What would you like to see in the industry? Or, in other words, what concerns you about our industry?
M. Tanner: TCO is still not given enough attention. Customers spend plenty of time weighing up the cost of investing in a plant — if they spent just as long assessing the plant’s long-term service life, perhaps over ten years, I think they would often come to a different conclusion. The importance of this kind of in-depth assessment is underestimated at the moment.
M. Hermle: As a supplier of testing machines, we’re naturally worried about losing the business of smaller filling companies. This is the result of price competition and pressure on costs, which can be compensated by producing large volumes. Small filling companies and converters are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in these conditions.
Of course, inspection always involves separating out the products for testing. Is this where space-saving systems offer an advantage?
M. Hermle: Exactly, it’s all about short distances — straight from the roller sorter to the inspection unit — a block system that saves space. But they also have the advantage of making it possible to share strategies, for example feeding plus inspection. There are many different requirements, partly due to the increasing diversity of bottles and containers produced for household and cosmetic products.
Are the plants equipped with all the technical options available?
M. Tanner: No, there are two main reasons not to do that. Firstly, full integration would of course be expensive. Secondly, our customers never need every single element. But we set great store by the ability to upgrade. The development of modular systems is extremely important when it comes to design. I like to call this “anticipatory development”: anticipating what will become relevant and offer advantages.
M. Hermle: Yes, this is the idea behind Tanner and IMD’s Factory Concept 4.0, for example. We meet our customers’ demands, of course — but more than that, we know their situation so well that we are able to tell them what they need. This approach allows us to constantly scrutinise the latest technological developments and keep developing new strategies. Take our PECO LUX system — it focuses on identifying trends, by monitoring preforms during production as they slide over a detection eld right at the outlet of the injection moulding machine. We asked ourselves whether it’s really necessary to check every detail of every single product at this point, or whether it’s sufficient just to monitor the products. The concept has certainly proven itself. PECO LUX has an extremely reliable ability to detect when something goes wrong in the production process. An alarm is triggered immediately and the fault can be resolved on the spot. If any anomalies are detected, every aspect of the products can then be thoroughly checked so that faulty preforms can be separated out and the rest can be passed on for sale.
Let’s talk about relevant inspections on the line. Do the same conditions apply to fillers as to preform and closure manufacturers?
M. Hermle: In my opinion, inspection tasks are still being over-standardised. Fillers have to carry out their inspections in such a way that the plant doesn’t have to be stopped. The tests required can be described as very straightforward. Often, an error is caused by a faulty support ring, or a fault occurs at the sealing surface which may cause the bottle to leak. It’s different for closure and preform manufacturers — they have to make sure that all their products are perfect. This is where our Factory Concept 4.0 comes in. It provides 100% monitoring of all plants using PECO LUX, 100% inline testing for particularly critical applications, and re-sorting after an incident.
Are there converters or fillers who want their machine or plant manufacturers to use your feeding technology, your inspection facilities or your system?
M. Tanner: We’re a subcontractor for new machines, which means that we aren’t in direct contact with the end customers, either converters or fillers. But we have more than 3,000 plants in operation worldwide. Tanner is a well-known brand that stands for Swiss manufacturing quality. It’s different with after-sales service, because when we provide spare parts, maintenance or upgrades, we speak directly to the customer. The same goes for our OEM customers. The advantage of this is that we’re close to the operations, to the production lines. We’re able to speak to operators. This allows us to focus our development work on what the market needs. It’s very important to us to ensure that the Tanner and IMD brands have a strong presence in after-sales service. But we don’t consider ourselves to be in competition with our customers, the plant manufacturers. It’s important to know your role, and that works very well.
M. Hermle: Our customers recognise the added value that a subcontractor’s smart solutions bring. We’re excited to see how this will develop in the future.
Amongst plant manufacturers, there is a trend towards insourcing the manufacture of products which were previously bought in. Are you able to discuss new ideas with your customers openly? Or do you develop them behind closed doors?
M. Hermle: It’s de nitely not always easy. Sometimes it’s like walking a tightrope. On the other hand, both sides should have the aim of building a sustainable long-term partnership, which is only possible if they are open and transparent. And I practise what I preach. Our experience over the last three years has been extremely positive. Being open and transparent leads to synergies and win-win situations.
M. Hermle: Creative ideas are not just a must for technical developments — creativity is also important for organising collaboration. We’re seeing a great deal of progress here. I see time and time again how much our work revolves around people. The trend in large companies may be to de-personalise their organisation, but we work with people, and it’s personal contact and dialogue with other professionals that bear fruit.
M. Tanner: Our systems are regarded as benchmarks, and they’re a point of reference for the development work carried out by our customers, who manufacture plants and machines. Of course, this also means that we spur each other on to do even better.