Baxter Healthcare Reduces Material Costs 70% with In-Line Printing and Treating

Baxter Healthcare is reaping rewards after revamping their intravenous tubing devices’ packaging strategy. The switch from preprinted material to in-line printing has reduced costs and improved flexibility for the company’s Costa Rica operations.

At the plant, Tiromat horizontal form, fill and seal machines have been enhanced with Greydon in-line printers and Enercon surface treaters. The lines run 60-70 different products packaged in low-density polyethylene (LDPE) material from Rexam Coated Films and Paper.

Lead times have been significantly reduced allowing the company to respond quickly to changes in packaging design. In the past, a simple change of text required an 8-12 week lead time.

One of the more challenging aspects of the project was redesigning the package for efficient production.

Simplifying the multi-color design of the package was the first step. Rexam now supplies pre-printed color-coded film. This allows Baxter to use one design for all products, print with one ink, and provide the color-coded identification required by Baxter’s customers.

In-Line Treating Beats Top Coating

Printing on LDPE requires either top-coating or surface treating. Baxter worked with Tiromat and Greydon to develop a flexographic printing solution.

“We’re realizing a 70% savings in material cost while maintaining smaller inventories. Our packaging operations are more responsive to changes in our product and packaging.”

Kevin Zacharias, Manager of Packaging Development in the I.V. Systems Division of Baxter Healthcare

Baxter determined that the cost of top coating made it prohibitive. Attention focused on integrating a corona treater for the printing press. A treater would raise the film’s surface energy to promote the adhesion of ink. Ranger Industries Inks developed a fast drying ink formulation for the in-line printing project.

Greydon’s President Greg Rochon recalls, “We contacted several companies about treating, but Enercon was quick to respond. They had genuine interest in working with us.” Enercon supplied Greydon with a narrow web treating station on consignment.

It’s compact design allowed it to be seamlessly integrated onto Greydon’s press. It was Greydon’s first experience with a treater, but the system’s simplicity allowed them to install it at their factory and deliver a turnkey package.

Baxter’s engineering team strove to keep the printing process as straightforward as possible. “We had to ensure the addition of the printing process didn’t adversely affect production efficiencies. We asked Greydon to make its press as simple as possible to operate,” says Kevin Zacharias, Baxter Healthcare Manager of Packaging Development. “Greydon did its part to simplify the press.”

Greydon V.P. John Rochon explains, “We pride ourselves on giving our customers less of what we think they need and more of what they say they want.” With lines running 2-3 shifts on a regular basis, Baxter needed uptime.

Taking Ownership and Rewards

Zacharias credits both cooperative suppliers and his international packaging team for making the project become a reality. “The plant in Costa Rica led by Manufacturing Manager Javier Pereira and Project Leader Mary Ann Roqhuette was instrumental to the success of the project.”

A proactive effort from Enercon’s US headquarters and local representative Cosalco also contributed to Baxter’s smooth start-up. Enercon application and service engineers made several courtesy visits to the Costa Rica plant, performing preventative maintenance and training programs.

Baxter enjoys many rewards for their efforts. In addition to material cost reduction, the company has reduced lead-time for making packaging changes. A new plate can be made for the press in one day. The plant’s self-sufficiency has also translated into reduced scrap and smaller inventories making Bayer’s project a huge success.

Narrow Web Corona Treater
Enercon's treater mounted onto a Greydon printing press for in-line printing on LDPE.