The next package of coffee, trail mix, shredded mozzarella, or frozen curly fries you pop into your grocery basket was quite possibly packaged on a machine sold by Wisconsin-based Matrix Packaging Machinery, a product brand of ProMach. The Willden brothers, Marcel and Marc, along with their father, Dee, started this packaging machinery company in the family’s garage in 1988. Now, in its 30th anniversary year, Matrix Packaging Machinery is a manufacturing, sales, and technical support organization with global reach.
“In the mid-1980s, packaging machines that formed and filled bags of coffee or frozen green beans, for example, were large, complex, expensive, and difficult to operate and repair,” said Marc Willden, General Manager of Matrix and a ProMach Vice President. “My brother Marcel designed a line of standardized bag forming and filling machines that were more flexible, easier to operate, and cost less than the leading brands. Marcel utilized the latest off-the-shelf electronic controls and mechanical components instead of building key systems from scratch like other companies, which we believe slows innovation.”
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the company’s mastery of packaging machinery design and manufacturing matured. Matrix engineers incorporated new and more flexible computerized product weighing systems, giving companies the ability to quickly and easily weigh different mixes of product to create variations on the same machine. By simply changing a few settings, for example, a packager could switch from trail mix featuring chocolate chips, raisins, and peanuts to a mix with chocolate chips, cranberries, and cashew nuts. Matrix machines evolved, becoming modular. Modularity enabled the company to optimize every machine for a customer’s unique environment. Some things did not change, however, including the emphasis on highly productive machines that are easy to operate and have a low cost to maintain.
Matrix culture was one of collaboration where customers actively participated in developing a solution correct for their environment. Customers benefited from this partnership and began asking Matrix whether the company could supply and support additional styles of pouch, bag, and sachet packaging machinery. Designing and manufacturing new styles of machines did not make competitive sense as current technology was already on the market in Japan and Europe. But to acquire the rights to sell and then have the wherewithal to support these industry leading machines in the United States required resources beyond Matrix’s financial scope. The choice was to either stay in its comfort zone or stretch and grow into a more international company.
In 2011, Matrix became part of ProMach, one of the world’s largest privately held integrated packaging machine companies. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, ProMach acquires innovative companies such as Matrix and helps them grow by providing financial, engineering, and operational support. A little more than two years after becoming a product brand of ProMach, Matrix Packaging Machinery had the exclusive rights in the United States to sell and service pre-made pouch filling and sealing machines from Toyo Jidoki, a Japanese company; pouch forming and filling equipment by FLtecnics; and INV Pack stickpack and sachet forming and filling machines. Both FLtecnics and INV Pack are based in Spain. Matrix is now a one-stop-shop for companies large and small that package food, personal care, or over-the-counter products in bags, pouches, and sachets.
“From our earliest days building machines in our garage to this international business employing more than 50 people, Dee, Marcel and I have always held to core values,” Willden said. “At Matrix, we respect one another. We share the desire to deliver packaging machines that run effortlessly hour after hour without the hassles or expenses often found in this industry.”