Canadian Packaging

Clean Conscience

George Guidoni   

Trail-blazing biotech pioneer gets a firm grip on its product-coding requirements with leading-edge continuous inkjet printing technology

Founded in 1992, Montreal-based cleaning products manufacturer Inno-Science is a company on a continuous mission of the highest righteous order: making the world a cleaner place without harsh chemicals and synthetic formulations posing indelible risks to human and environmental health.

And while that noble end goal is still some ways from being achieved, the company’s remarkable success in the global professional-cleaning markets to date makes a compelling case for the enormous potential of modern-day science to improve the quality of life for world’s population by working with Mother Nature, rather than against it.

Formed by two industrious Canadian scientists at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal, the idea for developing effective “natural” alternatives to traditional chemical cleaning solutions was sparked by their visit to a local restaurant kitchen, where they we shocked by the amount of harsh chemicals used as part of the daily cleaning routine, with questionable results to boot.

Convinced that they could harness the powerful cleaning effects existing in our natural environment, they proceeded to develop an effective prototype for the treatment of grease on cooking filters in commercial kitchens.

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After that initial success, they went on to develop a new range of bacterial-based products for niche and specialty applications like grease trap treatment, odour elimination and kitchen hood degreasing.

Aiming to broaden their product offering and to gain access to higher-volume market segments, the biotech start-up began researching various enzymatic technologies that could be combined with its existing bacterial cultures to provide higher degreasing performance.

In 2000, InnuScience filed a worldwide patent introducing the first effective biotech degreaser that could outperform any traditional chemical degreaser—firmly establishing InnuScience’s leadership position and opening the door to the development of many other surface cleaning products and technologies.

Since then, the pioneering company has since developed an extensive portfolio of products using advanced, biotechnically engineered technologies that “essentially harness the power of nature through living organisms or components of them,” according to InnuScience.

“These are patented microbial strains that, together with enzymes and surfactants, results in a product that has continuous cleaning action, is pH neutral, non-toxic, hypoallergenic and biodegradable,” the company’s website states.

Rigorously tested and quality-assured, each unique product is made with carefully selected bacterial strains demonstrating exceptional cleaning abilities, according to InnuScience, which has developed more that 400 different proprietary formulations to date to cover a broad range of application in the industrial, commercial and institutional environments: from floor, carpet and fabric care to wastewater treatment, odour control and graffiti removal, among many others.

Strategically located in the Sinte-Julie district on the south shore of Montreal, the InnuScience production facility enjoys close proximity to the Port of Montreal, facilitating efficient shipping and distribution of its products to a growing number of countries around the world, including international markets across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East region.

Operating a single shift over a five-day weekly schedule, the plant turns out a remarkably high number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) under the flagship InnuScience brand for the B2B (business-to-business market) and the Game Over Sport brand for the B2C (business-to-consumer) sector, along with many private-label offering for both B2B and B2C sectors.

“Our main packaging formats include four-, 20- and 205-litre containers, as well as our innovative soluble pods that align with our mission to provide sustainable and eco-friendly solutions,” relates InnuScience’s business development director Faye Teasdale.

“The popularity of these formats varies, whereby the four-litre containers are preferred for industrial applications,” Teasdale points out.

“For their part, our soluble pods are gaining traction for their convenience and reduced environmental impact.”

While the plant enjoys fairly stable demand for its product throughout the year, “June is a particularly busy month due to increased demand from schools preparing for summer cleaning,” Teasdale notes.

“To meet that peak demand, we optimize our workflow by adjusting production schedules, increasing inventory levels in anticipation of high demand, and ensuring our supply chain is robust and responsive,” Teasdale states.

“We source our raw materials from reputable suppliers who share our commitment to sustainability and quality,” she says, “and we also produce some of our own raw materials, including specialized bacterial strains, to ensure the highest quality and effectiveness of our biotechnological solutions.

