“From a safety standpoint, from just a sheer labor
standpoint, you put a machine in there and you can
get one person to run the box into that machine as
opposed to 10, or 20, or hundreds, and increase your
throughput and reallocate that labor somewhere else on
activities that are more value added,” Klosterman says.
As the machine was just introduced, Younk from
creative werks has not gotten a chance to try it out, but
does see how it the new random sealer could benefit
his business, despite their boxes being uniform for
“One thing we’ve had to do is structure so one size
TALE OF THE TAPE DISPENSER
does fit all, so this would allow us to potentially broaden
our horizon in what we can design,” says Younk. “Not
all consumers want the same exact thing.”
The supply chain, however, does want the same
things: consistency, dependability—and the ability to
change at a moment’s notice—which is what 3M tape
has been known for since the 1920s.
When you work in the tape business, you know not
much is permanent. Something sticks for a while, and
then loses out to the new trend.
That’s how the 3M-Matic was invented. Stapling and
gluing boxes fell out of favor, as industry is always trying
to continuously improve, and the time and quality of
both of these options does not compare to applying a
strip of tape.
Expecting someone to use a manual tape dispenser
for eight hours a day, five days a week and also expecting
uniform quality is completely impractical, so the table
with rollers design was deployed. The Minnesota-based
3M could not confirm they were the very first to use the
design, but affirmed they were one of the first.
The value proposition was simple, says Steve Schreiner,
U.S. subsidiary business director for 3M’s industrial adhe-
sives and tapes division: Sell customers on the “produc-
tivity, speed and lower cost per closed box” the company
could provide with this new semi-autonomous, more
ergonomic and repeatable solution.
The former Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co.
certainly had the experience with the adhesive part, as
the company invented modern tape. In the 1920s, its
ambitious young lab technician/banjo player Richard
Drew saw autobody painters using glue to cover the
already completed portion of two-toned cars. The glue
stuck to the surface and the job would often have to be
touched up. Drew used a less sticky adhesive intended
for the company’s sandpaper, combined it with crepe
paper, and voila: Scotch masking tape was born. The
“Scotch” part was meant to be an ethnically derisive
poke at the frugal use of the adhesive, but 3M embraced it. A few years later, the company figured out how
to add adhesive to cellophane, making Scotch transparent tape—a hit for the great many Depression-era
penny pinchers who often had to mend over spend.
That’s the mythic part of the story, but what people
don’t realize is how difficult it must have been to get
all the key ingredients right.
It something Schreiner learned the value of when he
started at 3M 35 years ago as a product development
“This can’t be that complicated; it’s just a roll of tape:
sticky side down,” Schreiner recalls thinking. “You start
looking at what goes into that, the variety of chemistry
that goes into making that adhesive work, properties
that counteract each other.”
He says it has to be tacky, but not so much that it
sticks to the other side of the roll. Conversely, if it is
not sticky enough, the roll will unfurl like a ball of yarn.
Somehow, they figured out how to do all that without
the use of artificial intelligence or the internet of things,
or even the Internet itself.
Decades later, the packing division at 3M would
need tape that was sturdy enough to keep boxes
closed, but could quickly pull off the roll. Some of
the first were, in keeping with the Scotch tradition,
the Tartan and Highland brands.
The newest version, the 371+ tape, was designed
to stick to highly recycled boxes, which have become
more prevalent as companies work towards lowering
cost and increasing sustainability.
Because of its history, convincing a potential buyer
of 3M’s tape pedigree was probably easy for Schreiner,
who in the 1990s ran 3M’s box-sealing business. Getting them to invest in a new piece of equipment may
not have been. But Schreiner came with data. Using
the older 700r random case sealer, they halved the
time it took for a company to complete a complicated
SEALING THE DEAL
The most apparent reason one would need an au-
tomated sealer is the same one automation has taken
such a crucial role up and down the manufacturing supply
chain: no one wants to do the job.
“There are less people available with a willingness
to close boxes,” Jorge Lopez, 3M business director for
masking, packaging, and personal care products. “During
the Christmas season, it becomes a mission impossible.”
Along with that, more and more fulfillment centers are
popping up. Soon the former book seller Amazon could
rule the Americas, while Alibaba is slowly taking over Asia.
The 7000r obviously allows for faster throughput and
requires less human interaction, and it isn’t a stretch
to imagine a robotic arm lifting boxes into case seal-
ers at some point. An overlooked benefit could be how
eliminating the need for box uniformity could impact
the supply chain.
“If you can reduce size of boxes, it’s a relevant savings
for everybody,”’ Lopez says.
This is because often times a packager will load various sized products in one-size-fits-all boxes. You don’t
need to be a lean expert to see that this wastes material.
“It’s not only about materials,” Lopez says. “You are
saving in cardboard, and also the cost of transportation.”
This comes down to needlessly consuming volume.
If each box was optimized for its contents, it stands to
reason many more boxes could fit on the truck or pallet.
Even if the haul’s weight is increased, this could be the
difference between an extra order or more going out.
Apply that to a whole supply chain and the efficiencies
could grow exponentially.
Those saving could then be used for more value-added
investment, like those AI and Io T projects you can’t get
funding for, as opposed to spending on taping up boxes.
That’s something that will have employees and bosses
alike start to smile.
FOR MORE INFORMATION,
Manual tape dispensers are inexpensive, but they are also labor/time-intensive, present risk of injury, and
don’t achieve nearly the same quality or throughput as a case sealer.