For 20 years, Silgan Plastics Corporation has helped its clients develop packaging concepts that compel consumers to pull products off of the store shelf. Dan Harvey describes how the innovative company became a “packaging partner” with marquee-name companies across a variety of industries.
From the germ of an idea to a concrete realization, Silgan Plastics Corporation is there every step of the way to help clients design and develop their packaging concepts. As its name implies, the company serves customers who use plastic containers to package their products, providing them with distinctive options to satisfy their specific needs.
“One of our biggest strengths is that we can say, ‘whatever you need, we can provide,’” indicates Ross Bushnell, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Chesterfield, Mo.-based Silgan Plastics. “As far as our product range, we really play across the board in terms of injection blow mold, injection mold and extrusion blow mold. There really isn’t a lot that we don’t do – or can’t do – in terms of servicing customers.”
That may seem a broad boast, but Silgan Plastic’s demonstrable success cuts across a lot of territory. “Our key markets include personal care, which is our largest segment, food, household, automotive and pet care,” reveals Bushnell.
High Profile Client List
A subsidiary of Silgan Holdings, which is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., Silgan Plastics also serves customers in the industrial and healthcare sectors. But whomever the customer, and whatever the market, Silgan makes itself available as a “packaging partner,” intent on establishing long-term relationships. How well it has accomplished this goal is clearly evident in the large number of multi-year supply agreements it has acquired in its 20-year existence, as well as its high-profile client list which includes personal-care giants such as Johnson & Johnson, Alberto Culver, Avon, Henkel/Dial, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Schering-Plough and Unilever.
Its food and beverage customer roster is equally impressive. Among its many clients are, Campbell’s Soup, ConAgra Foods, Del Monte Foods, General Mills, H.J. Heinz, Hormel, Kraft, McCormick & Co. Inc., Morton Salt Company, and Nestlé. Big names in the household/automotive sector include (and, again, this is only a partial listing) Clorox, Bayer CropScience LP, BP Lubricants, Canberra Corporation, Nestlé Purina PetCare, Scott’s, Chevron, and Valvoline Inc.
Past and Present
Silgan Plastics is approaching its 20th anniversary this year thanks to the 1987 acquisition of Monsanto Company’s plastic container business, which dates back to 1937. Monsanto’s plastics business essentially started the blow molding industry when it developed the first blow molded plastic bottle. Subsequently, Silgan companies have been consistent frontrunners in process and material advancements.
Silgan Plastics has grown steadily since 1987 both organically and through a series of purposeful purchases. According to Bushnell, “Historically, we have always been a value-added producer that gained critical skills with each new acquisition.”
During the course of its first two decades, the company acquired Aim Packaging Inc., Fortune Plastics Inc., Express Plastic Containers Ltd and Amoco Container Company (all in 1989); Rexam PLC’s North American plastic container business (1997); Winn Packaging Company and Clearplass Containers Inc. (1998); RXI Holdings, Inc. (plastic containers, plastic closures, caps, sifters and fitments, 2000), plastic tube companies Thatcher Tubes LLC and Amcor Plastubes U.S. (acquired in 2003 and 2004, respectively), and Cousins-Currie (2006).
The diversity of Silgan’s acquisitions are key to the company’s broad offerings. Currently, Silgan has 23 manufacturing locations across North America that offer multiple molding platforms and a broad portfolio of offerings with respect to resins handled, production capabilities and technical resources that enable the company to develop versatile solutions. At these facilities, Silgan produces bottles, jars, tubes, specialty caps and fitments, as well as food product plastics designed to go straight from shelf to the microwave.
A recent focal area for Silgan has been that of food plastics, particularly multi-layer, shelf stable, retortable containers. Silgan’s OMNI technology (multi-layer injection blow molding) has proven valuable in development of microwaveable, ready to eat food packages. OMNI technology offers the benefits of:
• trim scrap elimination, which lowers material cost;
• molded flanges, which provide precision fit with closure and double seam, heat seal and threads;
• tooling to determine container thickness, which allows for tall containers and flexible bottoms;
• unique shapes and features;
In addition, OMNI containers are easy to open (just ask anyone who has experienced “wrap rage” just how important that is) and both nestable and non-nestable. The five-layer construction (which includes an outside structural layer, two tie layers, a barrier layer and inside structural layer) locks in food freshness while allowing the container to remain microwave-safe.
“We’re always looking for new opportunities to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and bring in new value,” says Bushnell. “Typically, we’ve done that by attempting to deliver better quality, better service and a better overall value to our customers.”
Another value-added offering for Silgan has been its strong focus on decoration. “We typically offer a wider range of decoration options than others, and we do it very well,” says Bushnell. “As an example, we’ve spent a lot of time working with customers on shrink wrapping opportunities. Their receptivity has led us to proactively invest accordingly. We want to be the leader in this industry, and we believe that proactively assessing and offering state-of-the-art product offerings will help us achieve that goal.”
High-Tech Design Center
Bushnell says that Silgan customers have found tremendous upside to their product innovation through the utilization of the company’s Commercial Design Center located in Norcross, Ga. “We sit down with the customer’s purchasing, marketing and packaging development people and show them the latest product introductions from across the globe,” he says.
“The customers can then have direct input as their design process evolves from sketches to 3-D models right before their eyes,” says Bushnell. “Within hours, they can walk away with models complete with mock-ups of the label and artwork. It has been a huge value for both our customers and Silgan.”
The center also offers a fully equipped pilot lab with blow molding and decoration machines from which they can provide prototypes, unit tools, production mold development and limited quantities of pre-production samples. The combined capabilities allow Silgan to provide key services without interrupting customers’ commercial production at other Silgan plants.
Five Seconds to Sell
The center is just one way that Silgan Plastics remains true to its stated mission: “Be the best at what we do.” By following this path, the company consistently and effectively addresses the continually changing needs of its customers and their markets. As Bushnell indicates, Silgan develops attention-grabbing “showstoppers” for its customers. Such distinctive packaging generates that all-important five-seconds-of-interest, which is enough time for a consumer to pick a product off of a store shelf and place it into their shopping cart. For Silgan clients, that’s the bottom line.