With these levers you can increase your productivity

How much saleable material do you produce in an hour? The answer to this question can determine your economic success. The good news is that as a manufacturer of films and nonwovens, you can make many adjustments to improve your productivity.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for productive work. Instead, increasing productivity in plastics extrusion depends on many different factors: from the quality of the raw material, to the performance of the technology, to the know-how of the operating team. However, this diversity of influencing factors also means that manufacturers can start at many different points if they want to become more productive. Reifenhäuser supports customers in finding the right levers for them.

State of the Art Technologies

Anyone who wants to produce blown films, cast films, thermoforming sheets and nonwovens efficiently and economically needs high-performance technology that matches their own requirements and market size. In addition, special service packages support customers in ensuring line availability - from fast spare parts deliveries and individual spare parts packages to maintenance packages, cleaning services and modernization packages.

"It's quite clear that the basis must already be right when the line is purchased," states Eugen Friedel, Sales Director at Reifenhäuser. "But extrusion lines have a long service life and technology continues to develop. So it's worth taking a regular critical look: where is potential for technological improvement? " For example, productivity-enhancing components can often be retrofitted or converted on existing lines. "What makes sense in each case depends on the technology, the market and the application for which production is taking place," explains Friedel.

High performance cooling system EVO Ultra Cool 2.0 FFS

Manufacturers of form-fill-seal (FFS) bags for heavy goods, for example, can increase their productivity by installing the new EVO Ultra Cool 2.0 FFS high-performance cooling system. Thanks to high-precision, flow-optimized components, it achieves output rates of more than 600 kg/h, which exceed the usual market peak values by around 50 to 100 kg - while maintaining the same good film properties.

"With our record output rate beyond 600 kg/h, we enable our customers to achieve an attractive return on investment and an important advantage in a tough competitive environment, where output rate determines economic success," emphasizes Friedel.

The new cooling system is just one of many steps that the blown film experts of the Reifenhäuser Group have been taking for many years to further improve the productivity of their lines: "By further developing our line generations and the cooling system, we have quadrupled the output of our blown film lines for heavy-duty sack applications since the 1990s," says Friedel.

Further developments increase output performance in heavy-duty sack applications

Reifenhäuser Output Rates for Heavy Duty Bag Applications

There are similar examples with technologies for other applications. Each new generation of equipment is more productive than its predecessor. For example, in the case of spunbond, meltblown and composite nonwovens lines, output of the current RF5 technology increased by up to 35 percent. "We are constantly developing our technologies so that our customers are successful in the long term," says Markus Müller, Director Marketing & Sales of the Reifenhäuser Group.

Optimizing processes

Another factor in productivity is the improvement of processes in production: How can the established workflow be optimized? Can individual process steps be accelerated or even eliminated? How can errors be avoided? How can scrap be minimized or throughput maximized? "This is where we, as machine builders, are called upon to use all our expertise and experience to find answers for the various processes and areas of application," says Müller.

Film-nonwoven composites without adhesive

For example, Reifenhäuser's patent-pending Ultrathin Coating process enables the production of particularly lightweight and cost-effective film/nonwoven composites. The technology does not require the usual hotmelt adhesive. Manufacturers thus save costs and at the same time increase line availability due to lower maintenance requirements.

Blown film production: direct extrusion without regranulation of recyclate

The EVO Ultra Fusion process relies on direct extrusion: fluff (film snippets) as well as all types of production waste and PCR material are processed directly. This means that there is no need for energy- and cost-intensive regranulation of the input material in the process.

Food safe flat film made from PET recyclate without pre-drying

The twin-screw technology also allows PET recyclate to be processed directly into food-safe film without an upstream drying process. The process meets the criteria of both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Increase cooling capacity for blown films with water

EVO Aqua Cool, on the other hand, offers blown film producers significantly higher cooling performance compared to conventional air cooling thanks to water shock cooling. At the same time, the film becomes highly transparent and has excellent thermoforming properties.

