University of Illinois Students Help Pregis Reduce Scrap

DEERFIELD, Ill.—Pregis Corp. was able to reduce scrap by $80,000 annually and improve safety at its Plymouth, Ind. plant as a result of findings by a team of University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) students.

Three students from the university’s Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering participated in the semester-long senior project designed to expose undergrads to real-world production challenges. In this case, the challenge was to find a cost-effective, safe solution for the plant’s material cutting process for thicker laminates.

“We use an automatic knife on this particular line which did not perform well on thicker (16-20mm) air cushioning/foil laminates,” said Dennis Hughes, Pregis plant manager. “We would end up cutting those manually which meant using a foot-long knife with a razor-sharp edge.”

UIUC students Casey Roth, Cecilia Ostberg and Jeff Thomas spent the fall semester working on the project and came up with a two-prong solution—a redesigned knife and modifications to the mechanical fingers used to advance the web.

“The new knife was installed two months ago and is performing beautifully,” said Hughes. “We’ve been able to automate the process and have dramatically improved downtime, scrap and waste.”

Pregis funded the project with an $8,500 honorarium to UIUC as part of an effort to provide young engineers with real-world engineering and business challenges.

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