Itasca, Ill. — For David Watson, it's a matter of “right weighting” and not “light weighting” when it comes to closures.
The business development manager for Bericap North America knows that shaving just a fraction of a gram off of a particular bottle cap can make a huge impact on the bottom line, both economically and environmentally.
But he also knows that making the wrong move when it comes to decreasing closure weight can have the opposite impact.
Bericap knows closures, having produced 72 billion of them just last year alone. And Watson has seen what can goes wrong when, well, things go wrong.
His advice: make sure everybody is involved when the discussion turns to light weighting. That means the brand owners, bottle makers and, of course, closure makers.
“First of all, you want to put a full circle of players at the table, not just light weighting the closures. We have to think about the consumer at the end of the line. We have to think about the way the package performs,” he said, in the field when it's in the hand of the customer.
While brand owners often view light weighting as a way to save money and cut the carbon footprint of a particular product, Watson warned there also can be negative consequences.
“Are you going to be spending more money on machines to produce closures? Are you going to be spending more money on capping machines to put them on?” he asked. “Are you going to be risking losing more product in the field?”
Tooling costs also can go up dramatically when closures become lighter and are made more quickly, Watson said. “Those are things that come with the light weighting. It's not just simply making a new mold and selling a new closure.”
Brand owners and packaging engineers also have to think about ease of use when contemplating changes.
“We like to call this ‘right weighting' not light weighting. It's easy just to light weight. But there's a lot of implications that go with it,” Watson said at the Plastics Caps & Closures 2015 conference in Itasca.
Bottle contents — such as carbonated soft drinks — as well as the filling system can impact the decision on what cap is appropriate.
Caps that end up being too light can malfunction throughout the product's lifecycle depending on storage and transportation conditions.
“The first thing you want to think about is the complete duty of the closure,” he said, from the manufacture of the cap “all the way through to the recycling bin.”
Undertaking a light weighting project can end up being a house of cards if not approached properly, he told attendees at conference organized by Plastics News.
Product characteristics do not change and geometry does not change, so that can create challenges to making light weighting changes.
“The way you overcome that challenge is working with material people, working with the OEMs and having full disclosure with all of the players. That's the way you're going to be successful,” he said.