Packaging touches every industry on the planet, and lubricants and greases are no exception. A products container can influence everything from consumer decisions to warehouse handling, shipping costs, safety and more.
Driven by Autos
For lubricants, the automotive industry and the desires of the oil majors are in many ways the engine driving the packaging train. According to the Lubricant Packaging Market Report, prepared by Global Market Insights, Automobile led the overall lubricant packaging market in 2016 in terms of volume and shall grow at a prominent rate over the forecast timespan. The growing automobile industry in Asia-Pacific and Latin America will be crucial factors propelling lubricant packaging market growth in the coming years.
Elizabeth R. Wagg, vice president of operations and sales at Campbellville, Ontario-based Biederman Enterprises Ltd., said, We work with all the major oil companies, and I do see how they introduce subtle changes with their oil bottles. Some of that has to do with their customers, the end users and how they fill oil into their cars.
In that same vein, German company Ravenol and U.S.-based Valvoline both rolled out new multi-quart oil containers last year, clearly targeted at the consumer market. The easy-pour bottles feature pullout spouts, internal anti-glug tubes and side-mounted handles.
A well-designed package can add a competitive edge. Henrik Kass is the business manager for Fluid Bag, a Finnish company that makes 900- and 1,000-liter bags for dispensing lubricants, greases and many other products. He said, Packaging can be something more than just the means to move a product from A to B. The packaging can offer features that benefit the end user of lubricants, and also the producer if it leads to an increase in sales.
In 2016, Castrol attempted to leapfrog the entire oil change business by rolling out their disruptive Nexcel system that included a cars full complement of engine oil and an oil filter contained in one box about the size of a car battery. Simply removing the box and plugging in a new one performs a complete oil change. No tools, cans, plastic bottles, pouches or jugs. Aston Martin liked the idea, and a partnership was formed. So far, though, the rest of the automakers havent embraced the product.
Meanwhile, an innovation that nobody saw coming to the lubes business has established a beachhead on the packaging battlefield and isnt going away-the pouch. As reported last year in LubesnGreases, the flexible packaging market, which includes pouches, is growing at a rate of about 25 percent a year.
Wagg of Biedermann said, Pouches were once thought by many people to never fly-nobody is going to want to pour oil into their car from a pouch. But its happening, and it makes sense on so many different levels. Manufacturers save a lot of freight costs by shipping empty pouches.
Biederman doesnt make pouches, but they did pioneer another innovation: the plastic grease cartridge. Even in something as specialized as 14-ounce grease cartridges, there may be room for change. Biederman gets questions from customers about clear grease tubes so levels can be checked visually.
But one invention can force a change on other packaging elements. We can produce a transparent package, but it makes printing on top of it more of a challenge, elaborated Wagg.
Packaging design also extends to how containers are handled as they make their way through the distribution chain.
Fluid Bags Kass said, Its definitely a more gradual pace of change when youre talking about containers that hold large volumes. There are standards in the industry like steel drums, bins and totes that have been used forever, so all the handling equipment is used to working with those sizes and shapes.
Luis Villasor, director of sales & marketing for Greif Inc., based in Delaware, Ohio, commented, In the industry as a whole, were seeing solutions that relate to package graphics and printing in the form of using skins or digital printing techniques. Sustainable packaging using more sustainable raw materials and water-based paints is always of interest.
Sustainability is a constant theme in the packaging world. In January, McDonalds announced a goal to employ 100 percent sustainable packaging by 2025. Currently, only 50 percent of its guest packaging comes from sustainable sources, and somewhat shockingly, only 10 percent of its restaurants are recycling.
The whole notion of how sustainability in packaging permeates corporate culture can be seen in British packaging authority Smithers Piras Sustainability in Packaging conference, which will be setting up this month in Chicago. Speakers at the event include a wide cross-section of packagers, city employees, engineers, non-profits, and representatives from Starbucks, Clorox, General Mills, PepsiCo, Best Buy and Waste Management.
