Sonoco Products Company

Blister Card Packaging Leader Cleans up with Sonoco Ink Dispensers

For decades, the hard-working press operators at Alloyd Brands Printed Products put up with the difficulties involved in using ink that came in cans. But when the company became Sonoco Alloyd, the mess, stress and inconvenience of ink in cans were on their way to becoming history. After appropriate safety training, the press operators at its Batavia, Ill. printing plant implemented the Sonoco ReadyFlow® ink management system, which uses cartridges of ink easily inserted into hand-held, user-friendly dispensers. The facility was able to get the new system up and running the day it came in the door.

“To me, it’s even easier than using a caulk gun,” said Rob Urbanski, the plant’s pressroom manager.  “You just grab the tube of ink, put it in the dispenser and feed it into the ink fountain. The cartridge only weighs four pounds, so ink application is much easier than it was before when you had to lift, hold, balance and scrape out of an ink can that could range from five to 30 pounds.” For Sonoco Alloyd, known as the only one-stop shop in the packaging industry’s blister and blister card market, the new system reduces ink cost, saves waste, improves sustainability and avoids ink-stained hands and clothing.

Saving Ink Saves Money

Ink waste is expected with ink that comes in cans. As Urbanski said, “Even though you scrape the can, you simply can’t get all the ink out of it.” And there’s another wasteful issue with ink in cans. Every time you close a can, a “skin” forms on top of the ink inside. When you reopen the can to use more ink, you have to remove this skin and throw it away, wasting even more ink. “Before we got our ReadyFlow ink dispensers, we would dispose of all our ink skin in a 55-gallon drum. You’d be amazed at how fast that drum filled up,” Urbanski said.  The tubes used with the Sonoco ReadyFlow ink management system are sealed airtight, so the ink doesn’t form a skin.

According to Brian Coffee, director of operations for Sonoco Alloyd, “Our Batavia plant spends about $150,000 on ink each year.  The 10-15 percent in ink savings we’re realizing with the Sonoco ReadyFlow ink management system amounts to annual savings of $15,000 or more in ink alone.”

Cleaner and Easier to Use

In addition to saving ink costs, using the five ReadyFlow dispensers that are on the plant’s presses at any one time is much cleaner for operators. Because you don’t have to deal with damaged ink cans, open and close lids or use an ink knife to remove skin or scrape ink from cans, you don’t get ink on your hands or clothes. The ReadyFlow ink management system is also easier to use and more ergonomically friendly. It’s powered by compressed air, so you just pull a trigger to dispense the ink.  And you don’t have to lift, hold and balance cumbersome ink cans.

Safety is another advantage for the plant, because operators no longer have to work with cans, lids or ink knives. “We also have the air lines that run the dispensers dropped from the ceiling,” Urbanski said, “so they wouldn’t create a trip hazard as we used them.”

Supporting Sustainability Goals

Plants that use ink from metal and plastic containers have to send their empty cans to the landfill. Cans aren’t suitable for recycling because they have ink residue in them.  The Sonoco Flow-Rite® ink cartridges used with the ReadyFlow dispensers are designed to empty out virtually 100 percent of the ink. There’s no residue, so both the plastic and paper in the cartridges are able to be recycled the moment they come out of the dispenser. Sonoco also makes an eight-pound cartridge for facilities that use larger volumes of ink. Alloyd Brands' facility in Spartanburg, SC is now evaluating the ReadyFlow System as well.

“Overall, our people really like our new ink system because it’s so much quicker for them,” Urbanski said. “It’s cleaner. It’s easier. It’s truly one of the most innovative tools we have in our ink department. We’re grateful to Sonoco for such a labor-saving system, especially since no one else makes anything as easy and economical.”