No Small Matter. And more than just a closure.
According to Boxmore Packaging commercial director, David Drew, the PCO 1881 concept involves far more than just a closure. While savings are made on a shorter lightweight cap, most of the cost savings are achieved from lighter pre-forms and bottles. ‘Since the introduction of PET, bottle weights have been steadily reducing’ David notes. ‘This has been enabled by a number of factors, including better bottle blowing technology, better bottle design, as well as supply chains accepting and managing lighter bottles and, in some cases, shorter product shelf life.
Pre-form design is also a key contributor, with optimised pre-form designs reducing unstretched PET, reducing neck weight through innovations like PCO 1881 and new base designs’. He points out that in most projects, most weight savings haven’t, in fact, come from the change in the bottle’s neck or base, but rather, from the bottle walls. ‘This is partly a legacy issue. South Africa has been behind in terms of bottle weights and now the change to 1881 has created an opportunity to not only catch up, but in some cases, to move to some extremely light bottles. In many cases, there is an opportunity to save cost – without changing to 1881″ he adds. David also highlights that in the case of 1881 there was a clear need for customers to reduce cost and consumption. In many instances, innovation is driven by equipment suppliers (see PPM June 11, p84) where the cost/benefit analysis for each customer must be carefully considered. ‘Changing to a new standard requires significant capital investment,’ David states. ‘Changes to pre-forms means new pre-form tooling, shoner necks require changes to blow moulders and air conveyors, while bottlers need to change bottle unscramblers, handling parts for rinsers, ﬁllers, cappers, as well as cap-handling equipment and chucks,’ he warns.
He believes that without sufficient scale, savings on both pre-forms and caps can be insufficient to recover capital costs within two to three years. ‘This is often the case for smaller businesses, where customers are already using lightweight bottles or existing equipment that cannot easily be adapted to use lightweight bottles or blow light weight pre-forms’ he stresses. “It’s clear that in South Africa and the rest of Africa, we will continue to see a mixture of both PCO 1810 and PCO 1881 products, as well as an ongoing need for lightweight PCO 1810 solutions.’To put things in perspective, with a saving of only 1,259/bottle, at current resin prices, customers can expect to save around R18 000/million bottles they purchase. Even with an equivalent saving on caps it’s hard to pay back modifications to a ﬁlling line unless you are selling a fair amount of product or step changing your bottle weight through additional lightweighting’. So when does PCO 1881 work? According to Boxmore, where customers have critical mass and small savings and the offset of initial capital investment can still have a positive return. The change to 1881 is then combined with additional lightweighting, the returns can be significant’ Emphasisng the point, David states ‘lt’s important to remember that the ultimate value of the return is largely determined by the value of the resin saved, and although current prices are lower than earlier in the year, PET is still, from a historical point of view, close to a ten-year high’.
Where 1881 becomes almost non-negotiable is for new projects. ‘Where customers are installing new equipment we see many choosing to start with 1881 on day one, as there is almost no extra cost on new equipment’. It is clearly a case of horses for courses. ‘The rise of PCO 1881 is changing the landscape in the PET industry, and Boxmore believes it must help to develop and implement solutions that deliver real value’ he concludes. ‘As much as 1881 is a great initiative, and from an environmental and wholesale perspective would make our lives simpler, we are going to have to manage the complexity for some time to come’.