A pioneer in adhesive- and flavor-application systems, Kaymich continues innovating.
By George Gay
A lot of people working in the tobacco industry today have probably never seen cigarettes produced on a maker that uses a paste wheel to apply a starch-based adhesive to the side seam. This is not surprising because, in 1974, C. B. Kaymich Co., which was incorporated only the previous year, launched side-seam equipment designed to apply polyvinyl-acetate (PVA) adhesive through a nozzle. Today, 90 percent of cigarettes are manufactured on machines that use this Kaymich technology. The original unit relied on a gravity feed, but in 1992 the company launched a pump-based system that was to play a major role in allowing cigarette maker speeds to be increased significantly.
It is also not surprising—given Kaymich’s roots in the adhesive-application business, its engineering expertise and its acquired tobacco-industry knowledge base—that in 1990 it became the first company to offer equipment for on-line flavor application. This was the Flavor Dispensing Unit 3 (FDU3) , which comprised a heated system for pure menthol application proportional to machine speed. The FDU3 had a feedback system that could detect and eject out-of-spec products from the manufacturing process, so it offered improvements in product quality and consistency. It provided for a reduction in costs because the system used pure menthol and therefore eliminated the need for alcohol. There was also an increase in productivity because the FDU3 was designed as a mobile device that could be moved between making lines, and because it was possible to run menthol and non-menthol products on one line with a minimum of cleaning between the two operations.
The FDU3—which is no longer in Kaymich’s catalogue but examples of which can still be seen in tobacco factories—represented something of a revolution, but the system applied flavor only onto the paper or the tobacco when they were on the cigarette maker garniture, and then only in what were relatively small amounts. So when the number of flavors used by the tobacco industry started to expand and doses increased, it was necessary to find other application methods. Kaymich now offers a wide range of flavor equipment, including that for applying it to the tobacco in the suction chamber of a cigarette maker, to the filter tow on a filter maker or via the foil on a rewind unit.
Specifically, the company launched its Gemini flavor application system in 2010 and, in 2014, followed that up with the Gemini Baby, the Foil Mentholator and the Bulk Melt System.
Such a regular flow of innovations is not surprising given that, as Tim Williams, Kaymich’s business development manager, told Tobacco Reporter during an interview in December 2014, anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of the company’s turnover is reinvested in new product development. According to Williams, part of that investment was spent on the company’s own projects, part on working with cigarette manufacturers on bespoke developments and part on developing new systems for OEMs.
The interview, which also included sales and marketing executive Danielle Roxborough, took place at Kaymich’s headquarters, which is located on an industrial estate in the heart of the engineering district of Sheffield, England. All of the company’s employees are based at its Sheffield facility, which has already been expanded twice and provides room for further expansion, though the company also has 18–19 agents and distributors around the world.
Kaymich, which Williams described as a small- to medium-sized enterprise with a flat management structure that allowed it to quickly react to and instigate change, is a family business, though you have to be in the know to spot the family connection in the name. The company was launched in 1973 by Brian Bedford, who bequeathed his initial “B” to C.B. Kaymich, and who was married to Christine, from whom came the C. The first syllable of Kaymich was their daughter’s name, Kay, while the second syllable was provided by their son, Michael, who now owns and runs the business as managing director.
Brian started Kaymich after developing his revolutionary side-seam system, but nowadays the company designs and manufactures both adhesive and flavor application equipment specifically for the tobacco industry, which accounts for about 90 percent of its turnover. Today, said Williams, the company could provide a system for applying adhesive or flavors to cigarettes at whatever stage of the manufacturing process was appropriate.
The Gemini system, for instance, offers seven different types of applicators, including those for the cigarette maker, filter maker and foil rewind unit. “For some manufacturers this is of particular benefit as they will change the type of applicator used, depending upon what brand they are producing,” said Williams.
“Using Gemini on different makers, for example on different filter and cigarette makers producing different brands, does not necessarily mean the user has to purchase more than one Gemini system. Once application kits bespoke to the host makers are installed to enable flavor to be applied, a Gemini can be wheeled between different making lines and even different making departments, as production requirements dictate. The Gemini is linked up to each maker quickly and easily thanks to self-sealing quick release couplings,” he said.
The Gemini was designed with two 50-liter tanks so that it would be capable of addressing the industry’s need for high-volume, high-speed application. When one tank is exhausted, supply is switched to the second seamlessly, without pausing production, and, at the same time, a warning is generated for the operator to refill the used tank.
Although Kaymich, like other companies, has faced challenges in recent times, Williams said the business was doing well and that the Gemini had comprised a particular success story. In 2014, the company had installed three Gemini systems at one site operated by the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, a project for which Kaymich representative P Prachume Co. had provided local project management and flawless communications between the customer and Kaymich to ensure that the Gemini systems were configured to meet precisely the needs of the customer. This year the challenge would be to meet the delivery schedule dictated by Kaymich’s general order book.
