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Chewing up market share

New pack and product size necessitate a $7 million investment in packaging machinery for Warner-Lambert Canada. A 4.4 percentage point gain in market share justifies investment in customized flow wrappers, laser coders and display carton overwrappers.
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In a bold effort to increase market share within its country Warner-Lambert Canada invested $19 million Canadian ($7 million of it for packaging machinery) to reintroduce its popular "slab" gums such as Trident and Dentyne in a weightier piece size with a new 8-pack replacing a more traditional 7-pack.

According to the company Canadians prefer slabs to sticks the latter popular in the U.S. Typically the slabs are individually wrapped in printed waxed paper then positioned side-by-side. This flat row of individually wrapped pieces is then overwrapped to create a flat rectangular package. On the other hand sticks tend to be wrapped individually in foil then banded with paper. Subsequently they're stacked to make a 7-count pack common for manufacturers like Wrigley's.

For years Warner-Lambert Canada sold slab gums in a 7-pack and in a 16-piece version called Superpak 16. But in mid-'94 the company eliminated the 7-pack in favor of an 8-pack. It also increased its per piece weight from 1.85 to 2 g. While the Superpak 16 count remained unchanged its larger piece weight made it a better buy. Additionally its package configuration changed from a single layer of 16 pieces standing on edge to two rows of eight pieces lying on their width dimension. With no upcharges to either pack Canadian consumers receive more flavor for their money.

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To accommodate these changes Warner-Lambert invested $7 million for new packaging machinery and materials at its Scarborough Ontario plant. New equipment includes: Eight "Special Edition" horizontal flow wrapping systems supplied by Klockner Ho/oonsel Tevopharm (Sarasota FL); eight Directed Energy Inc. (Irvine CA) direct digital laser coders the technology for which has since been acquired through Domino Amjet (Gurnee IL); four B.F.B. SpA Model 3791 display carton overwrappers available from IMA North America (Fairfield CT); and two Klockner Bartelt (Sarasota FL) IMCS cartoners.

While it's never easy to justify a multi-million dollar investment Warner-Lambert's reintroduction has succeeded. "Between 1994 and '95 we increased our market share by 4.4 percentage points" notes Norm Medeiros manager of manufacturing engineering. He contends that the gain itself provides ample justification for the investment. However the new packaging machinery yields these additional benefits:

* A hermetic pack seal that extends shelf life from 12 to 18 months;

* Labor savings of $300/yr gained through more productive wrapping of packs

* Material savings of $300 by switching to a thinner gauge and narrower web width on film used to overwrap display cartons;

* Labor savings of $280 by automating Superpak display carton loading; and

* More legible and effective coding of individual packs (see sidebar).

Tailored for gum wrapping

Gum varieties are made and packed at the company's Adams Brand Manufacturing Division in Scarborough Ont. Designated 40 Bertrand after its street address the plant produces pressed mints boiled candies and gum. The latter accounts for 60% of the plant's volume. Warner-Lambert packages gum on 17 lines in slab stick chunk and pellet forms.

Eight lines are dedicated to slab gums the biggest sellers. At the heart of each line is now a Tevopharm flow wrapper custom-made for Warner-Lambert. They're designated "Special Edition" Pack 5 DL (dual-lane) horizontal flow wrappers. The company also uses the equipment at plants in Greece and Mexico.

Six of these units are used for 8-packs; two for the Superpaks. The Tevopharms wrap 1 slabs a minute. With eight slabs per pack that results in an output of 225 eight-packs or 110 16-packs per minute.

Prior to mid-'94 Warner-Lambert used five "traditional band wrapping machines" to wrap slabs Medeiros recalls. These machines applied foil around the seven or 16 individually wrapped pieces. A printed paper band was then applied around the foil pack. These packs were then manually loaded into paperboard display cartons. Cartons were wrapped in film on horizontal form/fill/seal equipment.

"The prior band wrappers would not have been able to handle our new gum sizes nor provide us with the speed we needed" Medeiros notes.

So when Warner-Lambert made the switch to the larger piece and pack size new machinery was mandated. That equipment has boosted productivity and generated labor savings he explains. "We use a standard cost accounting system that determines cost per package based on throughput and labor. On each Tevopharm line we run 1 pieces per minute or 225 8-packs. We produce about 9 display cartons a day and another 7 SuperPaks a day on each machine.

"We produce a certain number of packages per manhour. With the Tevopharms our throughput is much faster so with the same number of people we produce more packages. This effectively saves us $300 in annual labor costs. We've also freed up the horizontal form/fill/seal machine to do other jobs within the plant."

The wrapping process

At the Ontario plant large flats of gum are automatically cut into individual slabs and wrapped in printed waxed paper much as they were in the past. Except that now each piece is larger. Medeiros considers the wrapping process proprietary preferring not to discuss specifics.

Individual piece wrapping is done on equipment made by Warner-Lambert at the infeed of each of the Tevopharm Pack 5 flow wrappers. A pusher arm transfers a group of eight wrapped pieces in front of a moving lug. A separation device shuttles the group into two separate lanes. The process is similar for Superpaks but with a stacking device that places a second group of eight wrapped pieces on top of the first eight.

