Tony Benik, an outside technical service representative with Flavorseal, has an interesting saying about plastic packaging: “Plastic steals or plastic seals.” It steals when a bad seal leads to rework or waste. And it seals when the equipment, process and film are specified correctly.
Over the years he’s seen situations where bad bearings, looseness in certain parts of a machine, pneumatic issues and electronic difficulties have contributed to packaging issues.
These are just some of the situations Benik faces in a typical week’s work. As a member of Flavorseal’s Technical Services Team, Benik is an maintenance and operations engineer who assists the company’s food processing customers both at their facilities and remotely to troubleshoot process or equipment issues, specify products and recommend solutions.
Benik handles everything from thermoforming equipment to vacuum and shrink packaging machines to netting operations. The processing equipment may be supplied by Flavorseal as well as other manufacturers. Either way, he’s able to provide packaging process assistance for machines running Flavorseal products, such as roll stock, netting, shrink packaging or seasoning transfer packaging.
Support for Many Situations
Benik got his start in the film packaging industry as an operator and moved up the ranks into supervision and then to maintenance and engineering. He worked for other packaging companies over the years before joining Flavorseal, giving him depth of experience in both operations and maintenance.
In his current role, he helps customers improve their packaging processes, while also collecting feedback for Flavorseal’s product managers and vendors.
“We have gotten more knowledgeable about the products our customers make,” he says. “We educate our vendors and suppliers on what our customers need.” He also shares what he learns with product managers at Flavorseal.
“You want to communicate the positives, the negatives, and also what the new trends are,” he says, “since many times customers will talk to you about what they’re planning.”
In a typical week, Benik works on a wide variety of equipment or operations. He says while it’s impossible to memorize the inner workings of every machine, his experience has given him a general understanding of how the various pieces of equipment operate, which helps him assess performance and pinpoint issues.
Part of what Benik does is analyze customer processes and equipment to be sure they’ve specified the right products.
For example, when he helps processors with netting issues, it’s often centered around specifying the right netting for the application.
“Our customers will have an idea for a new product and we go in there to see how it’s running and make recommendations on the processes and materials to make the finished product,” he says. “Once you get them set up with netting, you generally don’t see too many issues with them.”
In other cases, Benik suggests operational improvements to help customers cut back packaging rework. These may or may not be related to the packaging itself.
“They can save money because they don’t have to repackage packed product and they also save on material that’s wasted.”
For example, Benik once saw that a customer was stacking cases of product on pallets with uneven boards, putting undue pressure on certain parts of the case and denting products inside.
“They didn’t realize it was happening until we opened up a few of them,” he says.
When it comes to shrink bag processes, he says a common issue is processors not sizing bags correctly for the products being packed.
“If the bag is too tight you’re going to trap air in one side of the bag and either pop the seal or hold air in the package,” he says. On the other hand, if the bag is too large, the packaging may not shrink well. It may also allow the product to twist inside the bag.
“You have issues running it through the equipment because the bag is too floppy and too loose.”
In some cases, Benik helps customers conduct product trials for future development. For example, one project was helping a client avoid issues related to reducing the width of their roll stock. The client wanted to try using narrower film but Benik convinced him to keep some inventory of the original wider size on hand as a backup, in case the narrower roll stock created issues.
Benik says heavier products can create more pull on the equipment, leading to problems. “By narrowing the width, you don’t have as much film to hold onto,” he explains. As it turned out the narrower roll stock wasn’t always suitable for the customer’s process.
“We were able to get the backup order to the customer before they had problems,” he says. Now, he says, the wider product has become their specification.
Support at the Right Time
Then there are the emergency situations that arise where customers need to resolve specific packaging issues, fast. That could be helping a customer promptly when they can’t get assistance from other suppliers in time. For example, Benik says he’s often visited customers who have experienced machine breakdowns, and can’t wait for the manufacturer’s service rep to help them. “I’m often able to get in there sooner than they can and get the customer up and running,” he says.
In other cases, Benik provides troubleshooting help. He described one situation where a customer suspected a vacuum leak on a roll stock machine but couldn’t locate the source. “It’s hard to hear a leak because the equipment is noisy,” Benik says.
Benik checked the equipment and determined the problem was actually a faulty vacuum pump. While Benik didn’t fix the pump, he was able to help the customer save time and money by identifying the problem.
“I was able to help him focus on where his next step should be,” Benik says. “Instead of having a wide range of issues that had to be looked at, he had just a small range. We knew it was related to a pump.”
Benik says overall each of his customers has a different approach to how their packaging plant should run, but his goal is to add the kinds of help gained by experience. “Whenever you can you want to be a safeguard to customers and give them options,” he says. “In many cases, we point out things they may not have thought of. You’re trying to look at the ‘what ifs.’”
To get in touch with the Technical Service Rep in your area or to request expert assistance with any Flavorseal products or equipment, please contact us.