The key to the Gemini’s success was its ease of use, said Williams. Features such as the shift timer, which allowed for the automatic pre-heating of the device before the start of a shift, and the ability to clean and change in-line filters without stopping production, made the Gemini popular with users. In addition, the Gemini had undergone a number of updates as part of the company’s ongoing Continuous Improvement Program.
Meanwhile, there are a number of reasons why the Gemini Baby could share in this success, said Roxborough, one of which was that not all cigarette manufacturers required the versatility offered by the Gemini. “The Gemini Baby is a cold-flavoring system and therefore suitable for applying flavors in solution only,” she said. “Available options for applying this type of flavor are currently either into the tow on the filter maker—a Kaymich patented design—or into the tobacco on the garniture.”
However, the Baby, like the Gemini, was mobile and easy to use, she added. And the Baby shared many of the Gemini’s core components, so it was able to utilize what was tried and tested technology to provide an entry-level machine for the application of cold flavor without compromising speed or accuracy.
In fact, the Gemini Baby could be upgraded to provide all of the functionality and diversity of the Gemini system, said Roxborough, which meant that the user’s investment was protected since the flavor application technology could be evolved in line with the user’s brands.
The majority of Kaymich’s equipment is used on-line, but its Bulk Melt System is designed for the off-line melting of solids such as menthol crystals. “The system is designed to melt a large quantity of flavor, for example, menthol,” said Williams. “It may be configured for either ‘quick melt’ or ‘slow melt’ depending upon either the quantity of material or the production requirements at the time.
“Fifty kilograms of menthol can be melted from solid in around 45 minutes. Once melt point has been achieved for the entire tank, the system reduces power to the point where the flavor remains fluid, minimizing power consumption and preventing the menthol from degrading. Once melted, the liquid is available for dispensing, the method for which is optional depending upon whether the customer requires bulk dispensing or steady dispensing, said Williams.”
Meanwhile, Kaymich’s on-line equipment can be fitted to new machinery or retrofitted, so it is offered, along with services and training, to OEMs, appropriately-vetted secondhand machinery suppliers and cigarette manufacturers. These products and services are sold around the world and, asked what the company’s major markets were, Williams made the point that no one market was major all of the time, though he said that the expanding markets were generally in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia.
An obvious concern for a company such as Kaymich is raised by the bans and restrictions on the use of flavors in cigarettes that are being legislated for in various countries. But for the moment, this concern merely sits in the background because, despite the downturn in general cigarette consumption, the application of flavors—mainly menthol—to cigarettes is increasing. Certainly, Williams was confident enough to say that Kaymich had always been a tobacco-orientated company and that he expected this orientation to remain in place. “It is an area where we hold a lot of specialist knowledge,” he said. “We have good contacts throughout the industry, and we’re involved very closely with our customers, whether they are OEMs or manufacturers or small independents.”
But Williams said also that he could see Kaymich increasingly using its technologies and skills to expand into other industries. In fact, the company has already expanded, in part through diversification. About seven years ago, it bought the company that operated next door, C. A. Grant, which was then a small engineering company involved in general machining and engraving of, among other things, cigarette dies. The cigarette dies part of the business has continued, while the general engineering part has been built up, and Grant, though run independently, supplies Kaymich with some of its components, an arrangement that provides for better quality and improved delivery times.
Currently Kaymich is involved in two partnerships through which it is transferring adhesive application technology from the tobacco industry to the general packaging industry, projects that are, at the same time, providing good feedback. “I think this has proven to be a two-way street because we have also [learned] a little bit more about what is possible as we have had to face up to a different set of challenges,” said general manager Mark White, who stopped by toward the end of the interview. “I think it has helped moving away from the tobacco industry slightly and looking at what other problems are out there in other industries.”
Naturally, most of the opportunities for applying tobacco technology to general packaging are in the field of adhesives. There is not much room for technology transfers in respect of flavor application, though batch systems could have relevance in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
Back with the tobacco industry, Kaymich has been looking, too, at sensing the amount of adhesive being applied in a process, mainly to prevent too little adhesive being applied and sub-standard products being sent to market. There are a few challenges here, not the least of which is discovering just how much of a problem this is, given the sorts of sophisticated quality controls that have been introduced on modern making and packing machines. Nevertheless, Kaymich thinks that a sensing system could have potential providing it could be brought in at the right price.
But it is probably once again in the field of menthol application that the next big breakthrough is likely to come. The mentholator project was probably the single biggest on the table at the moment, said White. Kaymich had given a lot of thought to equipment design so as to cover all bases and make sure that this was not just another me-too product. The idea was that the company would be able to offer a base flavor application system that could replicate what users currently have and also provide a few patentable and clever ideas that could be turned on and off as required by the customer. Most of these additions would carry cost premiums, but they would also carry some quite large benefits for the end-user as well. So at the moment, said White, Kaymich was trying to discover what interest there was in such equipment.