In our recent blog announcing the new IEF, we talked about the reorganization of our business, the quality of our films, and what structural changes mean for us and for our customers. But if you read carefully, you’ll see that our focus is actually continued gratitude for people—our customers and staff. Because products are only as good as the people—and relationships—behind them.

The success of any film’s performance is entirely dependent on proper formulation for both its end use, and any processing that it will undergo as it’s converted into a finished package. A big part of that success is dervied from having appropriate amount of slip in the film. Coefficient of friction (COF) is the measurement of the resistance created when two pieces of the film are moved across one another under load. The lower the number, the more slippery the film.

When slip is miscalculated, the consequences can make a big difference to the final product. From package seams splitting to bags of top soil sliding off pallets and ink seeping into package contents when reheated; it’s always a lose-lose. When the end user is dissatisfied, the converter loses out on opportunity, and that loss travels up through the value chain.

Our experience has taught us that the best way to ensure accurate slip is through transparent communication. And that type of communication only comes with trusted relationships.

“It's essential that customers can trust us; it becomes a question of character,” says John Richards, IEF’s Technical Quality Manager, a 25-year packaging industry veteran. “When everybody's trying to figure out ways to reduce costs, competition for the same business can be intense. But staying engaged in the conversation is the best way to guarantee that the end-product meets its goals.”

Orchestrating your formulation

Creating a specified film is like directing a symphony. Every composition is different and unique, with the conductor ensuring that each instrument does its part, hitting the right notes with the right timing, for the piece to sound the way it should.

For every job a film is expected to do, the COF of the end-product must specifically match its performance requirements. Weight, temperature, texture, food safety, abrasion, elongation, puncture resistance, print requirements—all have individual considerations for each application.

Consider this scenario where a customer has ordered a custom film, formulated to specifications, for “Application A”. They convert that film into product and ship it to their customer. The field feedback is great; the sales team is excited and brings back positive results from the end user. The team then suggests that the same film could be used to create applications B, C and D, because it performed so well.

Without going back to the formulator to discuss the details of the new applications, the film that was designed for Application A is then used to create B, C and D. And those products are shipped out to their customers. But that lack of communication with the formulator resulted in a film being converted into products it was not designed for, resulting in issues and irritated customers.

Like an orchestra without a conductor, the performance was a flop.

A command performance, every time?

In a trusted business relationship, a converter will discuss all the needs and goals of their next application with their film formulator.

What do they want the film to do? How is it going to be converted? What are the performance goals for the end-product? This partnership ensures all information needed to create the right film for that application is shared up front.

The formulator runs a small batch and tests the film, and then they test it again. After the master batch for that film has been created they test it some more. Any issues or inconsistencies are discovered, shared and addressed openly with the customer.

The resulting film is one that will perform exactly as the converter is expecting, with run after run reliability. Crystal-clear communication between formulator and converter creates a completely transparent process and produces quality results.

It’s not over even when the fat lady sings

Exhaustive testing is part of successful formulation, and testing to specific application requirements is the only way to guarantee reliable results with COF accuracy.

Time-stamped test results from every single step of the film creation process allow the formulator to deliver bulletproof consistency in every final product. A good formulator will reach out to a converter after the order has been delivered, to get post lamination numbers and factor those into the ongoing formula.

Richards remarks that IEF Group relies on stringent testing to, “ensure our customers are getting lot-to-lot and run-to-run consistency, whether it's January, June or December; they're getting the same product quality and consistency from us, every time.”

Knowing the specific details for each application allows the formulator to determine what targeted tests are conducted.

It seems odd to say that your film quality depends on the quality of your relationships, but it does. Great communication doesn’t begin at the formulation phase but that’s where you’ll see it come to fruition — in films that have the right COF to convert efficiently, and with a predictability you and your customers can trust.