Nobel BioCare, the world's largest manufacturer of dental implants, hired us to re-think and re-design/engineer their current implant packaging. The objective was to consolidate the variety of packaging resulting from a recent acquisition and automate the packaging and labeling process at each manufacturing facility. Our solution cut Nobel Biocare's production costs by 96%.
Nobel was previously using several different opaque injection molded packages and a combination glass and titanium package. Labels were manually applied with a fold over the side so that dentists could easily identify the enclosed product from the top or side. The fold-over label was a key requirement for the new package. Our solution allowed Nobel to keep the fold-over label, while reducing the number of packages, streamlining the packaging process and automating labeling.
Materials selection played a critical role in the success of the project. We used Eastman's Eastar copolyester which enabled us to create an innovative tray design similar to an ice cube tray by using a thermoforming process. Each sheet was thermoformed into 16 compartments into which the implant was dropped, sterilized, labeled, heat-sealed and cut into individual units. The angled end of the labeled package is formed by coining during the final die-cutting operation (when the sealed "master" package is cut into 16 individual packages). Compared to the previous single-unit packaging process, productivity increased by 16 units with this simple yet effective design! Plus, Nobel was able to use its existing heat-sealing equipment.
The process efficiencies went well beyond Nobel's initial expectations. "What happened is phenomenal," noted Scott Rheinish, Nobel Biocare engineering and project manager. "Our labor costs were significantly reduced, and packaging costs went from more than US$1.00 to less than four cents." They transformed their packaging process into a streamlined just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing process, saving hundreds of thousands in inventory and other manufacturing costs. The new package also enabled downstream process efficiencies in sterilization, quality control and shipping. And payback was literally within the first month!
Nobel's customers are quite pleased with the quality of the new package and so is the vice president of manufacturing, Mats Pettersson who summed up the project this way: "We are very happy with the process. Overall, our efficiency more than doubled." Now that's something you could really sink your teeth into.