Case Study


R&D Product, Machine, and Process Design for Paper Packaging Manufacturer Supporting an Online Grocery Delivery Division of a Leading Distribution & Logistics Company

Project Snapshot

A client needed to develop a thermally insulated bag for a national online groceries home delivery client. Sterling conducted concept trials to assess product performance and then designed a prototype pilot line to prove process scalability. Sterling designed the machines / mechanisms, managed the fabrication, installation and validation of the pilot line. Sterling produced a full engineering documentation package (including training / troubleshooting & operator training manuals) so that multiple production lines could be built.

Project Challenges

40 new production lines were required to meet the annual production volumes needed. Therefore, the new technology needed to be retrofitted into existing packaging lines to minimize the capital expenditures.
Various multi-national companies needed to coordinate their executive, engineering, production and legal teams to protect intellectual property while still allowing each company to make key contributions to accelerate the R&D.
Due to the new technology and the tight deadline constraints, R&D, production line design, build and test needed to be developed concurrently.

Sterling’s Solution

Coordinated a team of engineers to assess technologies, design/fabricate a pilot production line and eventually a scaled production line in an accelerated R&D schedule.
After conducting proof of concept trials, a pilot production line was design and built for full scale testing. Testing included validation of maximum production speeds, identification of machine failure modes and optimization of process settings to maximize product quality.
Packaging lines modified with vision cameras, high speed applicators and 100kW microwave oven.
Online grocery home delivery requires sustainable packaging capable of maintaining safe food temperatures during distribution, transportation and delivery to home doorsteps.
Packaging needs to be compostable / recyclable so that tens of billions of units can be sustainably manufactured annually.

Sterling’s Results

Sterling was able to provide the technical resources and expertise to execute the R&D and develop a working full-scale production line within 13 months. The various phases of the project were supported by 5 engineers with an engineering budget of $320K and a capital expense budget of $1.6MM.

Sterling provided leadership to assess line loading to determine the number of production lines required based on the limits of the processing speeds. With Sterling Engineering’s strategic alliances, key technologies needed for the process were identified and coordinated to deliver a collaborative design solution, while maintaining the client’s intellectual property.

Sterling performed line loading calculations to determine the process speeds and number of process lines needed to support the annual production demands. Sterling assessed available equipment, specified the technologies to use and the equipment that needed to be designed.

Sterling designed and fabricated a scaled down module to prove the process concept. This proof of concept module was integrated into an existing process line to prove that it could maintain production speeds and to produce enough products for preliminary statistical analysis.

After conducting a proof of concept trial, Sterling designed and fabricated a pilot production line for full scale testing. Testing included validation of maximum production speeds, identification of machine failure modes and optimization of process settings to maximize product quality. Enough product was produced during testing to statistically analyze key product parameters.

After testing the pilot production line, the client wanted to transition it into a production line capable of producing finished goods. Sterling produced a full engineering documentation package including mechanical / electrical drawings, training / troubleshooting manuals and conducted operator / maintenance training.

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