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Valuable relationship shaves time

By having one dedicated flexible packaging vendor, American Safety Razor has slashed order lead times and improved quality.
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With sales of more than $300 million in 1998 American Safety Razor believes it's a cutting-edge company in the private label/personal care industry. ASR continues to expand its product line and operates in 92 foreign countries with eight U.S. facilities. To keep up with its growing business ASR needed a flexible packaging supplier that could provide quick turnaround times on multiple short-run orders and manage production of packaging for more than 800 SKUs on more than 150 brands. To do this the company chose Duralam Inc. (Appleton WI) to convert flexible materials that it uses for razor packaging.

"Before we selected Duralam as our sole vendor we had five or six different suppliers" says Jeff Coppola vice president of logistics at ASR. "Our vendors were spread around and we didn't develop a partnership." Coppola says having more than one vendor fostered an adversarial relationship with converters because ASR was always looking for the lowest price and sometimes had to sacrifice quality and turnaround time. But all of that was corrected when the decision was made to use Duralam exclusively.

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"Duralam was able to sit down and say that X amount of hours were dedicated to ASR" he says. "That's allowed us to take a six-week lead time and turn some things around in less than two weeks." Because Duralam has blocks of time set aside for ASR orders Duralam is prepared for the orders when they come in. This means ASR can send orders to Duralam right up until that time and Duralam will dedicate that time to ASR orders.

Lead time is an important factor to the company. With private-label accounts including Kmart Target and Walgreens that regularly change graphics ASR needed a converter that could work closely with its outside graphics vendor to ensure the various films would be printed correctly and in a timely manner. Cage Graphic Arts (Philadelphia PA) prepares the plates for ASR packaging. "Duralam works very closely with our graphics people" Coppola says. "They have cut lead times in half. For reorders they're down to two weeks [from four to six weeks necessary for previous converters]." One of the ways Duralam is able to do this is by using a narrow-web flexo-printing press by Paper Converting Machine Co. (Greenbay WI) with quick-changeover features.

Duralam receives weekly orders from ASR for multiple brands some with as few as 10 impressions per order. The rollstock for packs of disposable razors is flexo-printed in up to eight colors on 48-ga polyester rollstock laminated to 1.25-mil low-density polyethylene.

The printed rollstock is sent to ASR plants in Knoxville TN and Obregon Mexico where it is placed on Doboy (New Richmond WI) flow wrappers.

In Knoxville the machines employ vibrating bowls that orient the razors. The groups of razors are then transported down a divided belt. In Obregon laborers orient the razors and place them on the belt. The film goes around the different package sizes based on the number of razors in each package. The bag is formed around the razors heat-sealed along the back seam and crimped and cut at each end. The packages are then loaded into boxes. The razors retail from 99¢ to $3.99.

Tangible economics

Though Coppola couldn't quantify savings attributed to ASR's partnership with Duralam he did say it has both tangible and intangible rewards. "The tangible advantage is that by establishing this relationship [with Duralam] by sharing forecasts and volume figures with our printer it allows them to go out and buy their raw materials more efficiently" says Coppola. "What we have been able to do is develop a relationship so that pricing has been stabilized with the increases in our volume and mix."

Coppola adds that Duralam prices films for ASR based on color size and volume. That way the cost of each film will be set regardless of other variables like lead time and changeover.

The partnership with Duralam has also yielded a rebate system for ASR. "There is a volume incentive that says if ASR has a great year has a lot of graphics changes or increases promotional activity then the number of impressions increases. Based on a specific formula Duralam sets up that is related to those factors ASR can receive money back" says Coppola. "When we had five or six vendors this wasn't possible.

"The intangible advantage is the improved quality of the materials we receive" continues Coppola. "The efficiency has allowed for less vendor returns and fewer graphic errors. You may never see those things on the bottom line but it makes life a lot easier."

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