We are all citizens of the world and have a responsibility to ensure that our packaging is as responsible as it can be while still being able to deliver the product contained within, said Wagg. Those efforts include such things as light-weighting, using recycled materials, incorporating recycling into the operation from beginning to end and many other initiatives along the lifecycle of the package and our operation.
Kass adds that working internationally keeps sustainability in the forefront. He says, Nowadays, everybody should be thinking about sustainability. In Europe, there are directives having to do with how to minimize packaging and making sure you use as little as possible.
In this Spotlight, each of these companies explains how their packaging affects the lubricants industry.
Biederman Enterprises Ltd.
Plastic Leads the Way
In 1992, Fred Sutcliffe mortgaged his house and bought into the lubricants and greases packaging business by acquiring Biederman Enterprises Ltd. He was determined to innovate the industry by replacing the historic paper grease cartridges with plastic. Similar to the old oil tins that changed to plastic bottles, he saw the future for grease cartridges was plastic. The challenge has been showing customers the value of making that change.
Elizabeth R. Wagg is his daughter and also vice president of operations and sales at the firm. She says, It took a long time before we began getting traction on converting customers out of paper cartridges and into the plastic cartridge, even though every other package in our industry was in plastic. People were just used to paper and were reluctant to change, despite the issues with putting chemicals in paper. But once they saw and tried the Biederman plastic cartridge, business snowballed, with more and more converting every year.
But moving from paper to plastic was just one of the innovations the company came up with for an industry that is rooted in tradition. Labeling the 14-ounce grease cylinder was often problematic, so Biederman pioneered cartridges with direct printing-eliminating the need for applying a standard label.
Wagg says,I had an OSHA auditor stop at our tradeshow booth and she referenced our cartridge in her subsequent presentation because she liked that the label was essentially the package. She said she couldnt tell you how many facilities shed been to where the label had torn or worn away and critical information was no longer visible.
But there were still more tricks up the Biederman innovation sleeve. Several years ago, the company began loading informative videos onto YouTube, including instructions on the proper way to load a grease gun. Last year, the company figured out a way to list their product tracking code on the edge of the cartridges using invisible ink that can only be read with a black light.
Wagg says, It allows for production traceability but doesnt interfere with our customers brand and their batch coding. The company is planning for more customer engagement in the coming year with social media, so stay tuned to this innovation leader.
Packaging Success Together
At Greif, we believe in customization and working together with customers to solve their application needs. Every drum can be customized to meet the requirements for the product going inside. Whether its steel drum liners, paints, anti-counterfeiting or closures, its not just a drum. Its a drum designed specific to our customers needs, which leads to packaging success together.
Greif strongly believes that innovation is often overlooked in todays world where cost-cutting and consolidation are so prevalent. Our future success is firmly tied with the growth of our customers, and we are focusing efforts to align with this belief. With Greifs renewed vision of being the best performing customer-service company in the industrial packaging world, innovation plays a significant role. But innovation cannot exist in a vacuum.
Greif has reviewed our past successes in innovation, and we are redeploying our resources to design a more efficient process and standardized approach. Our commercial efforts are centered on understanding our customers and their challenges. We have to think creatively, strategically and collaboratively if we expect to realize our aspirational goals.
Defining the Challenge
To begin the process, we like to define a problem, develop a structured approach to solving the problem and channel customer collaboration. Its possible to begin with a concept or even prototype, but its important to avoid the pitfall of going straight to commercialization without proper trials and customer feedback.
Luis Villasor, director sales & marketing for Greif, says, Innovation is integrated into our structured approach with strategic customers to address issues that plague the lubricants industry: counterfeiting, package quality, branding, package usability, and many other challenges our customers face. We work to identify solutions while addressing the basic criteria of safety, solving the problem, usability, economics and commercialization.
