Answer: What a great question, and I wish I had all the answers for you. First, you might want to ask the same question of virtually everyone you encounter from the industry. I am sure you will get a lot of diverse answers. Certainly, your current educational track is very important to prepare you for the highly technical and diverse adhesives industry. A solid background in chemistry, materials and testing is crucial, but you might also consider business courses as you contemplate your elective options. Adhesives companies often hire technically astute graduates to train in other important business areas, such as sales or marketing. Of course, you could always opt to stay in academia, which would direct you to more educationally focused elective courses. The important thing is to assess your own short-, mid- and long-term goals, and focus your personal program toward them. Talk to as many people in the industry as you can. Undoubtedly, there are industry participants near your school or home that would be happy to discuss the industry and their own experiences. Just ask.
Question: Our product-packaging operations have been closing our corrugated cartons with a fairly simple application of pressure sensitive tape, and although it works fine, we are considering other alternatives as our production grows. What other options should we consider, and what are the economic drivers of each?
Answer: You are describing case and carton sealing. There are two prime ways adhesives are used to seal cases and cartons made of corrugated (case) and paperboard (cartons) boxes. You are currently using pressure sensitive tape, which can be applied either manually or automatically, depending on your particular needs. It sounds as though you do have an automated process with a moving line, so you may want to consider the next “step up” and use a hot melt case- and carton-sealing system. If so, you can expect a much lower material cost (hot melt adhesive vs. tape) per hundred cartons, but you will undoubtedly incur a capital cost for the more expensive hot melt-application equipment. You should contact one of the reliable hot melt equipment suppliers who can examine your particular operation and provide a quotation. If the long-term savings in materials and potentially faster throughput offset the required capital investment, hot melts should be seriously considered.
Q&A Exchange draws on the collective expertise of the staff of The ChemQuest Group, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in the adhesives, sealants and coatings industries. Dr. William E. Broxterman serves as president of this specialist consulting firm. Questions for publication should be directed to him at The ChemQuest Group, Inc., 8170 Corporate Park Dr., Suite 317, Cincinnati, OH 45242; 513-469-7555; fax: 513-469-7779.