WestRock Plant saves $100,000+ in first year by going green

Packaging giant uses Baldwin’s Prepac pre-saturated cloths to clean better, faster, cheaper and greener.

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(L. to R.) Bill Elting, Walter Cano and Westrock first pressman Frankie Sharpe showcase Prepac® Pre-impregnated wet cloth rolls at Westrock’s flat rock, NC facility. Photo - Baldwin
(L. to R.) Bill Elting, Walter Cano and Westrock first pressman Frankie Sharpe showcase Prepac® Pre-impregnated wet cloth rolls at Westrock’s flat rock, NC facility. Photo - Baldwin

A Westrock plant in North Carolina made a bold move converting from dry blanket cleaning cloth to Baldwin’s PREPAC® and the results are in. The numbers speak for themselves, with more than $100,000 in savings, increased productivity and improved sustainability among the top benefits proving the investment well worthwhile.

“PREPAC® cloth is better, more consistent, and we don’t have as much downtime,” said Press Supervisor Richard Tucker.  “With the original dry cleaning cloth, we were having constant problems with maintenance issues, keeping spray bars clean.” PREPAC® eliminates these common issues experienced by press operators with original dry cloth/solvent-dispensing systems.

Baldwin’s PREPAC® “pre-impregnated” cloth rolls provide high ink and lint absorption capacity, so printers can achieve blanket-cleaning results that are 100 percent accurate and efficient with every ABC (automatic blanket cleaner) wash. By replacing the dry cloth/solvent-dispensing wash system, for all ink applications, PREPAC® allows for the fastest make readies and the elimination of the many downsides to the solvent-dispensing systems. With a consistent, uniform distribution solvent on the cloth, PREPAC® saves the hassle and sizable costs of replacing blankets due to uneven solvent distribution or no solvent spraying, as commonly experienced with such systems.

In October 2020, Baldwin converted three of WestRock’s XL-105 Heidelberg presses at its Flat Rock, North Carolina, plant from its dry cloth/solvent-dispensing Heidelberg ABC and AIC (automatic impression cylinder cleaner) systems to Baldwin’s PREPAC®, which was the first such conversion of its kind.

The conversion proved to deliver a faster wash, lowest start-up waste, less cloth consumption and cloth roll changes, longer blanket life and increased productivity. PREPAC® reduces downtime to a minimum, as there is no need to handwash blankets or deal with the common maintenance and malfunctioning issues of the dry cloth/solvent-dispensing ABC systems.

(L. to R.) Bill Elting, Richard Tucker, Walter Cano and Jeffery Bell prove power of converting Westrock's XL-105 Heidelberg presses to prepac®.Photo - Baldwin
(L. to R.) Bill Elting, Richard Tucker, Walter Cano and Jeffery Bell prove power of converting Westrock’s XL-105 Heidelberg presses to prepac®.
Photo – Baldwin

In September 2021, Westrock carefully evaluated the metrics of the conversion. Within a year, Westrock calculated $100,000 in blanket savings alone, and an additional $13,000 in wash savings. Blanket and impression cylinder cleaning times were also reduced by more than 50% resulting in faster make readies and enhanced productivity.

Walter Cano, Baldwin’s product developer for consumables and inventor of PREPAC®, attributed WestRock’s six-figure blanket cost savings to PREPAC® eliminating the problems caused by poor solvent distribution across the width of the dry cloth/solvent-dispensing ABC cleaning system it replaced.

“Malfunctions of the Heidelberg ABC solvent pump contributed to causing little to no solvent dispensing causing a dry wash condition, which led to premature wearing of the costly blankets,” according to Cano. “This as well clogged solvent spray bars led to pressmen having to change out blankets every three to five days.”

The switch to PREPAC® instantly and consistently eliminated these issues with even solvent distribution across the entire width of cloth ensuring the blanket is cleaned uniformly at every blanket cleaning mission.

Additionally, with PREPAC®, WestRock automates a substantial bulk of the process, making the operator’s job seamless, while at the same time reducing solvent waste and cost and incurring more productivity.

“Moving to the PREPAC® system made our blanket wash system more automated. It simplified it,” said WestRock Printing Manager Jeffery Bell.

Pressmen no longer had to conduct tedious and time-consuming manual blanket cleaning after each ABC cycle. WestRock’s $13,000 in wash savings in the first year alone resulted from eliminating the need for pressmen to “hand-squirt” solvent onto dry cloth prior to ABC washing and hand washing after each automatic blanket washing cycle with the dry cloth/solvent-dispensing system. This, along with eliminating accidental spills when filling of solvent tanks and hand washing, saved hundreds of gallons of highly toxic and hazardous solvent. The elimination of having to conduct such manual blanket-washing cycles protects the wellbeing and safety of the pressmen.

Last but not least, WestRock focuses substantial resources and effort towards improving its sustainability and environmental footprint and using PREPAC® aids WestRock in achieving its goals.

“Our customers have ambitious goals to reduce their environmental footprints,” says CEO David Sewell. “They scrutinize their suppliers’ environmental practices, and they value partners who can help them reach their goals and satisfy customers while winning in the marketplace. We are that partner for paper and packaging, and we are working continuously to deliver more valuable support and innovation.”

In addition to less consumable waste than dry cloths, PREPAC®’s solvents contain approximately 4% volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – the lowest in the industry — and press pressmen never have to handle any toxic and hazardous solvents. The $13K in solvent savings equates to an estimated 4 tons of VOC emissions savings, which is in line with WestRock’s overall improvement of its sustainability and environmental footprint.

“PREPAC® is non-toxic, non-hazardous, and it’s safe for the environment. As the industry leader and innovator, Baldwin strives to maintain the leading edge in this field of automated press cleaning systems,” Baldwin’s Walter Cano emphasized.

Following the success in North Carolina, Jeffery Bell hopes Westrock will implement PREPAC® at its other sites. “My goal is to share the technology with the [other Westrock] facilities so they could embark on getting the savings,” he said.

WestRock is the second-largest packaging company in the United States and is one of the largest suppliers of packaging in the world. Founded in 2015 following the merger of MeadWestvaco and RockTenn, Westrock currently has more than 50,000 team members, in more than 300 locations, in 30 countries around the world. Westrock attributes its swift growth to constant research and development, technological innovation, and a focus on sustainability.

Watch a video highlighting WestRock’s success with PREPAC® HERE.

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