All of us in this room are losing money, Bill Paddison declared to the Petroleum Packaging Council during its March 2014 meeting in Tampa, Florida, United States. The growing dilemma for many lubricant packagers, he added: loss of profit due to counterfeiting.
Paddison, a national account manager for U.S.-based labeling company Multi-Color Corp., was one of several speakers to air this issue. The event was abuzz with talk of potential solutions, innovations and workarounds for the problems packagers face in keeping their products tamper-resistant and inimitable in the industrys increasingly global supply chains.
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While many anti-counterfeiting tactics mentioned at the conferences trade show and technical sessions focused on packaging materials such as lids and seals, Paddison professed that labels could employ security features.
Some of Multi-Colors security solutions are visible, he said, citing difficult-to-replicate features such as thermo-chromic inks, effect pigments, holograms and diffractions, as well as more traditional approaches such as barcodes. However, the company is also focusing on providing covert applications such as nearly invisible micro-text along with taggant technologies for tracking products.
Paddison also highlighted Cryptograph, a concept developed by the Swiss digital product-authentication and counterfeit protection firm Alpvision. Cryptograph is a digital identification system composed of invisible microdots printed directly on a products label in ink or varnish, using normal offset printing processes. It can also be applied using rotogravure and flexography printing.
Unlike other security measures, Paddison said, Cryptograph is one of the only systems that does not require highly specialized detection equipment. The microdots are generated in a pseudo random pattern and can be identified using an office scanner or a smartphone.
Most lubricant packages, however, have limited space on labels for marketing and branding graphics, let alone security features. With an increasing need for information in multiple languages, hazard communication mandates such as Global Harmonization System protocols and other regulatory certifications, many packagers say they are running out of real estate on labels. Thats why Multi-Colors Extended Content – a cut-and-stick, glue-applied label – goes hand in hand with Cryptograph, Paddison said.
Allowing labels to be two-ply, three-ply or four-ply, this system adds extra space for informational copy and graphics, he explained while demonstrating the concept at the PPC exhibition. The top layer(s) can peel up and then be smoothly reapplied, thanks to a coating of liquid adhesive.
Tom Bishop, of container manufacturer Letica Corp., of Rochester Hills, Michigan, U.S., also discussed anti-counterfeiting measures. Unlike a label, however, the solutions he offered rely primarily on hardware to provide evidence of tampering. Through its partnership with APC Products Ltd., Letica offers an injection-molded plastic pouring spout for its plastic pail lids.
Rather than employing a spout that is inserted or crimped on, the APC-7 technology allows the spout to be added as the lid is in the mold. By insert-molding the pail enclosure into the cover during the covers injection-molding process, the pail cover and closure body become a single unit, APCs president, Ron Sturk, told LubesnGreases. The closure body is further protected with a pull-ring seal in the neck. Exchanging pail contents through an insert-molded closure would require breaking or cutting the seal. There would be clear evidence of tampering.
The APC-7 insert-molding closure was initially developed in 2008 for a U.S.-based pail manufacturer who wanted to automate the lid production process. By using robots to feed closures to pail cover molds, they projected factory labor savings, Sturk explained. They also anticipated quality improvements by replacing metal crimp- or press-fit closures (which can leak) with a plastic-to-plastic bond.
APC anticipated the benefit of reducing tampering as key to developing closure sales in offshore markets, Sturk said, and that spurred the company to begin researching, developing and integrating APC-7 into its portfolio of solutions for its petroleum products customers.
Another competing technology employed to bond a plastic closure to a plastic cover is ultrasonic welding, which is effective in providing tamper evidence, Sturk pointed out. The welding process, however, is limited by its slower cycle and higher labor requirement.
Using insert-molding technology to install plastic pail closures, in my opinion, improves the performance and security of the package through filler and distribution to the end user, Sturk said. Years later, I can say the high research and development costs have been worth the investment.
R&D costs do play a factor in making a product packaging copy-proof, concurred Christian Musiol, sales director of closure manufacturer Bericap. However, he emphasized, You need to get transparency on the costs of not acting.
Individualization and protection will add costs to your packaging, said Musiol, who is based in Budenheim, Germany. You need to balance the costs of implementing technology with the costs of not adding the technology and running the risks of being counterfeited. There is no 100 percent protection [against tampering], but better-protected packages are less affected by counterfeiting and can be easier identified [versus] counterfeits.
The petroleum packaging industry is relying too much on standard packaging components and manufacturing technologies, Musiol cautioned, despite the growing need for individualization. Beyond adding decorative elements and elaborate colors to clearly identify your brand, its imperative to incorporate technical hurdles into your packaging, he said.
Such hurdles come with challenges as well as advantages, he added, demonstrating the pros and cons of some of the innovations he highlighted. For example, adding a side security label to the closure – a simple tab that easily breaks or is bonded with a special adhesive – is a great way to add technical discipline to the manufacturing process, ensure copy protection and manipulation protection, and add space to print more marketing material, he said. However, if the closure isnt completely cylindrical, then it would need to be redesigned. It also requires an additional manufacturing step and is prone to physical stress and aging risks.
Another option is to use a tool to emboss or print on the side of the closure. Side-embossing requires stress deforming of the closure from the mold, which adds both a technical and a quality hurdle to the design, Musiol said, all while adding a marketing feature. However, there needs to be enough vertical space on the side of the closure and/or its tamper-evident band, in order to fit the tool insert-imprinted lettering.
Side laser marking, meanwhile, uses laser technology for contact-free marking that can be applied even to closures with knurls and structures. The marking can be branding material or a barcode or both since it is done in high resolution. While laser marking is a technical discipline that is hard to replicate, he said, the technology and machine investment also add variable costs to the manufacturing process. Laser marking, however, can be applied at the closure manufacturers plant, imparting no additional burdens to the customer, he added.
Laser marking can also be applied to the tops of the caps. Advantages of top printing with individual laser marking include a combination of visible and hidden protections and a nice appeal of marketing features, he continued. Laser marking the top of the closure adds the possibility of including hidden ultraviolet printing and verification codes, along with customizable branding opportunities. This technology adds costs to the closure, though. It requires feedback logistics for the verification, for example, and it should be combined with an individual coding on the bottle, Musiol added.
Digital printing is a more versatile solution. With contact-free applications using digital ink-jet printing, this newer method allows for decoration to run across structures and over knurls, even on HDPE. In contrast, older technologies fail on adhesion and structures. Its also a great marketing feature, Musiol added. Digital printing allows for individual decoration of each closure with text and pictures – and offers excellent copy protection.
Counterfeiting is a global problem, with some regions being strongly affected by manipulations and copies, Musiol concluded. You need to get transparency on the costs of not acting – in order to set the right priorities – and define your maximum willingness to pay for the individualization and protection of your packaging.
Lube Report Asia occasionally republishes articles from its sister publications. This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Lubes’n’Greases magazine (Volume 20, Issue 6), under the headline “Sharpen Your Wits Against Counterfeits.”