Clevertech: technology and experience at the service of innovation
Founded in 1987 in the town of Cadelbosco di Sopra near Reggio Emilia, Clevertech designs, manufactures and distributes machines and systems for end-of-line automation. The company has evolved over the years and expanded its portfolio to cover various stages of the packaging process, from intermediate packaging typically involving heat treatment through to final case packaging and palletisation. Today, Clevertech acts as a one-stop shop for the development of integrated packaging solutions serving sectors such as Food & Beverage, Home Care, Pet Food and Personal Care.
We spoke to Business Development Manager Luca Carollo to find out more about the company and its strategies.
Which way is the market heading and how are you responding to the new requirements?
Today, a revolution is under way in the world of packaging, with two main trends driving the technological development of machinery. The first relates to the fact that households are becoming progressively smaller, resulting in demand for ever smaller individual packs. The second concerns consumer goods distribution and the enormous growth of e-commerce, which means that packaging system producers have to take account of the fact that today’s products will not only be sold through supermarkets but also online. E-commerce requires packaging that is easy to remove prior to warehousing and distributing products. Any superfluous material requires additional handling and increases the quantity of waste, so it is essential to minimise the use of over-wrapping materials.
At the same time, the demand for ever smaller packs leads to the need for systems that not only produce very basic packaging, sometimes even without the use of film, but are also able to effectively handle small products, which by their nature are more unstable and delicate. Moreover, in countries like Australia there is a growing demand for product packaging in reusable boxes or trays rather than solutions such as cartons and cases. These forms of packaging, which may for example contain fruit or vegetables, are typically returned to the supermarket for reuse. This principle of “reusable, not recyclable” improves sustainability but requires the right technology.
What strategy is Clevertech adopting to meet the growing demand for more sustainable solutions?
We adopt a holistic approach, starting with our production plant which derives part of its energy requirements from solar panels. This technology enables us to avoid releasing 55 tonnes of CO2 equivalents into the environment each year. Furthermore, we install only IE3 or IE5 electric motors with low or very low energy consumption on the machines we produce. Finally, we are taking part in the international Plant for Planet project, which promotes initiatives to fight global climate change. In practice, for every follower gained on LinkedIn, a tree is planted in a forest in Yucatan at our expense. To date, more than 8,000 trees have been planted thanks to Clevertech. Plant for Planet aims not only to repopulate forests but to teach new generations the value of sustainability and how to promote it by becoming ambassadors. We are therefore thinking of creating an “embassy” for local children at the Clevertech site to educate them about these issues and at the same time involve them in the company’s activities.
What technological solutions are you working on at the moment? Could you give us some examples?
Clevertech has always worked in partnership with customers and develops tailor-made solutions to specific needs. For example, we recently worked with a large multinational company to develop a technology for reducing the use of plastic at the palletisation stage, resulting in the use of less wrapping material and consequently reducing costs and environmental impact. As another example, we recently developed a line that handles various stages of the packaging process, from placement of product into the tray to subsequent overwrapping with shrink film. This system is highly flexible and if required can perform just tray packing, which again has the twofold advantage of saving on the energy costs of the heat shrink oven and eliminating the need for overwrapping material.
What are the challenges for the future? Are you working on any frontier technologies?
We’re working on two projects that mark a significant step forward in terms of their concept. The first concerns the stage downstream of packaging as end-of-line machinery will increasingly have to dialogue with the world of logistics. For this purpose, we are developing solutions capable of performing “mixed palletisation”, i.e. placing different types of products on the same pallet and positioning them according to their type and characteristics such as weight and size. Closely related to this, we are developing automated guided systems in collaboration with a specialist company. The second project concerns even more of a frontier technology and we can’t reveal much about it, apart from the fact that it involves the application of artificial intelligence to the material handling operation performed by robots.