Global leading bulk materials handling specialist, Spiroflow, provides customers with safe, efficient, and innovative process solutions. The company’s ongoing relationship with Henkel AG, a German chemical and consumer goods company, headquartered in Düsseldorf, has covered various unique handling and processing challenges spanning a five-year period.
Founded in 1876, Henkel operates worldwide with leading brands and technologies in three business areas: adhesive technologies, beauty care and laundry, and home care. As a leading adhesives producer, the company offers a broad portfolio of adhesives, sealants, and functional coatings for both industry and consumers. Henkel’s adhesives business includes four key areas: packaging and consumer goods, transport and metal, general industry, and electronics.
Driving Growth and Innovation
During early interactions between Henkel’s adhesives business and Spiroflow, both parties identified unique opportunities to form a strategic partnership that extends far beyond a traditional customer/supplier relationship. As organizations are under more pressure than ever to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive business environment, innovation has become a top priority. However, to deliver new developments, they must take steps to ensure they are working with the right partners to enable and accelerate innovation across their entire supply chain. Suppliers should be a key resource for organizations looking to develop new ideas.
Henkel’s relationship with Spiroflow has flourished largely due the ability of both companies to tap into the skills and knowledge base of their partner and to develop a comprehensive understanding of each other’s capabilities and offerings. Henkel’s recent development of a new type of patented adhesive form, Easyflow, opened opportunities for a new way to handle pressure-sensitive adhesives at Henkel customer locations. Henkel called for Spiroflow’s expertise in bulk solids handling and ability to develop custom solutions to meet customers’ unique needs.
Traditionally, hot melt adhesive tanks on production lines are kept filled manually with 1-kg blocks of pressure-sensitive adhesive (chubs) that are “dumped” by hand into hot melt tanks periodically to maintain machine adhesive consumption rates. When a large quantity of adhesive is added to a melter, the temperature of the molten adhesive can drop significantly. Adhesive applied at lower than recommended temperatures can cause application failures, impacting production and end-product quality. The constant opening and closing of melters to manually add adhesive can also introduce contaminates into the system, which can cause quality, equipment issues, or machine downtime, and can even pose safety hazards.
Easyflow adhesive takes the form of small, non-sticky “mini-chubs” that can be supplied in bulk bags or FIBCs. Being lightweight, the mini-chubs are ideally suited to be delivered from bulk bag dischargers on a “melt on demand cycle,” situated away from the production line, via pneumatic conveying lines directly into the hot melt tanks, without the need for any manual handling. Within each melter, level sensors are installed as part of the control system to ensure that the adhesive is maintained at an ideal level and trigger the delivery of an appropriate quantity of adhesive to each unit as required.
During its development at Henkel’s Düsseldorf Headquarters, the Easyflow delivery system underwent extensive trials, during which some unique material flow challenges, caused by the shape and consistency of the mini-chubs, were identified. Through several years of collaborative product development and ongoing testing between Henkel and Spiroflow, a new and innovative distribution system was developed that could reliably and consistently discharge the Easyflow adhesive mini-chubs into the pneumatic conveying system to accurately and efficiently feed the melt tanks.
Being a market leader in the field of dry solids handling, Spiroflow already offered a range of bulk bag discharging equipment that could be fitted with a variety of flow aids, including vibrators, agitators, and bag massage systems.
What Was Unique About This Application?
It was discovered that traditional flow aids would not reliably allow the mini-chubs to be regulated into the convey lines at the rates required for automatic tank filling. As a result, a system incorporating a custom-designed internally vibrating device was developed. Normally, bulk bag unloaders have their vibrating units outside the unloader acting on the walls of the unit. In this case, the device was placed inside the discharger to have a direct impact on the material itself. With the complete system vibrating, the Easyflow product could now move easily from the bulk bag into the conveying system. Given the success of this solution, Spiroflow’s custom bulk bag unloader design now forms an integral part of the Henkel Easyflow system, with ongoing support for this part of the delivery process provided by Spiroflow.
According to Thierry Pasquier, global business development manager at Henkel, Spiroflow’s ability to listen to many requests, and its willingness and flexibility to find and provide solutions is what sets them apart. “We partnered with Spiroflow as conveying experts, who from the outset provided a high-quality service throughout. They are open to ideas, reactive, fast to build, and they deliver on time.”
With the Easyflow system providing consumer goods manufacturers with an opportunity to optimize production lines, reduce downtime, and improve quality, Henkel are already planning to ramp up production in order to meet global demand and is relying on Spiroflow to deliver its bulk handling and conveying expertise to support them.
Building on this successful experience, Henkel is once again relying on Spiroflow to design and supply pneumatic conveying and packaging systems designed to convey pellet, granule, or mini-chub pack forms of adhesives in some of its own production plants. In this scenario, Spiroflow supplied a C1-2 gain-in-weight bulk bag filling system, a T2 bulk bag discharger, and a custom small box filling line. This ongoing work being representative of Spiroflow’s ability to adapt its product catalogue and provide solutions for the majority of complex material handling challenges presented to them.
Collaboration Can Be Productive and Impactful
Manufacturers tend to treat their relationships with suppliers as transactional, rather than collaborative, trying to squeeze out cost savings or efficiency improvements instead of coordinating and sharing information to gain better knowledge of processes, capabilities and constraints.
As seen with Spiroflow’s partnership with Henkel, supplier collaboration is a growing opportunity for manufacturers to improve their overall production process. In this context, Spiroflow’s relationship with Henkel goes from strength to strength, maximizing value-chain opportunities for both parties.
For more information, call 704-766-8673, or visit www.spiroflow.com.