Customized in the Future

Flexibility at ADA International: two years’ practical experience

If you frequently stay in hotels, you most likely have already used ADA beauty products. You may not have realized it, because the variety of labels and products is almost as wide as your choice of hotels. Two years ago, the manufacturer, headquartered in Kehl, put a system from Optima into operation.

On one hand, the market for hotel beauty products is dominated by medium-sized suppliers from Europe. And ADA is one of these suppliers, convincing its customers above all with premium quality and service. On the other hand, various Asian companies are exerting strong pressure on prices. The picture is equally complex on the customer’s side: There are big hotel chains, which purchase huge quantities. "In this case, you are calculating precise unit costs as small as one-quarter or one-eighth of a cent", says ADA ‘s CPO, Torsten Peschel. Additionally, these large hotel chains sometimes need to break down a large order of several different types of products to allow for specific branding and/or regionally specific color and fragrance combinations. And, of course, they all come in different containers. 
"For ADA International to be successful, the system has to be tailored to the special features of this market."
Torsten Peschel (Chief Production Officer at ADA International)

Well-known fragrances, varied design

For smaller, family-run hotels the story is a bit different. These hotels want to offer their guests something special: For example, a hotel seated at the base of an Alpine forest may want a fragrance that reminds hotel guests of this nearby pine haven. This customized color and fragrance is specially crafted for their customer. Finally, this charismatic delivery concept is rounded off by an individual packaging design - shape, closure, graphics. ADA International employs several graphic designers, who are mainly responsible for these tasks. Licensed products from big, internationally renowned perfumeries and couturiers are a further important element in ADA’s range for hoteliers. The specialist company is also a contract manufacturer and offers a comprehensive range of private-label brands.

End result is an immense variety of products within very small lot sizes, while still maintaining competitive pricing. Packaging container trends also have a significant influence on this need for flexibility. According to Torsten Peschel, tubes are in particularly high demand at the moment. However, he added, this could change again at any time. So what does a system that is mainly used to process ever-changing orders from a handful of major customers look like? A system that nevertheless still needs to be suitable for small-series production?

One thing is certain: The system needs to be as flexible as possible and achieve an acceptable output. It also has to have a high filling accuracy and the ability to run self-sufficiently for long periods of time with little operator interaction
A robot picks 16 tubes …
A robot picks 16 tubes …
…per cycle out of the magazine and…
…per cycle out of the magazine and…
…inserts them in two steps into transport pucks.
…inserts them in two steps into transport pucks.

Elevating the Case

The concept of the Optima system is as innovative as the requirements placed on it: Looking at the system, the first thing that strikes the eye is a large component supply buffer magazine for  empty tubes in cases. Operating personnel place open cases with upright containers into the buffer magazine. The cases are brought from the magazine individually and presented to a robot that picks the empty tubes, row-by-row, and places the tubes into pucks for transport into the filling and closing system.  After the working-case is empty the magazine is signaled to bring another case to the robot.  
This automated component supply buffer magazine allows the system to run self-sufficiently for about half an hour, after which it needs to be refilled with cases, says Torsten Peschel. In his opinion, the buffer magazine is the “key feature” of the system concept: “Without the buffer magazine, the system just wouldn’t meet our needs.” Another, equally important, feature of the system is the Clean-in-Place (CIP) function. It meets the hygiene requirements for the products: rinse the product, disinfect it, and rinse off the disinfectant.

It also requires far less time and fewer personnel than manual cleaning. Moreover, the CIP process can be initiated prior to the end of a batch, during production. During the CIP process the change-over process is completed.  This can even include an automated exchange of the transport pucks. 
Ultimately, flexibility means maximizing productive time wherever possible. During a format change, the clock stops after the CIP system has completed running (approximately 40 minutes, depending on product), and a new product can be run at the push of a button.

The electronic mass-flow metered (MDM) dosing system processes shower gel, creams, shampoos, conditioner or body lotion “with extreme precision,“ says Torsten Peschel. He added that some of the products are very expensive and that with tightly calculated prices, the company could not afford to give away one or even half a milliliter of product per container. Additionally, the formats processed on the MODULINE are small, ranging from ten milliliters to 125 milliliters.

Changing the inserts in the nearly 450 transport pucks during a format changeover is a little more time-consuming. An automated puck changing solution would not be cost-effective, but a second set of pucks made economic sense. In this way, the preparations for a major format changeover can be made during the previous production run. The bottom line is that this gives the company an important competitive edge: “Whereas our competitors can only supply customized products starting from a quantity of 50,000, we can do it from only 10,000,” Torsten Peschel explains. “In fact, the machine allows us to supply such small quantities in the first place.” The variety of options continues with individual closures, screw caps, flip-tops, with lip applicators, containers of various heights and with different contours and opaque or transparent labels.

Safeguarding the Future Without Additional Costs

Even though the vast majority of ADA’s production is focused heavily on tubes, Torsten Peschel still sees it as “an additional benefit that the investment is not limited to just one container type, so that we have the option of making full use of the system by processing bottles and jars if we need to.“ And the system offers more than “just” flexibility: The European hotel cosmetic market leader also produces lot sizes of more than 500,000 pieces on the MODULINE. Up to a filling volume of 125 ml, it offers a continuous output of 200 pieces / min. Bottles could currently be processed with an output of 125 containers/min.

Torsten Peschel sees upright processing as another important advantage of the concept. “This was really a precondition we wanted to meet with this project - to package all tubes in an orderly arrangement.”

The aim was that, once sorted, the packing configuration of the products should remain the same right through to the shipping carton. This is not possible with a classic tube filler. ADA’s field sales staff see it as an important mark of quality that customers should find a well-sorted, orderly arrangement of the products when they open the carton.

And what about process reliability? “We are very satisfied. This was a development project, and we knew that we would run into some problems in the first year. But they were all solved – with no ifs, ands or buts.“ The CPO says the overall system currently runs with an efficiency of over 90 percent.
Last but not least, after-sales service is a critical factor determining how effective production is. ADA has installed a remote maintenance module from Optima, allowing it to take advantage of online diagnostics.

The company also places great value on being able to deliver key components of the drives and measuring.

 This report has been published in the Optima Magazin o-com consumer/nonwovens 01 | 2017

 With kind permission of ADA Cosmetics International GmbH

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