Read how Guala Closures UK is heading towards OEE gold standard and has uncapped significant energy savings with new all-electric kit from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag.

The closures market continues to grow – and with its production levels totalling 14 billion units a year, Guala Closures UK is leading the way in the sector. As the group looks to build on that demand with innovative new products, including tamper evident caps, its biggest focus is ensuring a world-class level of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) coupled with a 35% reduction in energy consumption.

Following the installation of two IntElect injection moulding machines, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, has now supplied the UK division of the globally renowned, Guala Closures Group, with 12 machines from its all-electric range in the last decade.

“We’re seeing a reduction of around 35% in energy consumption with the all-electric machines, compared to our earlier hydraulic units,” reports Stuart Giles, Business Engineering and Site Services Manager for Guala Closures Ltd. “These machines also have a much higher degree of control, so the process variability is small. The standard deviation is also small and the knock-on effect of that is the ability to reduce cycle times. As a result, we are able to make more products in a shorter amount of time, further improving our efficiency levels.”

It’s been quite a journey in all-electric injection moulding machines for Guala Closures, which first invested in five Sumitomo (SHI) Demag 80-tonne IntElect units in 2008. Stuart reports that the results were instant and improvements have since continued in production efficiency, accuracy and reliability.

“Years ago in the mould shop there would be alarms and people would have to restart machines,” he recalls. “Nowadays there aren’t any alarms and we have just one operator who is responsible for six mould machines, specifically concerned with the quality of the components being produced. There is a greater degree of control because we are not fighting problems.”

World-class OEE score

This investment has enabled the level of Overall Equipment Effectiveness – or OEE – to be improved throughout the business. Seen as the ‘gold standard’ for measuring productivity in manufacturing, OEE identifies the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive. There are three underlying factors: performance; quality and availability and Stuart reports some impressive figures in all three disciplines.

“The moulding department as a whole is running at over 90% OEE, which is considered world-class,” he reveals. “The quality is sitting at 98.9% – which means that 1.1% is lost through issues such as downtime. Finally, availability of machines is recorded at 98.8%, which gives an indication of how much they are being made use of.”

Stuart says the investment in Sumitomo (SHI) Demag machines forms a big part of these achievements. “Without the newest injection moulding machine technology, and the control systems, these levels of OEE would not be possible,” he confirms. “Buying IntElect injection moulding machines with NC5 control systems has helped us drive us towards achieving a stable world-class OEE.”

The IntElect machines had to be hoisted into the Scottish Guala plant

The IntElect machines had to be hoisted into the Scottish Guala plant

New moulding capabilities benefit innovations and safety

These improvements ensure a more controlled process, which has given Guala staff more time to devote to developing innovative closures. As a result of this ongoing research – and due to the accuracy of the new machines – Guala has made material changes that benefit end users. “We’ve been able to use specialist polymers to create heavyweight plastic materials that can be used in place of traditional metals,” explains Stuart. “We can mimic a metal closure – something that is heavy and cold to touch – by injecting these specialist polymers, which makes for a faster production process. The new IntElect machines have special barrels to guarantee the accuracy needed when injection moulding materials.”

For extra peace of mind when it comes to security, Guala Closures has an extensive range of products, from tamper-evident technologies to more complex valve systems. Again, the IntElect technology has assisted the company in its development of these products. With hundreds of millions of bottles being counterfeited every year, from high-end spirits to pharmaceutical products, tamper-evident closures are critical to companies retaining brand reputations and revenues.

However, these closures mean added complexity to the production process – Stuart shares one example of a particular closure that has 12 different components and polymers, which means accuracy and precision is key. This complexity, Stuart says, can be better managed with the help of Sumitomo (SHI) Demag hardware, which provides cycle and injection time feedback. “The combination of the IntElect machine and the NC5 control system means that corrections can be made before they become an issue. The addition of the machines here has made a massive difference to consistency to the products.”

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s all-electric machinery has helped Guala Closures slash energy consumption by 35%

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s all-electric machinery has helped Guala Closures slash energy consumption by 35%

The future bodes well, both for Guala, as well as its relationship with Sumitomo (SHI) Demag. “We’re on a sustainability journey and a five-year plan with a number of objectives that we need to meet by 2020,” says Stuart. “These aims include reducing energy, carbon footprint and use of materials – it is quite high on the company’s agenda from a sustainability point of view and very achievable with our new IntElect lineup.”