The useful art of compromise

Par N. Harris
Le 07/09/2017

What we do at Cetie 

When we explain to people what we do at Cetie, there is frequently a moment of astonishment.
That such a mundane, everyday object as a bottle or a jar should generate so much joint work and reflection, motivating experts from all over Europe to meet in our Paris premises, is beyond the comprehension of many. This is in fact fundamentally reassuring for the underlying confidence that this implies in the general quality of bottled products and the performance of their closure systems.
It witnesses the remarkable progress in the control of the quality of industrial products over the last few decades, driven initially by the aviation and automotive sectors. This has given rise to the development of standard methodologies for good quality management practices which are now common practice, including the venerable ISO 9001 standard which is entering its 30th year of existence. In addition to the consumer protection act of the public authorities, the action of the product value chain for which consumer confidence is essential has also contributed to the continuous improvement of quality standards. This is now all the more so given that any defective product recall, apart from its direct financial cost, can have an extremely damaging impact on public opinion due to amplification by social media. The major brands are obviously particularly sensitive to this, and where bottled products are concerned they have usually put in place audits of their packaging component suppliers to verify that all the "quality assurance" aspects are properly managed, over and beyond the ISO standards or other recognised reference certification frameworks.


Always a question of compromise and consensus

Product quality is nevertheless by nature a question of compromise. Any industrial process is subject to variability which must be controlled to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the risks involved. This is because controlling processes and products involves means and costs which must be justified according to the level of risk they prevent. The targeted level of quality would therefore be that which is "necessary and sufficient" for a given product and context. This has given rise to the notion of "Acceptable Quality Level" (AQL), which provides a statistical expression of the acceptable occurrence of identified defects.  Clearly, for certain "critical" defects which can present a risk for the end-user, this level will tend to zero, with the difficulty this supposes in practice for an industrial production process for which an absolute zero risk cannot be guaranteed.

While the required quality of supplies and the compromises that this implies are established above all directly between the supplier and the customer, other aspects are governed by a collective approach between the bottling value chain stakeholders. This is where Cetie is active. Although quality criteria can vary from one case to another, it is vital that the test methods used to assess a given quality parameter be harmonised so that all the players have a common benchmark. A Cetie working group is thus currently finalising a manual of qualification tests methods for plastic closures on PET bottles. Starting from an existing document produced by the International Society of Beverage Technologists (ISBT), a Cetie partner, this working group has updated and substantially supplemented this manual with methods drawn from its own collective experience.


Standardisation compliance

Quality of course depends on compliance with the standards and other recognised reference frameworks, including specification sheets published by Cetie. Compliance with these specifications makes it possible, for example, for a cap to fit perfectly onto a bottle during the packaging process and meet the working performance criteria during the life of the bottled product, whoever the suppliers of the various components may be. Each component is manufactured with material and applying a specific industrial production process which has its inherent limitations. These limitations can, for example, concern mould release constraints, dimensional tolerances achievable in production, or the mechanical stability of the material under foreseen constraints. It is therefore necessary to have working exchanges between the component manufacturers to define the specifications for each element, taking into account the best possible compromise between the interlinked constraints of the product as a whole.


CEN and ISO official standardisation bodies

This is indeed the basis of Cetie’s action, founded as a pre-standardisation organisation facilitating these exchanges and the production of consensual specifications in the bottling sector. Cetie remains a driving force in the preparation and updating of CEN and ISO international standards for the sector, as witnessed by the standards governing some of the most common bottleneck finishes which have been established on the basis of Cetie pre-standards. The Cetie reference frameworks are moreover becoming increasingly accepted and in some cases are reportedly preferred to the CEN or ISO standards. This is the case e.g. for PET bottles which are under continuous development. The participation of major players in the sector and Cetie's responsiveness in updating the specifications certainly contribute to this.
The development of “inline” inspection machines on the production lines ensuring 100% inspection, and "Vision" image analysis systems in particular, which help improve the control of the quality produced, provide another example with The compromise, in this case, concerns the ability of the machine to distinguish a defect from a mark whose presence is either desired or inconsequential, in a whole range of situations encountered. Cetie, therefore, maintains relations with the vision system manufacturers, whether for glass or PET bottles, to provide guidance, in discussions with the packaging manufacturers, on good design practices that facilitate appropriate image analysis.


Collaboration with Eco-Emballages

In another area, Eco-Emballages (Company approved by the French authorities to promote packaging recycling, under producer responsibility legislation) requested Cetie to provide an organisational framework for work to render plastic-backed self-adhesive labels compatible with the glass recycling process (see the previous article in L & C No. 379 "Labels And Eco-Design"). The need here was to get two industrial sectors, which had not previously collaborated, to work together to develop labels with an adhesive that satisfies one hand the need to apply the labels on high-speed packaging lines where they must adhere rapidly and strongly enough to remain in place throughout the bottled product's life, but on the other hand release adhesion when the recycled glass is reprocessed. The appropriate compromise was found and introduced industrially thanks to this collaboration.
The spirit of compromise is at the core of Cetie's activity, compromises that benefit all the players in the bottling industry.

By N. Harris Cetie General Secretary Published in french magazine Liquides & Conditionnement N°389 (June-July 2017)
PDF (FR) :
- Liquides & Conditionnement N°389 (FR)
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