Groups of wrapped gum pieces convey alternately from each lane with the assistance of an overhead conveyor so they are side-by-side as they reach the wrapper's forming box. This is essential since two packs are created simultaneously sharing a common vertical center seal.

The Tevopharm uses two unwinds automatically splicing as one roll is used up. Winpak Technologies (Toronto Ontario Canada) supplies the approximately 4.5-mil five-color gravure-printed structure used for both pack sizes. From the inside-out the structure for both is virtually the same. The sole exception is on the innermost sealant layer where the heavier Superpak requires 24 grams/meter2 of polyethylene compared with 18 g/m2 for the 8-pack. Both sizes incorporate 19% ethylene vinyl acetate within this sealant layer to provide faster tack.

Continuing outward the sealant layer is applied to 7 microns of aluminum foil matte side facing out pretreated with a thin PE primer. Winpak laminates the foil to a 25# coated paper using linear low-density polyethylene as the laminant. The printed paper receives a lacquer to help protect the ink and prevent scuffing. The web measures 243 mm (9.57") for the 8-packs; 260 mm (10.24") for the Superpak 16.

Curiously the printed material for the slab gum indicates 8 or 16 "sticks" but that term is used only for consumers. "Sticks" Medeiros explains "are larger flatter pieces such as Wrigley's. The industry term for products like Dentyne are slabs."

Besides quantities the packs also carry the product name in large type ingredient information and a large bold violator that calls out "25% more free!"

The material unwinds and is lot- and date-coded by the Domino Amjet unit. The laser energy is fired in two separate positions. One energy burst from the laser is used to burn a code into the printing of the web for one pack; a second code is applied onto the opposing section for the second pack. Once coded the material continues to unwind through a series of dancer bars to the machine's forming box.

At the machine's forming box the web is folded in half down around the side-by-side rows of gum. Two rotating sealing wheels meet at the center of this tube-shaped web one from above one below. The wheels heat seal the material along its center creating two tubes that share a common longitudinal seal in the machine direction. At a cutting and suction station two blades trim a portion of the sealed material from the center. A vacuum system withdraws this thin material strip that is subsequently ground and collected for scrap.

A carrier equipped with two holders delivers eight pieces of gum from both side-by-side infeed lanes to the side-by-side sealed tubes. This carrier slides to the left and right to alternately deliver gum into one of the sealed tubes. When the holder contacts an end stop the carrier retracts the holder releasing the gum into the tube. The carrier then slides to the opposite side to position gum from the second holder into the second tube. The gum-filled tubes then move to a cross-seal unit. The rotating sealing and cutting mechanism heat seals and cuts pack ends discharging two complete packs simultaneously onto a takeaway belt conveyor.

"This is an entirely different concept and package than what we had before when we used our old band wrappers" Medeiros explains. "Those machines would never be able to seal these packs."

The wrapper produces an air-tight hermetically sealed pack something that didn't exist with prior packs. The seal permits an 18-month shelf life 50% longer than the previous packs. To demonstrate the difference Medeiros instructs this PW reporter to "pick up both packs and smell them. With the old structure you can smell the sugar dust. You don't smell the gum within the hermetically sealed pack we now produce on the Tevopharm machinery."

It's an over-wrap

The 8-packs are conveyed to four microwrappers from B.F.B. Operators collate and pack 18 of these packs into a clay-coated newsback display carton. The B.F.B. units then envelop the carton with polypropylene film and heat-seal it at speeds of 40 cartons/minute. More importantly they have enabled Warner-Lambert Canada to enjoy a significant material savings.

"With the former packs we used a 1.5-mil polypropylene film with a 350-millimeter web width" says Medeiros. "We needed that to create a fin seal over the display carton to help maintain maximum freshness. With the new packs we no longer require the fin seal on retail cartons. Most importantly the hermetic pack seal lets us use a thinner-gauge polypropylene [0.95-mil] with a 235-millimeter web width. As a result of the change and considering our volumes we save about $300 a year."

The two Superpak lines convey packs to the intermittent-motion servo-driven IMCS cartoner from Klockner Bartelt. This machine loads 12 Superpaks into a clay-coated newsback carton replacing manual loading. As a result Warner-Lambert saves an additional $280/yr in labor costs. The IMCS overwraps the filled carton with Mobil Chemical's (Pittsford NY) AB-310 93-ga bi-oriented PP film.

Film-wrapped display cartons are manually loaded into 250#-test C-flute corrugated shipping cases and shipped to retail distribution centers throughout Canada.

"With the new slab gum packs we're able to provide greater consumer value by offering larger piece and pack size and that also increases our retail shelf presence" says Medeiros. "That's led to stronger sales and increased market share. That's what justifies the entire change. The wrappers have also given us the flexibility to pack slab gum in quantities of five to nine pieces per pack with minimal equipment changes. And then there's the added shelf life." Add up the myriad of advantages and it's easy to see why Warner-Lambert Canada is so pleased with its ROI. And why it still can be better to give than to receive.

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