From ice cream to baby foods, all year round


At Franz Henke in Lohne efficiency is an item that occupies a top position on the agenda and has done so ever since the plastics processors reinvented themselves a year ago. The aspect of efficiency is of equal importance, whether we are talking in terms of production or resources – one reason why the company has since invested in 25 new injection moulding machines from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag.

Plant Manager Matthias Völker (right) and an employee from Production with a typical product from Franz Henke: ice cream containers. (photo: Sumitomo (SHI) Demag)

At Franz Henke they are not satisfied with small quantities: 1.3 billion parts have left the plant in Lohne, Germany during the last year, chiefly packaging for foodstuffs. Examples of items manufactured by the company are ice cream containers, tubs for delicatessen salads, boxes for icing sugar, beakers for desserts etc. Much of it is produced using the in-mould labelling process. And for everything Franz Henke can supply the lid to match. The standard assortment covers the entire supply of snap and press-in lids for closing and sealing cardboard sleeves as well as tinplate containers. The automated insertion of cardboard and foils as well as snap caps with tamper-evident seals (patent registered) round off this range of packaging for the foodstuffs industry.

Dessert cups are a further typical of the products manufactured by Franz Henke. (photo: Franz Henke)

Alongside this, the plastics processors have two further strings to their bow. The Lonacap business unit develops protective elements, protective plugs, sleeves and caps for the technical sector, in short, protective elements for everything that needs to be protected against dirt, contamination or damage. And the Topfit section of the business manufactures a range of different products for gardeners, including pots, carriers, pallets and hanging baskets. “With these three business units we are able to count on an even distribution of our production over the year as a whole. Where many products are concerned, for instance, for garden landscaping and, of course, as regards ice cream containers, we are looking at products with specifically seasonal peaks,” says Managing Director Jürgen Henke. “This mix is important for us in that it enables us to make efficient use of our fleet of machines”.

Strategic realignment

Efficiency is an important topic as far as the company is concerned, especially since the so-called Agenda 2012, which ushered in a new structure a few years ago. “At that time we used to worry about such things as: where do we want to be in the future? What products do we want to be manufacturing? And what investments are important to ensure that we achieve our objectives?,” Henke reminisces. Wider diversification in the packaging sector was one result of the Agenda 2012, another was certification to the BRC/IoP Standard which regulates the requirements relating to the manufacture of foodstuffs packaging and packaging materials. This incorporates requirements in general quality management, for instance, documentation, internal audits and traceability, the hygiene of the lines as well as the operational environment, personnel and the avoidance of contamination.

In addition to this, the fleet of injection moulding machines underwent a partial facelift as part of an overall investment of around € 8 million. “We need injection moulding machines that enable us to run all three business sectors along flexible lines, depending on the order book situation and the season”, explains Henke. “This means that they must, as far as the packaging sector is concerned, be fast enough to handle cycle times of less than 6min. And, in addition, they must be designed to meet the future requirements of our customers so that we will be able to not only manufacture new products on them but will also be able, should we have a corresponding need, to increase our output, for example by deploying moulds with a greater number of cavities. What this means is that our machines must be designed to meet the demands of tomorrow”.

A total of 26 new machines from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag in two years

Franz Henke bought their first machine from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag back in 2008. This was a hybrid El-Exis S 550. The company had such good experiences with it that, following the restructuring, they ordered 15 further machines from the German/Japanese manufacturer.

Pictured (from left) in front of the largest Sumitomo (SHI) Demag machine that Franz Henke have in their factory: Andreas Herbers, Sales Engineer from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, Plant Manager Matthias Völker and Sales Manager André Bergmann. (photo: Sumitomo (SHI) Demag)

Currently Franz Henke have a total of 84 injection moulding machines, 26 of which originate from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag. Apart from a hydraulic Systec with a clamping force of 600kN, the remainder of the fleet is made up exclusively of the high-speed El-Exis SP machines predestined for the packaging sector with clamping forces of between 1,500 and 5,800kN. 25 new machines have been added in 2013 alone. Some of them are equipped with special functionalities for in-mould labelling (IML). These include the necessary interfaces for linking up an IML line such as machine operation when the safety door is open on the side opposite the operator. A special IML production start-up program makes it possible to start up the line without labels. In so doing all the safety functions for IML operation are also taken into account such as, for example, the ’safe‘ signal for clearance of the handling operation. Air valves can also be activated by way of the IML automation facility.

