Testing, testing 123…why quality assurance matters at Herbert Walkers
The role of packaging is not just to catch the eye and attract customers to buy; it’s also to protect the product and ensure that what they unbox at home delivers on the promise of the item they selected from shelf.
A meticulous approach to quality assurance from the packaging print specialist is vital to achieving both shelf appeal and lasting product integrity. That’s a responsibility we take very seriously at Herbert Walkers. An ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and BRC certified company, we maintain the highest standards of quality management, environmental best practice and food safety compliance to ensure that our customers – and their customers – receive packaging that looks and performs to the high standards the client expects from their design.
The foundations of effective quality assurance
For us, quality assurance begins with impeccable housekeeping. We operate a clean, tidy and temperature-controlled print factory with market-leading equipment and a skilled, experienced team. All materials, including board, inks and varnishes, are stored in a controlled environment to optimise their performance and ensure we achieve consistent results in line with the manufacturer’s specification and our own experience of different products.
Drawing on our knowledge and experience of the board, inks, varnishes and adhesives we use enables us to advise clients on the optimum combination of materials to meet their brief. But we never rely on data and experience alone: every print job is different with unique combinations and design requirements so testing and quality checks are part of every project.
For new projects, we usually carry out a trial of around 200 sheets prior to going into full production. This allows our customer to check that the combination of board, inks and varnishes we have used meets their expectations for how the pack should look. It also enables us to validate that the materials will meet the specification and deliver the quality and output we’re aiming for.
Production line testing
For every print job, including those for which we’ve completed a successful trial, we carry out production testing at every stage of production on our printing, cut and crease, foiling and gluing lines. This is vital for ensuring consistently high quality for every pack. Testing is carried out by the skilled operator on each line, who follows strict guidelines for each process for test intervals and quality criteria. On a print run that requires one in every 500 sheets to be removed for testing, for example, the machine may have a throughput of 18,000 sheets and hour, so testing will be done every 90 seconds!
We use various tests to verify ink and varnish adhesion, including fingernail tests and Sellotape tests, and we also use a Hanatek Rub Tester machine to ensure there is no rub off for the specific combination of board, inks and varnish used on the project.
At the gluing stage, we use fibre tear testing to make sure that the carton is glued correctly and that the seams are securely bonded. This destructive test is carried out to defined quality assurance criteria and is completed by the operator every 30 minutes to ensure glue adhesion and seam alignment are consistently perfect.
Finally, we also need to make sure that the pack performs just as well on shelf and when the consumer gets it home as it does when leaving our factory. For this, we use a shaker table to carry out transit tests, simulating the effects of transportation on the pack to enable us to verify that the carton remains robust, the product remains protected and there is no ink transfer.
Embedding quality in production
At Herbert Walkers, quality management is the responsibility of every member of the team, and it begins with our advice to customers on the right combination of materials to meet their requirements. Our commitment is not just to quality, but to consistently high-quality standards, and testing is integral to achieving that goal.