Carton Edge's new factory brings finishing out of the shadows
Carton finishers are in many ways the unsung heroes of the packaging industry. They toil away at those difficult, short run or short of time jobs their clients don’t want to handle in-house, yet their existence is rarely publicized. But UK based Carton Edge wants to change all that by making its new plant in Coventry something its clients can publicly acknowledge, or even use as a marketing tool.
“Our vision is that converters will see us not as subcontractors but as a manufacturing partner they are proud to acknowledge,” explains Eddie Owen, the company’s chairman. “To achieve this we felt we needed to meet, or even exceed, the standards of hygiene and quality they apply in their own plants. Traditionally, finishing is outsourced by carton makers as a last resort, but we want them to see us as a first choice instead. In fact, we’d like them to see this new facility pretty much as an extension to their own plant.”
With 1,260m2 of space, plus room for expansion, the new Carton Edge plant boasts equipment and systems rarely seen in the sector, as managing director Neal Whipp explains.
“Clearly, you have to invest in the right equipment to be able to offer the services carton makers want. But on top of that you have to offer them relief from any worries about their job while it’s with you, especially if it’s direct food contact work.”
He says that while the company had always received favourable BRC/IOP accreditation reports at its old site, the feedback at the new facility has been positively glowing.
“Our systems didn’t need changing, but the environment we are in now makes it easier to implement and manage them. You can actually see that it’s a premier league facility for carton finishing.”
With the help of Vision in Print, Carton Edge has taken the opportunity presented by the move to implement new ways of working. Using a ‘5C’ approach, sometimes known as ‘5S’, shop floor staff have taken on pro-active roles in the improvement of the processes they run. The five C’s in question – Clear out, Configure, Clean and Check, Conform and Continuous Improvement – sit well with the company’s emphasis on hygiene, says Neal Whipp.
“We made a positive decision to use the improved environment here as a catalyst for change and using the Vision in Print Masterclass Lite programme was a conscious decision to tap into industry expertise on the subject. It was also important to us that it should be driven by the shop floor staff. You could say we have invested in a sixth ‘C’, that being Culture.” The programme was first implemented on the company’s folder gluer team and is now being rolled out to all other parts of the business.
The larger plant has given Carton Edge the room to invest in three new tray forming lines, in addition to the gluing, window patching, pick and place, edging and overlabelling lines. The company sees such tray production as a growing market, as Neal Whipp explains.
“We are very conscious that in the convenience food market there has been a move away from plastics trays towards cartonboard. To that end we have installed two new Heiber & Schroeder tray forming machines and a Swedish tray welding unit. The Heiber & Schroeder machines combine conventional gluing with advanced productivity, while the tray weld unit sets new standards for tray strength and integrity which are key to developing new packs for chilled pasta and ovenable bakery lines.”
So will this new plant cause others to follow the Carton Edge lead?
“Obviously with my Carton Edge hat on, I hope not,” says Eddie Owen. “But, realistically, I think that more and more carton finishers will have to go this way. Packaging users want products that are handled to ever increasing standards throughout their production and they are increasingly inquisitive about the processes it goes through. We’ve created something here that our customers can show their clients and not have a single thing to worry about. I’d say that’s good for them and good for us.”