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Glassmaker converts paper into savings

Kraft cushioning drops material costs by 60% and speeds throughput for manufacturer of delicate glass lamps and vases.

Throughout Southwestern Glass's 21 years in business its packaging materials inventory had grown to an unwieldy collection of 650 packaging components including boxes tubes pads inserts and other items. Such a collection of materials had been necessary to package the delicate vases lamps and custom glass pieces made by the Van Buren AR glass manufacturer. Its products are made via the centuries-old technique of mouth-blown glassmaking an art fast disappearing in the U.S. Just over a year ago Southwestern Glass installed three microprocessor-controlled PadPak® kraft cushioning systems from Ranpak (Concord OH). The systems produce kraft-paper cushioning pads from flat paper on a roll. In the past twelve months the company has enjoyed several benefits as a result: * All packaging components except boxes were eliminated slashing packaging inventory costs by 60% and reducing the number of materials by three-fourths to 160 items according to Charles Moreland product development manager. The move eliminates the need for previously required off-site inventory storage space. It also enables the company to move toward more of a just-in-time supply basis. * Purchasing is simplified too: instead of 216 separate packaging components there are now only 31. "We created four new generic boxes that allow us to do away with 75% of the previous boxes" says Moreland. * Buying greater volumes of fewer components allows the company to deal directly with corrugators saving more money. Previous small-volume purchases in a variety of sizes required that they buy from a sheet plant operation. "Before corrugators didn't want my business" says Moreland. "Now they're catering to me." * Since workers can more often use the same box style when changing over to a new product it requires fewer trips to inventory to pull out a supply of boxes of a different size. And since consolidating to only a few sizes boxes can be stored right in the packing area further speeding changeover time. The greater throughput translates into labor savings of about $15 per year according to Moreland. * The new material continues to prevent damage as well as if not better than the old materials says Moreland. All boxes are shipped by motor carrier in less-than-truckload quantities. Pads in any length The PadPak paper-based packaging system consists of a machine that converts flat multi-ply kraft paper on a roll into crimped cushioning pads in desired lengths. The pads can be used for blocking bracing wrapping void fill or cushioning of the glass products inside corrugated boxes. Minimal storage is required since a 36-roll pallet takes up only 20 sq' of storage space. Each roll contains 1' of paper. The machines are supplied with a microprocessor control that makes it easy for operators to change pad sizes. "It's just a matter of walking up to the control panel and keying in the new pad length" says Moreland. Frequently used pad sizes can be programmed in memory. There is absolutely no mechanical changeover. The machine converts a new pad as soon as the operator pulls off the previous one. Southwestern Glass also takes advantage of the machine's automatic mode. "Sometimes we need two different pad lengths for a given package" explains Moreland. "You can switch from cut feed to automatic feed and it will start filling up a buggy with cushions while you're doing something else." When a batch is completed workers can pull from the batch for one size and use the machine for the other instead of constantly switching the machine back and forth between the two sizes. The machines have proven to be a boon to the production process while paring inventory costs-all without affecting damage rates. "Because our items are so fragile" says Moreland "I can't think of a business where protective packaging is more crucial. We're very happy with the PadPak system. It's been a winning solution for our workers and our customers."

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