Sustainability is one of the four guiding principles of The Greif Way. It is the watchword we use at Greif to remind us that what we do now affects what we will be able to do in the future. The impact of humankind on the natural world is one of the greatest challenges we face today and in the decades ahead. Our expanding population is putting increasing pressure on the worlds resources.
Given the size of the packaging industry, the potential for packaging to have a negative impact on the worlds resources is significant. Aysu Katun, director of sustainability for Greif, says, It is the responsibility of both the manufacturers and users of packaging to minimize the footprint of packaging. Regulations will also have a greater influence on packaging design in the next ten years.
The biggest challenge to innovative packaging design is maintaining collaborative customer relationships. Greif commits to working with our customers to solve problems, improve safety, improve quality and create value. We understand that by doing this, we help to make our customers more successful. Greif has built the organization to respond to customer challenges and problems. Our test now is to earn their business as a trusted adviser in packaging solutions that will innovate their business.
Putting Lubes and Grease in a Bag
Traditionally, transporting and storing lubes and greases has involved 200-liter drums and 1,000-liter rigid intermediate bulk containers (IBC). Over the years, improvements aimed at prolonging the longevity of the vehicle and machinery parcs, and achieving longer service intervals, has led to a packaging innovation that reduces the risk of contamination in lubricants during both transport and handling. This packaging is designed to get you out of the drum and into something more flexible.
Fluid-Bag packaging systems are designed as a modern alternative to drums and IBCs. This fits the general trend where the demand for more advanced, high-quality lubricants is increasing and service stops are getting fewer. It is in everybodys interest that the quality and integrity of the lubricant is maintained as when produced, until the point of application, Henrik Kass, business manager inks & lubes at Fluid-Bag comments.
Flexible Design for Todays Needs
In the mid-1980s, Finnish engineers at Fluid-Bag perfected designs for a 1,000-liter flexible container. Their game-changing packaging breakthrough introduced a new way of moving and storing liquids that is recyclable and environmentally friendly. The single-trip, one-way system provides long-term storage while preserving lubricant integrity with minimum residue.
From this beginning, they advanced packing innovation by designing a multi-trip version based on a steel pallet. The bags can be shipped by road, rail and sea.
The inner bag is a single-trip, multilayer foil container surrounded by polypropylene fabric equipped with top and bottom inlet and outlet. The transport bag or outer bag is made of polypropylene fabric.
As the bag is flexible, it can be filled completely as opposed to other types of containers requiring an air-filled space, which is vulnerable to moisture contamination. External temperature changes strongly affect rigid containers creating pressure variations, often resulting in moisture contamination and the risk of rust particles in the lubricant. The flexibility of Fluid-Bag containers allows them to flex with temperature changes, hence no breathing occurs. As the bag is made of plastic, there is no danger of rust, nor is the lubricant exposed to contamination during discharge as is often the case when using rigid containers.
Proof in the Field
In a recent trial, transformer oil was stored for 23 months in a Fluid-Bag container before it showed signs of moisture ingress. Even then, the product when tested was within industry specifications. The same type of oil can be stored a maximum of 6 months in drums.
Residue in a flexible container is significantly less compared with rigid packaging. Fluid-Bag containers typically leave only 1 percent or less after discharging grease; for oils, it is practically zero, thanks to the possibility of stretching. Looking at the bigger picture, in an empty 1,000-liter Fluid-Bag, there will be approximately 10 kg of grease residue as compared to 25-30 kg typically left over from five drums. This gives substantial savings for the grease user over a year. In the case of oil in IBCs, the difference is bigger, Henrik Kass explains.
Fluid-Bag containers can be loaded onto trucks for fieldwork. One Fluid-Bag container replaces five drums, thereby reducing handling and labor costs. All the components of the packaging can be recycled or incinerated.
When it comes to innovative packaging for lubes and grease, Fluid-Bag offers a flexible solution keeping the product free of moisture and other contaminants while providing a way to extract all the product you are paying for.