Exploit the potential of automation

There is also a lot of potential for optimization in the automation of processes. Whether it's recipe memories or assistants for starting up the line, troubleshooting, and changing products - automation tailored to the user makes a big difference in production.

One example: often, when starting up the extrusion line or changing products, many individual hand movements are required until the coextrusion adapter and die are set correctly. "Automation allows us to significantly reduce the setup time," explains Tim Bänsch, Product Manager at Reifenhäuser Extrusion Systems, the group's component specialist. Reifenhäuser has therefore been offering a special automation system since October 2022:

Automation option 
PAM (precise, autonomous, mechatronic)

With the PAM option, coextrusion adapters and flat dies can be adjusted automatically and mechatronically - precisely controlled via the line's control panel. The system is up to 78 percent faster than conventional control by hand or expansion bolt automation, enabling faster start-up of good production with less scrap.  Energy consumption is also reduced as motorized screwdrivers replace conventional thermal expansion bolts.

The PAM automation option is optionally available for new Reifenhäuser "Pro" coextrusion adapters and for various dies, but can also be retrofitted to existing lines regardless of the manufacturer.

Exploiting the opportunities of digitization

Manufacturers of films and nonwovens can also use digitalization to increase their productivity. "So far, there are still blind spots in production control in many companies - digital solutions can create transparency here and help improve OEE," says Daniel Kajan, Director Product & Operations at RE:, a subsidiary of the Reifenhäuser Group that specializes in digital products for extrusion line operators.

"Digitalization brings significant added value to film and nonwovens production," says Kajan. For example, digital solutions can be used to control the line more efficiently, improve product quality, and avoid scrap. Machine operators or quality managers can check in real time whether all equipment is running at its optimum and readjust if necessary. "Even an experienced plant operator can become even better if he is given the right digital tool," says Kajan.

Improve staff qualifications

The human factor - whether with or without digital support - generally plays an important role for productivity in the company. "Well-trained personnel are a productivity booster," says Pascal Vanschoenwinkel. He is one of the trainers at Reifenhäuser's own AR:DEL Academy, which aims to ensure a high level of qualification through special training and further education courses. There is a need for training in every company due to the increasingly complex processes in plastics production, he says. "Qualified line operators avoid errors, recognize quality fluctuations and can change over products more quickly," emphasizes Vanschoenwinkel.

Ardel On-Site Training

The AR:DEL trainers use modern learning methods to provide training at the academy in Troisdorf, but also at customers' premises. The content is then available on the digital learning platform for the long term. "Customers can also use it to quickly onboard new employees and maintain their productivity," says the trainer.

Recently, short videos, "AR:DEL on the Job," have also been available to help maintain plant availability. In short clips, each individual work step is shown and explained in one sentence. With this on-the-job support, AR:DEL aims to support customers directly where the questions arise: when they are working on the machine. "Often it's just a small problem that arises at the machine. It's very easy to solve with the videos," says training participant Hubert Straub, process technician at Südpack.

Eliminate failures more quickly

"A machine standstill is the worst case for productivity," says Markus Schroeder, service manager at Reifenhäuser Cast Sheet Coating. Because a line downtime can be really expensive: Assuming a film production of 1000 kg/hour and a sales price of 2 euros/kg, a line downtime of only 24 hours adds up to a loss of sales of 48,000 euros.

If failures cannot be rectified by the company's own personnel, Reifenhäuser's technical support is there to help. "In the event of a line downtime, fast help is required," emphasizes Schroeder. "Thanks to our digital services, our experts can connect remotely to lines and analyze all relevant parameters for defective components or process errors in the shortest possible time," says Schroeder. Alternatively, the experts can help via visual assistance and data glasses, tablet or smartphone - so that production can quickly get back up to speed.

Do you want to boost your productivity? Arrange a consultation with our experts today.

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