And they call them “macchinette”...

They are ubiquitous, in tandem with or in alternative to coding systems, on packaging lines, large and small; their cost is relative compared to other machines, but if they don’t function it spells trouble.
This issue focuses on the state of the art in labeling systems, as well as serialization and traceability in pharmaceuticals with Etipack, a concern that has built nearly 40 years of experience on reliable products and quality service.  Stefano Lavorini

The economic recovery of recent years is reflected, as in other areas, in the performance of sales in the automatic machinery sector. This means there has also been a positive trend for labeling systems, which have benefited from recovering investments in many sectors, including our focus here of pharmaceuticals.
As a matter of fact, European and global regulations governing traceability and serialization set new obligations for concerns in the sector, consequently requiring that packaging lines be updated accordingly. More generally, the challenge set by the National Plan for Industry 4.0, and the corollary hyper-depreciation, is having positive effects on the capital goods market. In such a context, there is a clear emphasis on the part of brand owners on making the right choices, which is to say those most advantageous in terms of total cost of ownership, which is something altogether different from the cost of the machine itself.
It is thus better to keep in mind certain discriminating factors that make the difference: first and foremost the reliability of the means of production in terms of speed, yield, precision, but also planning and post-sale assistance. Put simply, the reliability of the supplier must be carefully assessed.
In this vein, without in any way detracting from the many “debutants”, concerns that already have long experience under their belts enjoy an advantage in that their approach has been tested by the market, while they have also demonstrated a capacity for constantly reinventing themselves both technologically and in terms of business culture.
Such is the case with Etipack, which since 1978 has been building and marketing labeling and coding systems with self-adhesive labels and for coupon distribution.

Small write large
On a hot July day I find myself once again meeting Roberto Gorla, one of the company’s founding partners, and Laura Santagati, head of marketing and communications, who offer me a chance to see and hear what’s new at Etipack. As always, the production areas are well-organized, but now they have been expanded. Everything looks rationally designed in a spirit of people-oriented efficiency.
The proof is in the 2016 balance: the concern’s turnover has grown by 7%, and forecasts for the current year expect all indicators to grow further.
«The Italian market is performing very well, with steady exports thanks to a variety of dynamics at play across the globe» explained Santagati. In fact, Etipack operates together through subsidiaries and commercial and technical assistance partners in the Netherlands, Germany and Hungary, as well as manufacturing sites in the Czech Republic and Brazil.

Focus on pharmaceuticals
Among the reasons behind Etipack’s success figures an innovative range of labelers, print & apply machines and automatic labeling systems that are offered standard or personalized for food, chemical products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
However, not all target sectors are running at the same pace. Gorla comments: «For some time now, pharmaceuticals have been one of our primary focus areas. This is why we have also developed dedicated traceability and serialization systems for this sector, in compliance with regulations established in the various countries in which we do business. Moreover, in order to guarantee high quality and advanced technological solutions, we work in active cooperation with specialists in the field of coding and vision systems, designing modular machines that enable the installation and complete integration of third party devices.
Our solutions include Pharmatrace for direct coding on boxes; the Pharma 4 system (see photo above), incorporating four functions, namely overhang application, printing, seal application and weighing; Sistema 9 for application and/or coding of flat cases».
«From a commercial standpoint, there is plenty to be satisfied with» remarks Santagati. «We are proud, for example, of the fact that historic customers that had opted for another supplier following a change in management, have resumed buying our machines, thanks to the reliability, experience, engagement, quality products and assistance service that set us apart».

Speaking of automation
Another topic on which my interlocutors had plenty to say was Etipack’s updating of its offer in line with the Industry 4.0 plan.
«We are making good progress, with nearly all our machines ready to integrate the latest production technologies» stressed Gorla, adding «I share the common interest in giving central importance to data, both in management and in production, as well as logistics, not to mention planning and research & development».
Notwithstanding the currency of the rules set by Minister Calenda’s National Plan for Industry 4.0, the integration of mechanical and electronic elements remains a crucial competitive factor among different machine builders.
Addressing the issue, Gorla was careful to point out that «Etipack electronics have been developed from the start in cooperation with a partner concern that has always been in charge of this aspect of our production. This enables us to make any useful changes to our systems, even in relation to integration with other devices. What’s more, it is company policy that all labeling machines undergo a 48-hour test in order to be certain that the electronic components function well».

Pharma 4 System details.

Experience counts
Offer personalization has always been a strength peculiar to Italian industry. Beyond technical jargon, in fact, users demand solutions to their own specific production issues.
«Over the course of thirty-nine years, Etipack has probably built upwards of 50,000 machines and systems – states Santagati – thereby accruing a wealth of technical competencies in a wide variety of application areas. This enables us to dialogue proactively with customers, suggesting rational and cost-effective solutions. At this point we are no longer mere manufacturers, but veritable technical consultants, standing alongside our customers, sharing their goals and guiding their decision-making so that they can find economically sustainable solutions that work for them».
«It is no coincidence that this essential consulting role - concludes Gorla - is entrusted to the production that we carry out at the Soncino site, the “Etipack soul without the label”. Here are produced various mechanical devices and accompanying software: from feeders for in-line distribution of folding labels, promotional labels, miniature gift items, bottleneck labels, bags, etc. to pick & place machines capable of placing and gluing the promotional object on the outside of the packaging with a glue dot. In this case, knowledge of the materials and its applications is indispensable, because there are multiple variables at play, and our consulting is not limited to operations, but touches also on strategy, so that we often find ourselves dialoging with customers’ marketing functions. We can say without hesitation that we know how to make the right product by always developing solutions that meet our standards but also and especially those of the end customer».


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