Automation success with HTI Toy’s ‘Bubblz’

1 December 2021

Sewtec Automation recently worked with HTI Toys, one of the UK’s largest independently owned designers and manufacturers of children’s toys, to create a one-of-a-kind automated bottle-feeding solution to support their Bubblz product line - a wide range of bubble-blowing toys.

The challenge

Our collaboration with HTI Toys materialised when HTI Toys decided to begin looking at ways that they could bring more of their production a little closer to home as opposed to outsourcing to China. With the Bubblz range being an evergreen product with low value and high volume, it made sense to avoid the ever-increasing freight costs of shipping these products in and instead begin filling, capping and storing them in the UK, using 100% recyclable materials.

However, with labour costs in the UK more expensive compared to the far-east, HTI Toys realised the need to automate the production process as much as possible in order for the move to make commercial sense and in order to remain competitive within the market. This is where the partnership with Sewtec began.

HTI Toys were introduced to us via an investor and after discovering more about HTI Toys, their specific needs, requirements and commercial objectives, our inventors were left with a blank sheet of paper to design and engineer an entire bottle-feeding line.

The solution

The original solution in place collected bottles in bags of the same colour and size from the blow moulding machines. Our solution was based on maintaining this but adding an operator depositing the bags of bottles into four colour-dedicated bulk storage hoppers and step feeders. This would orientate the bottles all one way using a vision system.

We then collated the bottles on conveyors and stood them up with an automated mechanism before pushing them onto the existing filling machine conveyor. Our solution was flexible to enable the customer to collate different coloured bottles ready for packaging and selling in the retail sector.
The solution covered three different sized plastic bottles: 118ml, 236ml and 1000ml. Each bottle size was manufactured in yellow, green, blue and purple.

Over the next few months, Sewtec worked on plans for various versions of the project, before pushing the button and beginning work on the third and final version. During the proof of concept process, some of the smaller bottles were unstable when stood upright. Our proactive team quickly managed to solve this issue before the customer could even see it for themselves by designing a system to hold the bottles steady.

Once the machine was ready for its debut, we invited HTI Toys over to our offices with a handful of sample bottles to take a look at the machine up and running and it was met with resounding praise.

The result

In just 7 months, Sewtec had created a bespoke automated solution for HTI Toys that has since increased their efficiencies by around 11%. It has also allowed them to take the manual labour out of the process, removing around £80,000 out of their cost base, making them more competitive within their market, and they expect to see a return on investment within just 2 years.

The feedback

“Sewtec has genuinely been amazing to work with from start to finish. They have surpassed our expectations and did an excellent job of taking us on the journey with them and educating us on every step of the process. They absolutely delivered what they said they were going to with flying colours, and we are so excited for our next bigger and better upcoming project with them.” – Colin Houlihan, CEO at HTI Toys.

Andy Perks, Head of Sales at Sewtec says, “HTI were a pleasure to work alongside. Colin and his team have been the perfect partner, while consulting with us on the redesign of the product and packaging – known as DMF, or Design for Manufacture. We are excited about our next project with this company and the future of HTI!” – Andy Perks, Head of Sales at Sewtec