The ability to supply functional, durable, state-of-the-art machines is one thing. But the ability to add value to that product line by servicing customers with equally sophisticated operator interfaces is what sets ARPAC apart in the industry.
Recently the company unveiled a new system it calls RAMP, or Remote Asset Management Program. It involves a wireless device implanted in one of its many varieties of packaging machinery that allows operator interface – a state-of-the-art system that is just beginning to gain headway as manufacturers learn to advance their value to customers through technology. “Through this the operator can get information on the product as far as downtime data, and machine fault info; he can access the full user manual and can even order parts for that particular machine by either clicking to send a message directly to ARPAC or to the company’s procurement office. The program is compatible with all of our machines,” notes Greg Levy, director of marketing.
“Some of our bigger customers operate multiple machines and this is valuable information for them,” Levy adds. “We spent a lot of time with Rockwell Alan Bradley in developing this system – we wanted to do something special, and as far as I know we are the only packaging machinery manufacturer offering this.” In addition, ARPAC also offers a hardware package that consists of a camera allowing an ARPAC technician to watch the machine running in real time. “This gives us a visual for over-the-phone trouble shooting,” Levy adds. “It offers all kinds of advantages.” Plus, customers will still be able to take advantage of the company’s 24-hour customer service hotline.
“In a down economy people are looking to automate more or integrate steps,” says Levy. “Our system can provide them with a huge labor savings.”
THREE DECADES OF SOLUTIONS
This is just the latest in ARPAC’s evolution of systems and services over the last 30 years as it continues to offer innovative packaging solutions “that mean business for its customers.” The company’s machines are designed to wrap packages of various shapes and sizes, either individually or grouped, in a variety of production environments. Its systems can handle everything from multi-pack packaging to tray wrapping, as well as continuous motion, automated packaging to intermittent motion, manually controlled packaging. Its machinery is equipped for either long production runs or small lot or batch packaging.
Over the past few years ARPAC has grown through a series of strategic acquisitions including Great Lakes Corporation in 1999, and INFRAPAK in 2002, two industry leaders in the packaging industry. Great Lakes, founded in 1932, invented the world’s first shrink tunnel. Its product line included shrink bundlers, bottom overlap and side seal horizontal wrappers, food slicers and shrink tunnels.
Established in 1975, Infrapak specializes in quality stretch wrapping systems, with a product range including economical motorized manual stretch wrappers, rugged fully featured semi-automatics and customized fully automatic systems. “Our stretch wrap line is a real success story,” Levy says, adding that ARPAC brought manufacturing back into the states from Mexico when it closed Infrapak’s plant in 2002. While the company’s plant was in Dallas, it outsourced to Mexico but ARPAC found many problems with quality. ARPAC then commenced on a $2.5 million investment in its Chicago plant to manufacture stretch wrap. “We put in a single-flow operator, robotic welding to powder coat, and an assembly line that puts machines together. We went to build to order and improved our delivery time to order.”
A third acquisition, in the mid 1990s, brought Diablo Packaging into the group, giving ARPAC entry into corrugated tray and case packing equipment.
All of these capabilities and product lines make ARPAC a one-stop-shop for packaging solutions. The company produces shrink bundlers, multipackers, horizontal shrink wrappers, corrugated tray and case erectors, box formers, corrugated board tray and case packers, pallet stretch wrappers and pallet stretch hooders. All ARPAC machinery is manufactured, serviced and supported in the U.S.
Because many customers have diverse packaging requirements within a single production line, ARPAC is often asked to integrate one packaging machine with another. The company acts as a consultant to help design entire packaging lines, which usually consist of equipment from ARPAC and other manufacturers. ARPAC also has set up packaging lines that include depalletizers, labelers, conveyors, tray loaders, tray stackers, shrink wrappers.
“We brought all technology under one roof; Great Lakes, Diablo and Infrapak,” explains Levy. All manufacturing, he says, takes place in Chicago, in a facility measuring 180,000 square feet. “We’re totally vertically integrated – we bring in raw steel and ship out packaging machinery and systems. We do our own metal fabrication, welding and powder coating.” Its biggest markets include food & beverage, pharmaceutical and print.
One of the company’s more popular products is its ARROW intermittent motion side seal wrapper, offering the latest in shrink packaging technology, and featuring a proprietary design that provides fast, user-friendly and reliable operation. Capable of running product as short as two inches up to infinite length and up to six-inches high, this flexible, low maintenance system provides high-quality packaging for retail display. It will accept randomly fed product, and intermixed lengths within its speed range. In addition, the system does not require precise spacing like a continuous motion wrapper. It runs at speeds of up to 40 products per minute and also features film cradles for simple film loading, a unique film trim takeaway, industry-standard Rockwell Allen Bradley electrical components, center-folded polyolefin, PVC or polyethylene, digital controls for conveyor speeds, timing, and temperature settings for fast accurate setup when changing product size and film. ARPAC’s operator interface features a color touch screen with a message display and self diagnostics
Other machines worth noting include the Brandpac. Here, ARPAC reduced compressed air consumption by eliminating air operated vortex cabinet coolers in favor of high-efficiency air conditioners, resulting in total energy savings of 20 percent. In addition, ARPAC replaced many drive systems with servo based systems, reducing energy load while increasing machine output. Heat tunnels were redesigned to become more efficient in shrinking film with less heat through better air flow characteristics. Energy savings amounted to 15-20 percent. Hot plate heat tunnels have provided a superior bottom seal while allowing the heat tunnels to run at lower temperatures – reducing energy consumption by 15 percent.
LEAN AND MEAN
In the last six years ARPAC, to further complement and add value to its operation, implemented its own lean manufacturing system, and termed it AM Squared for ARPAC Manufacturing Method, involving a list of metrics “to control chaos,” Levy says. Because half of the company’s production involves custom orders according to a customer’s specifications, ARPAC nonetheless wanted delivery times to remain timely – within five days of the delivery quote it provides a customer. That promise has been carried out over 90 percent of the time, Levy says and now ARPAC can boast one of the fastest order-to-shipment delivery times in the packaging industry.
“Our continuing investment in a vertically integrated production facility, using solid lean manufacturing principles, creates a competitive production advantage over the long term,” Levy says. “We’re dedicated to partnerships with our customers. Our tagline is, ‘Packaging solutions that mean business.’ One of the things that drive our business is that we ask customers what they want out of our equipment’.”
And from that partnership arises a solution that helps to keep packages – and products – moving.