Welch Foods to bring package manufacturing in-house

Posted by Linda Casey

January 29, 2014

2 Min Read
Welch Foods to bring package manufacturing in-house



Welch Foods Inc. and Graham Packaging are building a 19,000- square-foot container-manufacturing facility at the Welch's plant, 139 Lake St. 

Construction began in December, and the new building is scheduled to become operational in mid-June.
Welch officials said the new facility is part of the company's plan to increase efficiency by moving 8 million cases of grape products from its Lawton, Mich., facility to its North East plant.

Despite those increases, the changes will likely result in a slightly smaller workforce at Welch's plant, which employs 393.

"We'll see a slight decline in jobs here due to job consolidation and becoming more efficient in how we get work done," said Chuck Evans, director of manufacturing at Welch's North East plant.

Most of the plastic bottles and jars for Welch's products are now manufactured at Graham Packaging's Bradford plant, then shipped by truck to Welch's plant.

Those containers will be manufactured at the new Welch's plant beginning in June.

"Linking the Graham and the Welch's manufacturing process will increase efficiency for both companies," Evans said. "Eliminating the transportation of empty containers is beneficial from a cost and an environmental standpoint."

Evans would not disclose how much Welch's expects to save in shipping and transportation costs once the facility becomes operational.

Graham Packaging employs more than 8,200 people at 97 plants in 15 countries, according to information on the company's website. The company designs and manufactures custom blow-molded rigid plastic containers.

Evans also would not disclose the project's cost, saying Graham Packaging is responsible for "every aspect of this project."

Graham Packaging officials at the company's corporate headquarters in York did not return numerous phone calls regarding project details, employment at the new facility and how the project would affect its Bradford plant.

Evans said Graham Packaging officials are overseeing project management, design and construction, equipment selection and installation, staffing and daily management of the facility.

Evans said Welch's North East plant currently produces 20 million cases of grape products yearly.
When the new container facility becomes operational in June, production will jump to 28 million cases per year, he said.

Evans said production at Welch's plant in Lawton, Mich., will drop to 5 million cases a year from 13 million.
"That plant will continue to process and store grapes," he said.

He said about 200 of the approximately 277 people employed at the Michigan plant will lose their jobs, including about 40 who have already left.

"Welch's is energized to be in the midst of a strategic plan that will allow us to improve profitability for our family farmer owners," Evans said. "We're also generating savings to reinvest for sustainable growth in the future. Our manufacturing transition will strengthen the North East plant's position in Welch's manufacturing operation."


This article was written by Ron Leonardi, Erie Times-News, PA.
and is distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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