Cosméticos Productos líquidos White paper
Perfume: You can’t get it any more customized
The Supra machine
“You are unique, a distinctive personality. Why wear another’s perfume?” It is rare that a customer develops a marketing idea that requires a completely new machine concept – and that the concept comes to fruition. Soaring into a new dimension, Kugler set a successful example of pioneering spirit for the cosmetics sector.
Published in o-com consumer/nonwovens 02/2011
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It’s not beauty and sensuality alone: The cosmetic industry is also driven by the search for ways to express personal uniqueness. The market for perfumes is characterized by an almost chaotic multitude. Highly elegant brands compete with street wear fragrances, innumerable small and large fashion labels, classics, and – not to mention - celebrity fragrances typically produced in small series, but with consuming market shares.
A smart strategist …
Helmut Spikker, multilevel marketing strategist from Ahlen (Germany) developed a concept that takes uniqueness to the next level, where everybody creates his or her very distinct personal fragrance: Ingredients, flavors, flasks, closures, imprint and package type – nearly every product aspect is customized. So why wear someone else’s perfume? “Be your own inimitable person!” That’s the idea! But the machine solution? Batch sizes of 1 – accompanied by big output? A machine capable of such a task simply did not exist.
International target groups
Today, orders are generated and placed using the World Wide Web. Final customers in Europe and beyond who want to create their own customized fragrance can choose between a large variety of flasks and bottles. These containers are designed in ‘no label look’ in relief print with haptic effects according to personal preferences. Container design is followed by selecting the perfume’s ingredients: The client can create their personal fragrance by selecting from numerous components – base, heart and top notes. More than 3,000 perfume variants are possible, which - according to the online order - are produced and filled as liquids directly on the line. Depending on the bottle type, a variety of spray pumps are available, and caps come in the most diversified shapes. The customized flasks are then packaged in value-added, elegant folding boxes – again selected by the customer.
Following this process, each folding box receives its customized label on the backside: Applied are legal requirements (mandatory information), specific ingredients, customer data, a personalized text and a data matrix code with customer and shipment data. Certification for follow-up orders and a personalized logo or a company logo can be added, if desired. The demands of this step confronted the company’s technological genius with more than one massive challenge.
During conception phase, these features and functions were just customer wishes and requirements on a piece of paper. However, they resulted in a contract which – as is common in such projects - documented penalties in case of failure to produce the contracted machines features. From the start it was clear, that the task was going to hold many challenges and some substantial risks:
Complete automation of all processes: Process complexity and staff intervention exclude each other mutually. Manual operating errors can cause severe damage. Automated format changeover: The entire concept – high output despite the batch size of 1 – is possible only with automated format changeover on the fly. In addition to the high risk of errors, the time needed for manual intervention would exceed all reasonable scope.
The management of huge data quantities regarding machine control, customer and product had to be incorporated into the production process in a harmonized approach.
The line had to be integrated into a fully automatic shipment line.
The unique project volume implied comprehensive and pioneering engineering tasks under a defined and tight schedule.
The trick with the chip
Twelve loaded trucks started out from Schwaebisch Hall in the Spring of 2010. After an installation period of eight weeks, production began and has been running as planned since May 1, 2010.
If a customer order arrives online at the fragrance company, it is first received by the central computer. At this point, the order is divided into the relevant parts of the production line, for invoicing and the shipment lane. The date for the production of the perfume is transmitted to the control station of the ‘fragrance line’, which in turn generates a data string for each individual product. Regarding production and packaging, the control triggers each individual order, which is then carried out by the ‘fragrance line’.
The control station transmits all order-relevant data to an RFID chip on the transport container (the puck). The journey through the line starts at the ‘bottle station’ where the container types are lined up. The first step controlled by the RFID chip is the selection of the respective flask which is placed into the puck. Then, each flask receives a customized label in no-label look. In all subsequent stations, data are transferred to the respective function unit by wireless transmission. After applying the label, the flask is filled at filling stations operated based on the volumetric principle. The ever changing volume of the individual flask impacts all subsequent stations. During the production process, approximately 100 servo axes constantly recalculate themselves.
Following this step, insertion of the atomizer is prepared. To match the different container heights, each spray pump hose is cut to suitable length. Then, the atomizer is inserted and crimped onto the flask. This step is followed by selection and positioning of the desired closing cap via RFID chip.
For the secondary packaging, the customer can freely choose from 20 different folding box types. Erecting the folding box is followed by insertion of the flask. A customized and elegant look is generated by an abrasive laser process that was specifically developed for this task. The front of the box is decorated by a personalized logo, while mandatory information, encoded customer information, ingredients and shipment data are applied to the back. At the end of the line, before the control station signals completion of the order, the folding box is wrapped with cellophane. In this step, the finished product serves as master that triggers all further activities.
One of the project’s numerous challenges consisted in achieving sufficient precision to put together the automated fragrance mix with base, heart and top notes exactly as previously composed by the final customer during the sales party. The different filling stations, each one exclusively dosing either the base, head, or top note, safely exclude undesired influence by residues.
The project’s complexity, however, was an issue for data management. Customized products inevitably multiply the data quantity to be managed. In addition, all machine functions are synchronized and co-ordinated according to regular standards for automated lines. All machine movements are further adapted to the customized product within one cycle, which puts computer performance to an additional test. Consequently, software, computer capacity and data management had to be ‘re-invented’ and are a further novelty.
Unprecedented computer performance
Because the concept was genuinely innovative, more than a few changes became necessary during project run time on the oad to completion: the marketing idea itself was fine-tuned, and products, packaging materials, product layouts, quality requirements and country configuration underwent further adaptation. As is often the case, absolute secrecy was agreed for the project.
To ensure homogenous communication, both sides appointed only one project manager. Realizing an entirely new benchmark, the GMP and CE certified line was, after all, completed within its scheduled total project run time of 18 months as planned.
The line with a length of 67 meters was designed and delivered as a turnkey project. 70 percent of inovative work was required for project. Movements are generated by nearly 100 servo drives. Since the date of its commissioning until present, the machine’s availability has been 100 %, and no major failures have occurred within this time. As promised by the manufacturer, all products are manufactured on the day of receipt of the order and shipped to the customer immediately. The line – based on the Moduline system - offers sufficient capacity to produce 1,800 customized products per hour – each one a unique creation.