Sterling Contract Packaging, Inc. (Sterling CPI) of Moore, S.C., is one of the largest providers of contract packaging services in the Southeast. The company provides complete turnkey solutions—from product and package procurement through to the point of distribution—for non-regulated consumer products. Visit virtually any major grocery, drug, or hardware store and you will almost certainly come across a package that has been handled by Sterling CPI.

The Challenge

According to Sterling CPI’s engineering department, it had been using an off-shore mechanically driven tube filling and sealing machine for these products. With age, however, the machine was losing its performance and reliability. When the machine’s heater met the tube for sealing, any glue left inside the seal area was transferred to the heater.

According to the engineering department, “We had to stop the machine every hour and clean the heater, which was a $1,000 part and frequently had to be replaced.”

The number of rejects and downtime had become too much, and the system was a maintenance nightmare. In addition, the company’s main mechanic was retiring, so a lot of knowledge was leaving as well.

Another hurdle facing the team was scheduling a service support technician in the facility to work on the archaic machine. Since the machine’s manufacturer is based on the West Coast, it was challenging to schedule someone into the facility in the East.

The Solution

To replace the aging equipment, Sterling CPI installed an RT60 fully automatic tube filling and sealing system from ProSys Servo Filling Systems. The machine is equipped with servo-driven fill lift, filling, and cam hot-air lift stations, along with standard electronic recipe storage and recall functionality. The system includes eight stations, each of which can be adjusted independently.

According to the Sterling CPI engineering department, “On the old mechanical machine, if you made one adjustment, the other stations would be out of alignment and we would have to go around and fix all the other stations. Now we just have to address one station. Once we select the recipe from the touchscreen, half the stations are already taken care of. We just have to go in and verify them.”

tube filling station

The system includes eight stations, each of which can be adjusted independently.

The Benefits

The ProSys RT60 hot-air system includes a positive-close nozzle to eliminate material blow-back on the nozzle or residue splatter on the side of the tube. This helps keep a clean cut-off of material at the fill station. In addition, there is no contact between the tube and the hot-air station, which means Sterling CPI no longer has to continually stop and clean—or replace—the heater, greatly reducing downtime and consumables costs.

In the case of downtime or other machine matters, Sterling CPI now has the assurance of instant support from ProSys through online support and troubleshooting via an Ethernet connection. Because of this confidence in reliability, the team knows that it can count on the machine to meet the production schedule.

The new machine can fill plastic, metal, and laminate tubes with products that vary in consistency from water-thin liquids to highly viscous pastes. The system accommodates tubes from 0.2-14 oz and offers multiple sealing options. Sterling CPI was previously running only plastic tubes with standard square corners, but it is now able to offer a curved seal option.

The ProSys RT60’s recipe storage and recall enables Sterling CPI to accelerate setup and shorten downtime, allowing the company to produce a wide range of products and packages. “Generally, it doesn’t take very long to train a new operator on the machine, and they quickly become proficient,” the engineering department says.

Engineering staff estimate that changeover time has been reduced from 2 hrs to between 45 min-1 hr, with approximately 8-10 changeovers per month. The new ProSys filler has allowed Sterling CPI to double in capacity, from 10,000 to 20,000 tubes per day.

“The increased speed and decreased changeover time will improve our ROI as well as allow us to meet customers’ needs much faster,” says Michael Hastings, Sterling CPI’s co-founder, president, and CEO.

end result of tube fillings

The new machine can fill plastic, metal, and laminate tubes with products that vary in consistency from water-thin liquids to highly viscous pastes.

The End Result

The partnership with ProSys and the new automated servo-driven filling sealant machine has helped Sterling CPI “achieve improvements in almost every area of our operation, from speed of setup to quality improvement,” says the engineering staff.

This change has helped Sterling CPI meet production schedules and shorten operator training time, increasing employee pride in workmanship and providing reliable equipment to boost morale. The partnership with ProSys has enabled Sterling CPI to accurately forecast and measure customers’ needs so the company is able to react quickly to spikes in production requirements and special promotions, keeping Sterling CPI ready for increased demands in its future production.

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Note: Images courtesy of ProSys Servo Filling Systems.