“This in-house production capability allows us greater control over the quality and sustainability of our products,” says Teasdale, citing the facility’s impressive list of globally recognized quality standard certifications that include ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, alongside the environmental ECOLOGO and Ecolabel accreditations.

Says Teasdale: “These certifications and accreditations are a testament to our dedication to quality, sustainability and continuous improvement in both our facility operations and product offerings.”

Due to unique nature and composition of its products, “Our production process incorporates some automation to ensure efficiency and consistency, but it also relies on skilled manual labour,” Teasdsale confides.

“This blend allows us to maintain flexibility and adaptability in our operations, ensuring high quality across all our products.”

The process begins with raw material preparation, where high-quality raw materials are carefully measured and mixed using large industrial mixers to create our various liquid formulations.

“The raw materials are blended in large mixing tanks, where they are combined according to precise recipes to ensure consistency and effectiveness,” Teasdale explains.

“This stage involves both manual oversight and automated mixing equipment to achieve the desired product quality,” says Teasdale, noting the company’s unwavering commitment to meticulous quality control.

“Throughout the mixing process, samples are taken an tested in our onsite lab to ensure they meet our stringent quality standards,” she reveals.

“After initial mixing, each batch undergoes a rigorous quality-control process, whereby the samples are tested for a week before being released for sale,” Teasdale points out.

“This ensures the stability and effectiveness of our products over time.”

Once the products are ready, they are directed to one of the facility’s three packaging lines:

  • Large Formats Line, which handles packaging of larger containers, ranging from 20-litre drums to large-volume IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers);
  • Smaller Formats Line, for packaging smaller containers from 800-ml bottles to four-litre jugs.
  • Soluble Pods Line, focusing on producing and packaging the highly-concentrated soluble pods that are dissolved by the end user in water prior to use.

“Each line uses specialized filling machines to ensure accurate and efficient packaging,” Teasdale notes.

After labeling, the containers are placed inside shipping carriers, which are then printed with all the required variable product information and transferred to the end of the line for final quality checks and distribution.

“Before shipping, all packaged products undergo a final quality check to ensure they meet our high standards,” says Teasdale.

“The products are then prepared for distribution to various markets, both locally and internationally.”

With so many different SKUs and customer destinations, applying all the pertinent product dates, codes, text and graphics onto the corrugated shipping boxes used to be a fairly time- and labour-consumer operation that required a plant employee applying pre-printed labels onto each passing box, Teasdale relates.

But that all changed a few weeks ago with the arrival of a brand new CoPilot Max Turbo continuous inkjet (CIJ) printer, manufactured by Squid Ink Manufacturing and delivered to InnuScience by Squid Ink’s local distributor DMS Marquage Codage.

As Teasdale recalls, “The equipment was installed in May, replacing our old method of printing physical labels and manually sticking them on each box.

“The new coding equipment prints labels directly onto the boxes, streamlining our production process and significantly increasing efficiency.

“The installation was efficient and the training sessions were very comprehensive—allowing our team to quickly become proficient with the new equipment,” she relates.

“Overall, the experience has been highly positive, and the new coding equipment’s performance is excellent, significantly enhancing the overall packaging process.”

Adds DMS business development rep Patrick Gray: “At DMS, we conduct print tests with different systems for each project to ensure that we recommend the best solutions to our clients.

“In this case, primarily due to the very small characters in the client’s images to be printed, we needed a system with excellent resolution, such as the CoPilot Max Turbo, which also allows for darker printing,” Gray relates, “Due to the ease of maintenance and use of both the controller, with its 4.3-inch colour touchscreen and the simplicity of using Orion software to create messages, we proposed this device to InnuScience,” says Gray, “and they chose it.”

After installing the CoPilot Max Turbo on a conveyor at the exit side of the box tape-sealing machine, “We took the time to provide the client with comprehensive training to make it easier for the operators to use the system,” says Gray.

