SUND Knowledge: Insights into the laboratory with Gabi Krügel

04 january 2022

Gabi Krügel has been responsible for the quality control of SUND products for eleven years. She supervises the tests that determine the properties of the articles every day. The results are used for control and are important information for the sales team as well as customers. In the series "SUND Knowledge", the studied quality technician gives insights into the laboratory.

When you started at SUND, were you aware that garbage bags could be so technically complex?

Gabi Krügel: No, definitely not. I can say that with certainty, because after my training I always worked in quality assurance. Before I studied remotely, I worked in a cable factory. Various plastics such as polyethylene and PVC were tested there. Among other things, the tensile strength was also tested and the elongation during the tensile test was determined with the help of a caliper gauge. There was no software for the testing machine, so the values had to be determined with a pocket calculator. A lot has changed. Here it is now digitalized.

How many people work in your lab?

There are currently three of us and one temporary employee. The trainees in wholesale and trade have to go through all the departments and are usually with us for between three and four weeks. The trainees usually come to us first, so that they have touched the material and know what they are selling. This start is a good basis for the training.

What constitutes good quality in trash bags?

Quality starts with where you got the reclaimed material from, how often it was reused, and how much virgin material was mixed in. It is quite clear that if you add 1A material, the quality will be better. It is also relevant how much calcium carbonate, i.e. chalk, was added. This can improve the quality, but if you add too much, the film can tear pretty quickly. It's like baking, the recipe makes the quality.

What happens to the data you collect here in the lab?

We have two databases that we keep. One for sales and one for us. Here we enter the values and can make evaluations. This way, the purchaser or employee can also see what the respective status is for the tests. We want to expand this even further so that we get few calls and everything is digitalized. Everyone can directly see the quality control reports and inspection reports.

Why is this important?

So the sales team can see that the bags meet the requirements and can be sold. We can also look at how the quality of the garbage bags is in the process, including minimum and maximum values. We randomly test our production and can also compare this with third-party samples. 

Do you also test competitors' products in the laboratory?

Yes, we also test samples from competitors. This allows us to determine that a garbage bag from us with 50 µm is competitive against a competitor's product with 60 µm. We test the products and compare them. We have often found that our technical values are better than those of the third-party samples, even though we have a thinner film. In terms of weight, that's quite a lot, and it's also important in terms of sustainability.

Are there major differences between the various manufacturers?

I have been working here for eleven years now. I know the technical values of our products, I can even tell by the smell. You can also feel the differences.

What else can you test here?

A classic example: We also do quality control here and test roll weights. If a roll weighs too little, for example, but the individual sacks have the correct weight, then it is clear that sacks are missing from the roll. This can happen. The other way around, the roll may be overweight but the bags are underweight. This might not be noticed when determining the weight of the pallets, but we determine the weight of the roll as well as the individual weight of the bags.

Are SUND's customers also interested in these results?

Yes, we often get requests that customers need a test report of items.

How often are the products tested?

For example, we have the “Superhelden”, which are four articles that we test twice a month. Then there are regular quality controls, and with the special articles we really test every article. With the current articles, we only do spot checks. In the future, the database will be linked to SAP so that random samples can be taken algorithmically. But that will only happen in the new building.

Is it normal to test so much?

I think it is normal, but we are very well positioned in quality assurance. We test a lot and make a lot possible. We can also send test reports to field staff at short notice and have therefore often received good orders because our product quality is good and we act immediately.

What will the laboratory look like in the new SUND building?

It will be larger because we are merging two laboratories. We will then install the quality control and incoming goods inspection, where we check weight, length and width as well as the cardboard boxes, in the middle of the warehouse. We will then have three test stations there, and the actual laboratory will be in a different location with all the measuring equipment. I'm already excited.