, four point bending, board performance index, and score bending. In a Corrugated Today article written by Dick Target, he discusses testing many aspects of corrugated board including score bending. (Raising Manufacturing Standards – Corrugated Today, March/April 2012, Page 22). You can and should set very specific values with your sheet supplier and establish a numerical target verses the very subjective term, “Heavy Scoring.”

Score bend testers available from the normal commercial testing machine manufacturers can be rather pricey. You may want order one from Dick Target, start to set standards for your sheets and hold your supplies accountable!


ECT Standard Differences

July 10, 2014

Michael asks,

Recently, we have been discussing ECT test methods with one of our partners plants. They are utilizing ‘X Brand’ testing equipment and using the Neckdown method (T 838 cm-12), which was revised as a ‘classic method’ in 2012. We have been using the ‘short column test’ (TAPPI/ANSI T 839 om-12), which has been an official test method since 2002.

The problem is that we have recently been getting different ECT values, where ours have better numbers than our partner plant. Assuming there is nothing happening to the material during transit, our feeling is that our different test methods could be the source of our conflicting data values.

I have heard that there are not many who still use the Neckdown method of testing. I have also been informed that supposedly there have been studies that indicate that ‘X Brand’ of equipment may not be giving consistent data.
Is there any information or perspective you can share regarding all of this? Specifically, how probable is it that any significant difference in our data is because of our different testing methods or equipment?

As I recall from my last visit, you are also using ‘X Brand’. All testing machines and tools can get out of calibration and need regular and often costly maintenance.

There should not be a significant difference between test methods. The quality of the cutting knives is critical. Are you using gloves? You might consider preconditioning and then conditioning the samples before testing until you discover the root cause of the differences. What is the two sigma range for the two testing methodologies? Have you exchanged samples? How about considering a third party testing facility to validate your tests? Perhaps you would want to send samples directly from your partner plant and then equivalent samples, from the same batch, that you have received from the partner plant.

Please don’t assume that there is no damage in transit! One study shows an ECT loss of 7% depending on the roads.

Sometimes operator variability and preference comes into the picture.

These are a few things you can look at and if you have any additional information, or follow up results to share, please do.

If anyone else ahs any comments, we’ll be happy to listen.

— Ralph


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