Special Report – British Columbia: Shrink, Resin and Roll
In a highly competitive market, Vancouver-based blown film manufacturer Western Concord Manufacturing is proving its mettle. The company has experienced double-digit growth every year since 1995, the ...
In a highly competitive market, Vancouver-based blown film manufacturer Western Concord Manufacturing is proving its mettle. The company has experienced double-digit growth every year since 1995, the year after it was purchased by entrepreneur Clive Beddoe, CEO of West-Jet. Its 70,000 sq. ft. Vancouver manufacturing facility has recently acquired a PCMC 10-color flexographic printing machine. The 10-color press has a maximum line speed of 1500 ft./min. The plant will also be installing a fourth blown film line this June.
The company’s other manufacturing plant, located in Edmonton, purchased its fifth mono-layer extrusion line in February. This growth, says president Linda Simpson, has been the result of a combination of efficient manufacturing, marketing and investment in new product development.
The Vancouver facility specializes in the manufacture of a variety of packaging for fresh produce and food industry, including fresh-cut salad bags, specialty vegetable bags and bakery and bread bags. It also sells printed and laminated rollstocks to convertors. The Edmonton plant mainly produces industrial six-mil film for vapor-barrier, poly-wrap and shrink-wrap applications.
“Polyethylene film technology is changing very rapidly,” says Simpson. “Customers are demanding more and more from film packaging, not only in the performance area, but also on the graphics and aesthetics side.”
The Vancouver plant’s new line will be its first three-layer co-extrusion line. The company is also considering purchasing a five- or seven-layer line sometime within two years. Simpson says the new lines will be used to expand the types of products and services Western offers its customers.
The company’s focus on new products and investment in technology can be traced to Beddoe’s 1994 purchase of the company, according to Simpson, who was general manager of the Edmonton plant at the time. Founded in 1972 by four ex-employees of CIL Corp, Western saw its sales begin to erode in the 90s. Shortly after Beddoe purchased the company, Simpson transferred to the Vancouver plant in the capacity of v.p. of operations and joined a team of employees convened to discuss ways to improve business operations.
“We basically sat around the table and discussed the problems of the company,” says Simpson. “We found that we didn’t know our costs and that we had fallen asleep on the development and marketing side.”
The meetings resulted in a change of management style and strategy. The company entered a working partnership NOVA Chemicals. The arrangement allows Western’s R&D staff to utilize Nova’s laboratory facilities for trials during new product development projects. The partnership has paid dividends, yielding a number of new products, including a lightweight, extra-strong laminate film, and new type of shrink-wrap film that allows customers to print on the film before packing.
Printing operations have been upgraded. In addition to the new 10-color press, the Vancouver plant has an eight-color Windmller & Hollscher printer, as well as two six-color presses.
“We rarely get a job calling for less than eight-color anymore,” Simpson reports. “It (extra colors) gives customers more variety to customize their packaging and product lines.”
Western also invested in a state-of-the-art ink blending and delivery system. The system automatically matches ink color to a PMS standard before it is pumped from a secured storage room to a specific press. Western developed the system in partnership with a printing supply company in Ontario.
The company’s customers are split fairly evenly between the Canada and the U.S., mainly Oregon and California. “We’ve seen incredible growth in the U.S.,” says Simpson. “We’ve developed some very loyal customers there.”
Custom-blended resin technology continues to be tweaked, which could mean that the old adage, “why reinvent the wheel”, will soon need to be tweaked too. Simpson is a bit coy, but she implies that the bread bag, long considered a one-off commodity product, may soon be in for a major redesign.