Many silver linings
Canadian cap lining equipment manufacturer using innovative automation technologies to give its specialty machinery an extra cutting edge in the global markets
September 14, 2018
With the global market for caps and closures estimated to become a US$58-billion business by the end of next year, companies supplying into this vibrant, fast-growing segment of the global packaging industry owe it to themselves to raise their game in order to take full advantage of that brisk growth.
For companies like the Laval, Que.-based MMC Packaging Equipment Ltd., manufacturer of state-of-the-art cap lining/wadding machines and other postmolding automation systems for the caps and closures industry, anticipating and meeting market needs ahead of the competition has been a key core competency helping the company achieve remarkable success in many of the world’s fastest-growing markets for these essential packaging products and components.
Founded by John McNally in 1968 as a tool-and-dye maker under the original Montreal Milling Cutter Co. Inc. corporate banner, the company developed its first cap lining/wadding machine in 1978—four years before the infamous “Tylenol Scare” in Chicago shocked pharmaceutical companies worldwide into beginning to insert tamper-evident liners on their products to regain the public’s trust.
With this practice quickly being adopted into the food-and-beverage and other CPG (consumer packaged goods) industries, the company quickly built up the manufacturing capabilities to produce more advanced cap lining systems and related systems for an ever-growing array of packaging applications.
So much so, in fact, that in 1991 current president Phillipe McNally, son of the founder, renamed the company to its MMC Packaging moniker to better reflect the company’s growth and a more defined strategic focus on the caps and closures business.
Since moving its new state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing facility in Laval, the company has steadily diversified its product portfolio with new innovative systems for cap closing, slitting, banding other elated applications, while its 2008 acquisition of machine vision and imaging specialists EOSAI elevated MMC up to a whole new level of technological competence and sophistication.
In 2015, the company reached a major milestone with the installation of its 1,000th machine, according to director of sales and marketing Anthi Balafoutis, who credits the firm’s genuine commitment to innovation and continuous improvement for its excellence in the export markets.
“Over 90 per cent of our equipment is exported into international markets,” says Balafoutis. “Our primary markets currently are is the U.S. and Mexico, but we would like to focus our future efforts more on Europe, as we see odd growth opportunities there.
“Until recently, we didn’t realize just how many different companies out there are involved in the creation of something as simple as a cap or closure.”
Employing over 70 full-time specialists, the lively Laval facility is in many ways a model corporate citizen, having been named to the prestigious Deloitte & Touche list of Canada’s Best Managed Companies for the last two years running.
As acknowledged by company president McNally, “This award recognizes our ability to adapt to a changing marketplace, comparable to the best companies in the country in terms of product development, business development, and organizational excellence.
“I consider that our success is due to the commitment and efforts of all employees and I am very proud of our team,” McNally says.
“Our constant drive towards recognition as the sector reference and benchmark for product and service quality worldwide is spearheaded by a sharp needs-oriented focus, and the credibility we foster with our partners customers through the consistency and reliability of both our people and products,” he states.
“In a market that is constantly looking for innovative caps and specialty closures, the dynamic MMC team takes the time needed to understand each individual cap manufacturer’s special machinery requirements,” adds Balafoutis.
“That’s why MMC Packaging is not only a reference point for post-molding automation equipment, but also an authoritative source of expertise in providing services related to the manufacturability of new closure designs.”
With the company’s growing global customer base now extending across food-and-beverage, personal care, pharmaceutical, home-care, and chemical and industrial sectors, MMC Packaging has naturally developed a lot of equipment customization capabilities that enables it to introduce new value-added features on its standard equipment on a regular basis, according to Balafoutis.
“We have acquired a lot of experience when it comes to customization because there really is a lot of difference in the size and the geometry of the caps and closures used in the different sectors,” she states.
“And as one can imagine, there are a lot of very intricate closure designs on the market that require some type of automation to optimize their feasibility.”
To answer those clients’ automation needs, MMC Packaging offers a comprehensive range or equipment comprising:
- Cap lining machines, high-efficiency systems capable of stamping out and installing liner disks inside the caps at rates of up to 1,200 caps perminute.
- Cap slitting and band folding machines. As Balafoutis explains, “We design and manufacture cap slitting and band folding that score the sidewall of plastic closures either with an arched slitting blade, or a cut-to-post technology, for creating tamper-evident closures.
- Cap assembly machines, designed to assemble multipiece closures at high throughput rates.