As he explains, “The new equipment allows InnuScience to eliminate the labels they were applying, thereby allowing them to realize cost savings on label and labour, along with improved standardization and accuracy—resulting in increased quality of their packaging process overall.”

Having worked with InnuScience in the past, Gray says the CoPilot Max Turbo installation was an exceptionally gratifying experience for DMS.

“What sets DMS Marquage Codage apart from the competition is our continuous support for our clients before, during and after each project,” he says.

“We are privileged to count InnuScience among our clients,” Gray adds. “It is always a pleasure to provide winning solutions that help our clients go further.”

Operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Minneapolis, Minn.-headquartered Engage Technologies Corporation, Squid Ink Manufacturing it a well-established and highly respected supplier of a broad range of product identification technologies, including hi-resolution industrial inkjet printers, thermal inkjet printers, CIJ small-character coders and laser coders—offering a one-stop solution for virtually any challenging product identification and traceability application.

According to Engage Technologies’ vice-president of marketing Chad Carney, the CoPilot Max Turbo printer was a natural fit for the InnuScience’s application requirements.

As Carney explains, “Their application requires quick generation of bar codes, logos, bold characters and small-character text.

“The CoPilot Max is perfect for this application due to its 360-dpi print resolution, which is about twice the resolution offered by other competing printers in this class.

“Moreover, the CoPilot Max prints up to 2.8 inches (70 mm) in print height, offering the user a lot of real estate for their messaging,” he continues.

“They are also using a spring-loaded printhead bracket, which provides a consistent throw distance from the printhead to the box,” Carney points out.

“This is helpful to ensure excellent print quality if there is an issue with the material handling or product conveying—basically if the box doesn’t line up consistently with the printhead.”

With print speeds of up to 110 feet per minute at 300-dpi resolution, the CoPilot Max Turbo installed at InnuScience uses a low-maintenance, oil-based ink formulation—safely contained in large-volume 500-ml ink cartridges—that is quickly absorbed into the corrugated board’s porous surface and dries virtually upon impact.

For Teasdale, the CoPilot Max Turbo installation was an exceptionally outstanding capital investment on every level.

“The introduction of the Squid Ink equipment has had a significant positive impact on our operation’s efficiency, productivity and quality levels,” she extols.

“By automating the labeling process, we are saving precious time that was previously spent manually labeling each box.

“Without this equipment, we would have needed to hire an additional team member solely for labeling,” she says, “whereas now we can allocate new hires to areas where their efforts will be more effective for our operations.

“This shift has led to a significant increase in our overall productivity,” adds Teasdale, citing an estimated $18,000 saving in labeling material costs per year, along with about $100,000 annual saving in total labour costs.

“Additionally, the precision and quality of the prints have enhanced the clarity and legibility of our product information,” she states, “further improving our quality standards.”

All in all, saying that the InnuScience is happy with the new printer’s performance to date would be a gross understatement.

“One of the standout features of the Squid Ink equipment is the user-friendly controller, which makes the machine incredibly easy to operate,” Teasdale enthuses. “The intuitive interface allows our operators to quickly and efficiently change variable fields, such as expiration dates and lot numbers, enhancing our overall productivity.

“The laser precision of the prints ensures that all product information is clear and legible, which is crucial for maintaining our high-quality standards,” Teasdale adds, while lauding the excellent customer service and technical support provided throughout the project by both DMS and Squid Ink.

“Our business relationship with Squid Ink has been very positive and collaborative,” she states.

“From the initial purchase through to the installation and training, Squid Ink and their partner DMS Marquage Codage have provided outstanding support.

“They have been instrumental in helping us integrate the new coding equipment into our production line seamlessly,” Teasdale adds.

“This partnership has not only enhanced our labeling process,” she concludes, “but it also reinforced our commitment to delivering high-quality sustainable products efficiently.

“We look forward to continuing this successful collaboration with Squid Ink well into the future.”

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