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10 ways 'hybrid' package rewards Cardinal Health

Used to package drapes (and soon gowns) in hospital applications, this flexible tray combines the stacking and loading benefits of a thermoformed/filled/sealed pouch with a premade bag's linear tear opening and venting advantages.

Cardinal Health Medical Products and Services eliminated the need to purchase preformed bags and preprinted product information leaflets for its surgical drape packaging when it switched to Multivac's SterileVent packaging in February.

Using rollstock rather than premade bags, the new package incorporates a 3-mil top web and a 3.5-mil bottom film web. Both are monolayer polyolefin structures that include a blend of resins, including metallocene. Suppliers were not divulged. The package is thermoformed at the Cardinal facility in Juarez, Mexico, on a Multivac R240 tf/f/s machine that was custom-designed for this application, according to David Rudd, senior spec engineer at Cardinal Health, McGaw Park, IL. Because of its combined pouch/bag attributes, Cardinal Health refers to the package as a hybrid pouch. It delivers the following benefits:

1. Workers can easily and quickly load drapes into the thermoformed bottom web.

2. The 11 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 1 1/2-inch package is smaller than the previous package, which looked too large for the product, giving the appearance that it wasted packaging.

3. SterileVent uses DuPont's Tyvek breathable vent material more efficiently than its predecessor, which used circular pieces of Tyvek. By using a smaller, rectangular piece of Tyvek, the new pack uses about 30% less material, resulting in substantial savings compared to the circular vent. And by using the Tyvek at the end of the package, Cardinal Health says it has better venting capabilities in the sterilizer during vacuum and pressure cycles.

4. Overall, the new pack uses less material than the former version, eliminating the need for an insert that cost about 1¢ per pack on top of related costs for ordering, inventorying, and tracking the insert. No longer do end users have reason to complain about the insert falling on the floor when opening the pack.

5. Manufacturing efficiency is increased. One machine packages all the terminally sterilized fan drapes. The automated packaging system has increased throughput speed 20% to 50%, depending on the package.

6. Sterilization efficiency. With the equipment used for the former package, vents could only be located in a central position on the bags. During the vacuum cycle, the vent tended to become occluded as it was forced up against an adjacent bag. That reduced efficiency and increased the chance for blown seals. Now, with the rectangular piece of Tyvek, the package can withstand a faster, more aggressive sterilization cycle than the previous package. Shortening sterilization time reduces costs and allows Cardinal Health to more quickly move gowns into the hospital distribution system. That translates into reduced work-in-process, reduced inventory in the sterilization cycle, and lower overall sterilization costs.

7. A noncontact ink-jet printer from Videojet and a Bell-Mark flexographic printer mounted to the Multivac tf/f/s machine permit Cardinal Health to print information on the top white film inline. Product codes can be changed quickly while maintaining production speeds. No longer does the company have to purchase and store large quantities of preprinted inserts. The printed information makes it easy for hospital employees to read while the clear bottom web permits them to see the product inside.

8. Stacking is easier with the nonslip SterileVent film, enabling clinicians to store more packages in a smaller area and freeing space on central supply room shelves.

9. "There has been great enthusiasm for this package from our sales teams and marketing group, and it has been well accepted by our customers," asserts Rudd.

10. The package also earned a 2005 AmeriStar award from the Institute of Packaging Professionals.

--By Jim Butschli, Editor
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