According to records; Sir Malcolm Thornhill produced the first commercial cardboard box in England in1817.
Since then, the use of cardboard to produce low cost, print friendly, lightweight containers still remains the material of choice for many industries today. For cardboard box specialists, such as Italy’s Ferdinando Manzini and Son s.n.c., the extremely competitive nature of this market has meant that energy efficient production can often make the difference between making a profit or a loss.
In the north of Italy lies the wealthy administrative region of Emilia Romagna.
Home to approximately 4.3 million inhabitants, it combines the two historic regions of Emilia and Romagna and covers an area of around 200.000 km².
Today, Emilia Romagna is one of the richest and most developed regions in Europe and it has the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, the region’s capital, is generally considered to offer Italy’s highest quality of life.
Emilia Romagna is a major cultural and tourist centre with visitor attractions including the oldest university in the Western World, numerous Renaissance cities including Modena, Parma and Ferrara, and also the beautiful Adriatic coastline with lively resorts such as Rimini and Cattolica.
Being a major centre for automobile production, Emilia–Romagna is also known for its iconic automotive brands including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati.
However, agriculture and food production remain major industry sectors which help to drive the region’s successful economy, especially the cultivation of wheat and sugar beet and extensive livestock farming, using the latest rearing techniques.
Additionally, Emilia Romagna is also a major growing area for both fruit and vegetables and in particular, cherries.
This focus on food cultivation has meant that the area has attracted some of Italy’s leading food producers, numerous European logistics and distribution companies and a host of small support businesses.
And for this reason, when Ferdinando Manzini decided to open a specialist packaging company back in 1973, the city of Vignola, near Modena, was his selected location.
At the time, Ferdinando´s business plan was straightforward - to create a small independent packaging company that could respond quickly to the needs of the local food producers, offering product flexibility, quality and delivery, at value for money prices.
And this simple but effective business offering still remains the case today.
Manizini, said, “Over the years, we have established strong working relationships with many of the leading fruit and vegetable producers in the region. Whilst our customers accept that we are a small company, with only seven full-time employees, they also recognise the advantages that our specialist service can provide, such as our personal service, flexibility, attention to detail, good delivery and importantly our competitive prices”.
“With the advances in automated machines, increased competition and continued market demands for lower cost packaging we are constantly monitoring our production costs and processes to ensure the company’s profitability and its long term future” he explained.
Ferdinando Manzini & Sons currently operate five packaging machines at their factory in Vignola, and predominately manufacture branded carton boxes used for the distribution of vegetables and fruit to both the Italian and European markets.
For technical support, Manzini work closely with a small local engineering consultancy B-Tech s.r.l, who are specialist designers of packaging and assembly machines specifically for use in the food industry.
“Following a meeting with Massimiliano Bolzoni, a sales engineer and energy saving expert from SMC, the worldwide leaders in pneumatics, combined with the support and guidance of Bruno Cracchi, the owner and senior engineer at B-Tech, was when we really started to consider some new ways to help reduce our machines’ operational energy costs”, continued Manzini.
With an agreement to review Manzini´s production equipment in more depth, under the watchful eye of B-Tech´s Bruno Cracchi, SMC´s energy saving experts reviewed Manzini machines and compressed air circuits.
It was quickly established that the fi ve machines used by Manzini were each consuming around 6.000 l/min of compressed air during a normal eight hour working day with compressed air costs of 0.02 Euros per m³.
Manzini were actually consuming around 14.400 m³ of compressed air each working day costing them 288€ in energy consumption alone.
Armed with this knowledge, SMC´s Bolzoni and his energy saving team then considered the operational requirements of the machines and what suitable energy saving components could be introduced to help lower Manzini´s energy bill.
“Over the past few years we have developed a number of innovative energy saving components which are perfect for these kind of machine applications”, said Bolzoni. “It was just a case of establishing what products we could introduce to the machine and then calculating the potential energy savings that could be made”, he continued.
SMC established that by focusing on a few areas some major energy savings could be made without the need to spend much money on new components or modify the existing box forming machines.
SMC made just three recommendations.
• To add their air saving valves - Series ASR/ASQ –
to reduce the pressure on the return stroke of the large cylinders
used to form the corners of each carton box
• To use a pressure regulator – Series AR – on the vacuum circuit to reduce the pressure supply to the vacuum ejector on the pressure line to the minimum value required for the application
• To incorporate a 3 Port direct operated shut off valve – Series VT – to stop air flow to the vacuum ejectors when not in operation
“We looked at the cost of introducing these recommendations to the Manzini machines and also what reductions in energy consumption we could generate”, said B-Tech´s Cracchi.
“To say that we were amazed would be an understatement. For an outlay of just 200€ on additional parts for each machine - a total investment of 1.000€ - the five machines annual energy consumption showed a fall representing a reduction in energy expenses of 24.000€,” he concluded.
Obviously for Ferdinando Manzini, the investment in these energy efficient products was not in question and SMC´s recommendations were quickly implemented.
“Today, business is becoming increasingly competitive. As a small company with relatively low overheads, we can offer our customers great service and a good product at competitive prices. In the last year, we have all felt the pain of increased energy charges and thanks to SMC and their energy saving products, we have made our machines more energy efficient”, explained Manzini.
“For my company, these savings are considerable and as a result of these actions we have benefited even further. Our compressor, which we were considering replacing, is now working more efficiently and the noise from the packaging machines in the factory is also considerably lower that before, so to use a local gastronomic example it’s been like having a cherry on top of the cake,” he concluded.
Ferdinado Mazini & Son are located in Vignola´s Via dell Agricoltura and can be contacted on +39 059 762 419. Considered to produce the finest cherries in Italy, the city hosts two important cherry festivals each year – one to celebrate the cherry blossom in April and the second in June where you can sample Vignola cherries and purchase a variety of cherry based dishes.
For more information on SMC´s energy saving products and activities simply contact your local SMC subsidiary or check out their dedicated energy saving webpage on: www.energysaving.smc.eu