Exceptional cooperation among several suppliers allowed EAS to introduce 20 new products at a trade show in patented new custom containers after just 12 weeks!
Going from concept drawings to finished containers was achieved by an alliance of designer Kornick Lindsay blow molder Alpha Packaging distributor Ryco Packaging tooling builder R&D Tool and Engineering and custom color supplier Holland Colours Americas.
“I was contacted by distributor Ryco Packaging in December about some new bottle designs that might be appropriate in our industry” recalls Roger Ulane vice president of materials and sourcing at Golden CO-based EAS. “So Alpha Packaging Joe Kornick and Ryco presented the designs to our marketing and product development people and we were definitely interested.”
Over the course of a week to ten days the designs were tweaked to meet EAS’ needs. Finished drawings were ready the week before Christmas. “I made a presentation to our senior management for the capital expenditures and got approval within just a couple of days” Ulane says. “That’s our style here; we’re extremely fast to market” (see sidebar p. 96).
Alpha has the exclusive license to make these containers and EAS has an exclusive license to use the designs that include the EAS logo molded into the bottles.
The move to custom packaging is intended to generate differentiation on retail shelves and to reinforce EAS’ premium product status says Ulane. “They also provide protection against knock-offs.”
Ulane says EAS had its first bottles by mid-February with the balance coming in mid-March. But prototypes of those bottles were available for the show.
“The key to this project was that we wanted to introduce the new products and packaging at the Natural Products Expo West that was held in early March in Anaheim” he says. “If we hadn’t made this timeline the whole project—some 23 SKUs—would move back six months.”
In the interim the team changed the designs to meet EAS needs and to accommodate mold restrictions. Then they built prototype molds went through the entire approval processes built finished molds and went into production. In total EAS received five new bottles: 250-cc and 50-cc keg-style bottles for EAS’ new DynamX products; and 300-cc 1-cc and 3-cc bottles in a barbell shape for its revamped High-Performance line of products for semi-professional and serious athletes weight trainers and fitness enthusiasts.
More complex than expected
To achieve the custom design and color PET was the logical choice of resin. But making the new designs a reality presented some real challenges beyond the tight timetable. Alpha turned to Holland Colours to provide a special colorant to match the color EAS had selected.
Alpha’s library of preforms was used for the two sizes of keg bottles saving considerable development time and effort. However everything below the neck was a challenge for Alpha’s tooling team because EAS’ complex logo is engraved around the shoulder. And that can make it difficult to remove bottles from molds.
By far the greatest challenge was the two large barbell containers because PET is rarely used for bottles with neck finishes as wide as 89 mm and 110 mm. R&D Tool and Engineering was brought in to develop the tooling for these challenging wide-mouth containers.
“This project required real innovation from a tooling perspective” says Dave Spence Alpha president. “We approached it with a team effort.” That included full use of Alpha’s in-house tool shop for blow molds to use in concert with R&D’s tools for injection molding of preforms and the wide-mouth container blow molds.
Additionally Alpha had to make some modifications on the shoulders of the large containers to be able to get them to eject from the blow molder says Roy Allen Alpha’s director of plant operations. And because of the sizes of the two large barbell containers Alpha purchased a new injection/stretch blow molder a Model 500-150 from Aoki to augment a rebuilt Aoki molder in place says Allen.
“Those are the largest PET bottles we’ve ever made” explains Carol McLerran Alpha director of marketing. “So instead of starting on a project that was simpler our first jobs were complex with engravings indentations and squaring off corners. There’s nothing like being an overachiever on the first big job!”
Ryco handles logistics
From early on Ryco’s Gary Schingeck was involved to help EAS develop an appropriate distribution plan for the company’s network of copackers.
“Working as a team with Alpha and EAS we were able to line up locations to warehouse the bottles near the six copackers that would be doing the packaging” Schingeck says. “Distribution is still in its infancy on these containers but we’ll have the ability to move containers around to different warehouses to meet production schedules.” Having Ryco manage the distribution chain means EAS can simply make one phone call to coordinate having the containers where they’re needed.
And that “need” has outstripped even EAS’ optimistic expectations. Ulane says buyers from the nutrition supplement retailers and chain drug stores went “nutzo” over the new designs and consumers have too. Sales of the products in the new packages have ranged from 10% up to 300% over EAS’ forecasts Ulane reports.
“This was a best-case scenario” Ulane concludes. “We needed all the suppliers to come together at the onset of the project to commit to a lead time that was far shorter than the industry standard. Alpha met every deadline in the process. We knew if our suppliers would meet their deadlines we would meet ours.”