You see it on energy drink shots, juice bottles and even vitamin bottles in every stores and you want your products decorated with it. That’s right a shrink sleeve.
How is my competitor doing it? Are they getting the bottles pre-sleeved or do they have shrink sleeve applicator and heat tunnel in house to turn generic bottles into appealing and colorful products? That’s only a few of the questions people are asking themselves when they consider upgrading their packaging.
A quick word on shrink sleeves before we go any further. Shrink sleeves are offered in various material such as PVC, PETG, OPP, EPS and PLA. They used to be found mostly as “neck bands” to litteraly cover the caps to create a tamper evident seal on pill bottles. Nowadays, we see more and more full-body shrink sleeves to replace traditional labels and decorate bottles 360º with high impact graphics. Once applied to a container, a heat source is needed to shrink it around the container.
#1 – Do your homework
If you already have a bottling line and are looking to replace a PS labeler with a shrink sleeve labeler, this should be pretty straightforward. Both sleeve suppliers and machine suppliers will need to know about containers: material, shape,size, product inside, is the sleeve applied when bottle is full or empty etc.
If this is a new project and don’t have any of the above, it may be a good idea to hit the store and buy products that are similar to what you want and list the pros and cons of each.
#2 – Involve a sleeve supplier
If you are not currently using shrink sleeves, the first thing to do before shopping for equipment is to meet with a sleeve printer/converter to discuss your needs. These guys are pros and they can assist you best type of material, graphics that will best fit your container. They will also be able to provide samples to let you visualize what your product will look like in a new dress.
#3 – Do the math
While this is critical for shrink sleeve suppliers to know your annual volumes and number of SKUs when they will evaluate your needs, equipment suppliers will be more interested to hear about your production requirements. They will need to know the speed requirement of the line, what equipment is upstream and downstream, space available, work environment etc. For existing lines, it is pretty easy to gather those data, it is more complex for start-up companies or company investing in a new production line.
#4 – Compare apples to apples
Too many times, I’ve seen end-users make decision on price by comparing two shrink sleeve applicators that have almost nothing in common. This could be a costly mistake. You need to make sure that all machines being evaluated are comparable in terms of technology, performance, type of controls and safety compliance. Same for the heat tunnels, there are many different technologies available and comparison could be very tricky.
#5 – Ask for references
Once you have identified two or three suppliers of shrink sleeving equipment, make sure you ask for references to see similar machines doing similar products. Even if you can’t actually see the machine in operation, a phone call with the user of the equipment might be very beneficial before you make a final decision. Make sure to ask about actual set-up time, operator skills needed for the equipment, availability and price of spare parts, level of after-sales support etc.
I hope this article will help you make a better decision about your shrink sleeving equipment or any other packaging equipment. However, don’t forget that the best tip is always to use common sense when purchasing anything.
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