- Cap closing machines. “This type of equipment is designed to reliably perform and repeat highly efficient and intricate closing functions for closure styles with various hinge and latching features,” Balafoutis explains.
- Vision inspection. “We have a dedicated in-house team of vision specialists and software engineers that design vision systems uses to capture all sorts of closure defects at high processing rates,” according to Balafoutis.
Because automated machinery is ultimately as good all the components, devices and systems that go into its design and construction, MMC Packaging makes it a point to partner up with the best industrial automation suppliers in the business—such as Germany-headquartered Beckhoff Automation GmbH & Co. KG.
With a strong North American presence—underscored by the company’s Beckhoff Automation Canada Ltd. office in Mississauga, Ont. and its parent Beckhoff Automation LLC subsidiary just outside of Minneapolis in Savage, Minn.—the company is a renowned expert in open PC-based automation technologies, supplying a broad range of industrial PCs, controllers, control panels, input/output products, servo drives and motors, and automation software to industrial OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) worldwide.
“Our collaboration with Beckhoff Automation started in 2013, when MMC decided to lead the way of post-molding automation equipment built on PC-based controls system,” Balafoutis relates.
“Ever since, the partnership between MMC and Beckhoff has been growing stronger and stronger.
“As far as we are concerned, PC-based technology offers not only enhanced performance compared to traditional PLC (programmable logic controller) technology,” Balafoutis states, “but also new capabilities such as remote access and control, integrated multifunctional control and data reporting, and structured text programming that is easier to tailor, deploy and maintain.”
Naturally, such ringing endorsement is sweet music to the ears of Ted Sarazin, Beckhoff Automation’s regional sales manager for Eastern Canada.
“The relationship between MMC and Beckhoff has been extraordinary on every level for many years now,” Sarazin states.
“Their management team are always eager for innovation,” he says, “which is very much in line with the Beckhoff ’s philosophical foundation.
“Moreover, they have a very high skilled engineering team who are always curious for new technology, which is why they have incorporated many of our technologies into their systems.”
Specifically, the Beckhoff automation products deployed on much of the MMC-made equipment include:
- The customized 18.5-inch CP39xx multi-touch control panel, with extension push-buttons, to provide optimal display and functionality for MMC’ proprietary ICON human-machine interface (HMI) software. Designed for both control cabinet and mounting-arm installation options, the panels offer all-around IP 65 level protection, and they can be operated at up to 100 meters away from the industrial PC with Beckhoff ’s CP-Link 4 one-cable display links.
- The compact and powerful CX2040 four-core CPU (central processing unit) with an i7 processor to connect up to four modules to the scalable PC, with option to add extra PCIe ports for any additional required applications.
- The CX5140 family modular CPUs combining PC technology and modular I/O (input/output) level on a DIN rail unit in the control cabinet to offer a space-saving solution for various logic and motion control applications. Says Balafoutis: “The Beckhoff I/O is modular and easily adapts to our needs to enable us to connect all the sensors, valves, E-stops and security connections. “It also makes it easier for us to add new sensors without additional wiring just by adding the required communications cards.
- The AM8000 synchronous servomotors, deigned to provide high power density to achieve precise control of angular position, acceleration and velocity. Featuring small end turns and a fully potted stator to ensure perfect thermal contact between the stator and the motor housing, the high-performance servomotors—available in five sizes and three length dimensions for each size— are engineered for superior durability and robustness, with guaranteed service life of 30,000 hours for the wearing parts such as ball bearings.
- The AM8100 series servomotors for OCT (one-cable technology) servo terminal, featuring an integrated absolute encoder for high-speed digital data transfer—eliminating the need for homing by combining power and feedback within a single cable.
According to Beckhoff, “The high dynamics of these servomotors open up a multitude of possible application in industrial robots for pick-and-place applications, for example, or for general mechanical engineering applications requiring compact design and high positioning accuracy.”
All in all, using Beckhoff automation solutions has enabled MMC to develop better, faster and more flexible caps and closures processing machines for its customers, Balafoutis agrees.
“It helps us execute our vision of being a ‘one-stop shop’ for all post molding-automation solutions—including peripherals, vision and inspection systems—to offer our customers a most comprehensive product offering in the market,” Balafoutis sums up.
“Thanks to our recognized expertise, MMC Packaging is committed to ensuring the complete satisfaction of its customers by offering integrated, automated and innovative products for the post-molding process of the closure industry; by providing an efficient after-sales service; by constantly ensuring the quality and reliability of our solutions, and by distinguishing ourselves with fast and ‘on-time’ lead-times.”