Though his flexible packaging company has undergone a substantial physical expansion, multiple equipment installations and has significantly upped its output, Flexstar President Marc Bray says one accomplishment stands out above the rest.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is in terms of human resources,” Bray says. “We’ve brought some fantastic people in. … On the surface it looks like it’s all this investment in new technology that we’ve brought in — which is true. But it’s the people side that’s the most exciting for me."
In particular, Bray says some of Flexstar’s new hires have led to improvements in the company’s ERP system that not only allow the company to benefit from increased internal efficiency, but have helped customers benefit from real-time inventory reporting, shipment tracking and traceability.
“That has been done by the new people we’ve brought into this organization,” he says.
More Space, More Capabilities
All too often in the packaging industry, communication along the supply chain can be lacking. So as part of Flexstar’s recent 32,000-square-foot expansion, Bray says the company wanted to create a space for customers to visit the Richmond, British Columbia, facility to gain a better understanding of the packaging process.
Bray says those visits include meeting with Flexstar’s technical staff to review samples, discuss printing methods and learn more about form/fill/seal equipment. Another major goal for the Innovation Center, Bray says, is to bring in other stakeholders in the supply chain so all of the players can work together to create a well-received final product.
“What we’re hoping to do is provide an area where people can understand the entire process a little bit more,” Bray says. “Perhaps projects can be done in a little more collaborative way to not only speed launches, but also make each launch as successful as possible.”
Bray says he expects the Innovation Center to be open by the end of 2016.
In addition to the physical expansion and the addition of the Innovation Center, Flexstar has completed several equipment installations. In November 2015, the company became the first converter in North America to add a Miraflex S flexographic press from Windmöller & Hölscher.
Bray says that one recent trend he is seeing in flexible packaging is that customers are requesting widely varying run lengths. With the installation of the Miraflex S, he explains that the press has provided the company with a high-quality flexo option for any run size.
“The machine is such that it can handle long runs or short runs,” Bray says. “It has a great wash up system that helps us keep changeover times down. The machine is also very fast if we want to put some long run jobs on it.”
‘Good Corporate Citizens’
Bray says that by the end of the year, Flexstar will also be a much more sustainable operation. He says the company is moving forward with the installation of a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO), which burns off volatile organic compounds, rather than releasing them into the atmosphere.
Though RTOs are required in many geographical areas, it is not mandatory that Flexstar make this investment in its jurisdiction. However, Bray says it is the right thing to do.
“We felt it’s something we should do as a good corporate citizen,” he says.
While the addition of an RTO is a significant environmental endeavor, Bray says he wants to take it even further. Because an RTO generates so much heat, he explains that Flexstar plans to capture that heat through a heat exchanger and use it throughout the building and in its hot room curing areas.
Flexstar produces a lot of high barrier adhesive laminations that require hot room curing, so Bray says that by using this alternative heat source, he expects Flexstar to reduce its gas consumption.
“It’s the right project to do and we decided to see if we can find some side benefits from it as well,” he says. “I think it speaks to the whole approach that we have for the business in general. There are some things that have to be done, so let’s see if we can come up with some innovative methods to do that and try to be as sustainable as possible with it.”