How does a pallet with cans of beer behave on transport to the US, during which it experiences large differences in temperature and motions of the container, train, and truck transport? Heineken’s question is answered in Voorhout at Topa Instituut, where the entire transport road is simulated.
|Anton van Delft is project manager/packaging specialist at Heineken Nederland Supply. Testing products and their packaging beforehand is an important component in the approval process of Heineken. 80% of the products as well as their (re)packaging is tested before being introduced on the market or on transport.|
Independent test laboratory
Van Delft says: “Since 2000, Heineken has been cooperating closely with Topa Instituut. We have chosen this test laboratory because of the different transport simulation possibilities. The institute has multiple temperature chambers and equipment for shock, vibration, and fall tests. For testing products and their (re)packaging, you will often work with a party such as TNO, but this appeared to have several limitations. For example, it was not possible to test the pallet level, something that was possible at Topa Instituut. There, entire pallets with five liter kegs are placed in the climate chambers. Moreover, at Topa Instituut, we found a willing ear to optimize certain tests.”
Vibrating a pallet load of cans of beer on a vibration table or exposing it to large temperature differences for two hours is no unnecessary luxury, according to Van Delft. International transport may make a journey of as much as 6000 miles.
“Heineken also delivers beer to Heineken USA. In order to reach these ‘demand points’ in the US, the products start a journey in containers in the Netherlands that are shipped to a demand point in Houston, for instance. Subsequently, they are transported to the distributors by train and truck. The distributors, in turn, make sure that the shipment arrives at the retail. They are ultimately responsible for making sure that the beer ends up in the consumer’s fridge,” Van Delft explains.
Such transport demands a lot from the product and (re)packaging. The shaped cans of Heineken appeared to scuff during transport, also called can-can-contact, which caused such damage to the coating that it created a leak. “And leaking in such a pallet – that’s not desirable; it leads to a pyramid effect, where one tray empties in various other trays. So, testing first is the solution,” according to the packaging specialist of Heineken.
The results are discussed; in this case, with the supplier. Subsequently, the proportion between ink and wax in the coating was changed, which remedied the problem.”
Loss of credibility
Except for realizing a cost advantage, prior testing of products and (re)packaging minimizes the possible loss of credibility. Van Delft explains: “This also prevents problems and complaints in the market that could influence your reputation.”
Over the years, we have learned a lot of testing in itself. We have built up significant assessment skills about how products will behave during transport.” Not only Heineken is learning from the tests at Topa Instituut; the test laboratory is also increasing its knowledge and experience. This can subsequently be used for other customers or specific tests