Fewer machines but higher paced

“Thanks to the new Sumitomo (SHI) Demag injection moulding machines, we have been able, during the course of the past three years, to achieve a considerable reduction in energy consumption in production. This was a significant step towards getting our energy management system certified to EN ISO 50001 in 2012,” says Henke. “Overall,” he says, “the machines’ energy requirement had fallen by 600kW to a figure of 1,500kW today – with enhanced performance capability”.

“In particular we have, thanks to the new high speed machines, achieved a higher figure in terms of production. This is currently paying off in a number of new projects,” says Henke. One example is the production of a lid for the packaging used by a large baby foods manufacturer with operations throughout the world which is manufactured on an El-Exis SP 350-3000.

“The European manufacturers of baby foods are registering enormous rates of growth at the present time, in particular in the Asian countries. The reason for this is the fact that, in the wake of the most recent scandals, people no longer have any confidence in the local manufacturers. We are profiting from this growth. The lids are categorised as critical items by the manufacturer because they can come into contact with the baby food. It is for this reason that the manufacturer is entrusting manufacture to us,” explains Sales Manager André Bergmann. In addition, new processes have been introduced within the quality assurance system and an external laboratory is conducting regular tests on the parts.

For everything Franz Henke can supply the lid to match. (photo: Franz Henke)

According to information supplied by Plant Manager Matthias Völker, the injection moulding machine is highly stable in operation and is above all highly efficient. “We have optimised it for the article. By reworking the mould, including cooling, we have been able to reduce the cycle times by around 20% by comparison to the previous machine”.

Should higher quantities be required in the future, this will not be a problem for Franz Henke either. Völker already has his sights on moulds with a higher number of cavities, for instance with 48 mould cavities over two or three tiers. “But this means that, talking in terms of efficiency, we will need a machine with a clamping force of 7,000 or 7,500kN”.

However, for Franz Henke the topic of resource efficiency does not end with a reduction in energy consumption. Just recently the plastics processor has been examining the use of biobased plastics – for example, based on maize flour. “We see this as an opportunity for us to mark out a place for ourselves in the market of the future,” says Bergmann. There is a demand for packaging of this kind, he goes on, in particular from manufacturers of biological foodstuffs.

Plant pots are injection moulded from recycled plastic refuse which is produced during the manufacture of packaging and protective elements. (photo: Sumitomo (SHI) Demag)

Besides this Franz Henke has ordered, following a trial, two electric IntElect machines with a 1,000kN clamping force from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag. Henke: “With these we will be able to reduce our energy consumption by a further 10% approximately. We will also use them to reduce any problems as regards hygiene and cleanliness. Although we do not currently need a clean room, customers such as, for example, manufacturers of baby foods, are increasingly coming to expect production to take place in the clean room. Electric machines are predestined for this”.

The company was set up by Franz Henke in 1924, originally as a manufacturer of natural corks and cork items for the beverages and pharmaceuticals industry. In 1960 the company moved into plastics processing. The company has a comprehensive standard range in its three important business sectors – Packaging, Topfit and Lonacap. In addition, individual solutions are developed in collaboration with the customer. Primarily in their capacity as a packaging partner, Henke handle customer projects from the initial idea leading to subsequent implementation in their own mould making shop right up to production and/or launching on the market.

As well as the company headquarters in Lohne, which is home to the departments of Administration, Sales, Production, Mould Making, Research and Development, Henke also maintain corresponding external logistics locations in Lohne. With more than 100 employees, sales of around 25 million euros were achieved in 2012, 40 % of which is generated on foreign markets.

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