Gerhard Schubert expands range with lightline packaging options
Having spent nearly two years as managing director of sales, service and marketing at German-based packaging specialists Gerhard Schubert, Marcel Kiessling believes the company is in a strong position. Neill Barston speaks to him about an eventful 2018
Much like any sphere of industry, technological equipment advances within the packaging sector rarely, if ever, stand still for any period of time.It’s a fact Marcel Kiessling, managing director of sales for Gerhard Schubert is keenly aware of, and has welcomed the company’s significant focus on enhancing its research and development operations.
The firm’s quest to set ever-more advanced machinery standards has led to the development of major equipment breakthroughs, including the Flowmodul packaging system over the past few years.
As the managing director explains, the system’s emergence amid a competitive marketplace has proved decisive for the business, which has enjoyed resilient fortunes amid wider global trading uncertainties.
But according to Kiessling, it is the company’s overall focus on creating equipment developed around delivering flexibility, efficiency and adopting the latest industry 4.0 standards which has been of critical importance.
According to the director, 2018 has so far proved particularly notable in terms of expanding its global operations in emerging territories, while strengthening its core traditional markets across Europe.
“We are in a good position this year, with a strong order book within our markets, as well as growing in areas such as the US and bringing in more sales and service colleagues to the business.
“We’re very well established in central Europe, and we are expanding our presence in China – where we believe there are opportunities in a market that has traditionally used manual labour for packaging,” explains Kiessling, who adds that a recent initiative from the Chinese government “Made in China 2025”, is likely to place a greater emphasis on increasing automation in manufacturing.
“With our highly flexible, robot-based packaging machines, we offer automation solutions that can be used by manufacturers in every industry to make significant increases in productivity, and therefore in competitiveness as well,” adds Kiessling, outlining the company’s hopes in Asia, which include plans for a service and distribution site by the end of 2018.
As for events closer to home, it seems the sales director is enjoying life at the company’s headquarters in Crailsheim, Germany. Having taken up his present role in late 2016, he says there have been a wide range of positive strides forward regarding its approach to developing new technologies.
“I’ve been in post for nearly two years now and I’ve had a lot of contact with customers around the world, and I have seen many different innovations. We have some excellent people here at our headquarters in Germany who are involved in the technical development of our equipment, and I myself have worked on a number of projects including Interpack last year. That was a particularly big highlight for us in presenting the Flowmodul system,” adds the director, of the packaging solution that the company believes has proved a game changer since its introduction two years ago.
As Confectionery Production has previously reported, its flow wrapping component operates through a design that is fully integrated into a TLM picker line, packing products as diverse as candy bars, biscuits, cakes, 3D chocolate figures, yogurt cups, ice cream, puff pastry and waffles.
The combination of F4 pick-and-place robots, 3D image recognition, and one or two flow-wrapping components within a TLM system remain its key elements.
The system has been created to save space and, thanks to short changeover times, reportedly enables the efficient handling of small batch sizes and a large variety of products. 3D image recognition ensure the robotic systems used with it only pick up flawless products, and place them in the flow-wrapping component’s feed chain.
According to Kiessling, there are strong expectations for the Flowmodul’s latest version showcased at the international Pack Expo event in Chicago, America.
Its patented new heat sealing capabilities mean that heat-sensitive products, including chocolate-based confectionery, can now be packaged even more gently within flow-wrapped bags.
As the sales director stressed, its new variable cross seal technology is said to allow a greater degree of flexibility for manufacturers – and in the case of hot-seal films, the system adapts to the variable speeds of the upstream F44 robots.
“The introduction of the Flowmodul has gone very well, and I really believe that it fits the market well, as manufacturers are calling for more integrated lines. We have also responded to greater digitisation with the GRIPS.world digital platform for maintenance, and the GS.Gate security system that was released at Interpack last year to meet international demand for IOT (internet of things) solutions, which is significant as data security is such a big topic in industry,” adds the director.
As he explains, the company’s subsidiary, Schubert System Elektronik, has developed the GS Gateway system as a co-project with specialist German IT business, Genua.
This has been designed to deliver secure remote maintenance and data transmission, through a firewall that encrypts information to the respective systems required, or to cloud storage.
Since its initial unveiling last year, the director says the system has attracted significant interest, as it offers a means of tackling unplanned technical down time within production chains, through heightened monitoring of major equipment series’ performance.
“Digitalisation within the industry is a long journey and we are just at the start of it, and there are a lot of areas that it can be applied to, with data management just being one of those,” adds Kiessling of the major potential for IOT enhancement of equipment systems.
Meanwhile, in addition to the company’s appearance at Pack Expo, the business also revealed new machine variants at the FachPack packaging event in Nuremberg, Germany last month.
This included a debut for its new Cartonpacker – a machine from Schubert’s new lightline range. The latest series consists of a single module and handles carton packaging in the smallest of spaces – with all the expected high quality and efficiency of a TLM system.
This comparatively affordable solution has been created to offer a fast delivery time for packaging tasks that require less flexibility, and consist of only a few product and format variants.
“We developed the lightline as a pre-configured version of our existing equipment, which includes a carton packer, flow packer and a picker line, that we developed for display at FachPack. As a business, we started out in carton packing, and we have gradually become specialists in more complex integrated production lines – lightline was developed to recognise that we have customers who require both larger system and those that have more fixed packaging machinery needs,” adding that the newly-introduced line also offered a more cost-conscious solution to clients. These systems are said to cost around €400,000 in comparison to higher-end lines capable of a greater range of tasks.
The company is also working on developments for the next ISM/ProSweets event, which is also destined to prove another exceptionally busy period for the business, as it strives to provide a range of solutions for a broad range of smaller, and larger-scale industrial customers.