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Packaging Possibilities: How Bumble Bee Switched Packaging Formats

Image courtesy of Bumble Bee Bumble-Bee-albacore-tuna-pack-ftd.jpeg
Through a co-creation process with packaging machinery manufacturer R.A Jones, Bumble Bee Foods introduced a new paperboard multipack for tuna cans that is win-win: curbside recyclable for consumers and offers retailers a more-flexible in-store display.

When asked, consumers will often tell you that, when it comes to recycling, they think brand owners should make it super easy for them to recycle their empty packages. Bumble Bee Foods did just that by switching from shrink-wrap film to a new paperboard multipack for cans of tuna fish.

But this meant a format change in the plant and new capital equipment — always a risky and expansive endeavor. Accomplishing this during a global pandemic added an extra level of planning and implementation.

In this podcast, we talk with Leslie Hushka, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Social Responsibility at Bumble Bee Foods, and Jeff Wintring, Chief Technology Officer at R.A Jones, to learn:

• How the partnership helped Bumble Bee better evaluate its packaging and sustainability options before making a final decision;
• How the team designed a “future-proofed” system, with flexibility to handle different multipack configurations down the line — while fitting into the existing floor space;
• What advantages Bumble Bee gained by making the change now;
• The three lessons learned that can benefit any packaging project.

 

PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES - Season 2: Episode 12

If you have a topic you’d like to propose for a future PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES episode, please email Lisa Pierce at [email protected].

 

TRANSCRIPTION IS AUTO GENERATED

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Hello, this is Lisa Pierce, Executive Editor of Packaging Digest, with another episode of Packaging Possibilities, a podcast that reveals what’s new and what’s next for packaging executives and engineers, designers and developers.

In this episode, I’ll be talking with Leslie Hushka, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Social Responsibility at Bumble Bee Seafood. And Jeff Wintring, Chief Technology Officer at R.A Jones, a packaging machinery manufacturer.

Today, we’re going to talk about Bumble Bee’s recent transition from shrink film for its multipacks of tuna cans to paperboard packaging. And making a packaging format change like this affects so many areas of the operation. How do you go about weighing those pros and cons, and how do you convince corporate leadership to do this change? Let’s find out!

Leslie, Jeff, welcome! Thanks for talking with us today.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Hi.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Hi Lisa. Nice to see you.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Happy to be here.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
So first tell us, has the new paperboard multipack launched in the market? I know it was going to be sometime early in 2022, correct?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
It has. We started producing it earlier in the year and we’re now seeing those packages flow from our distribution centers and showing up on store shelves.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Excellent. I will look for it when I’m out shopping this weekend. Thank you for that great news and congratulations.

So, as I said in the intro, there’s a lot of things that go into making this decision and then implementing this, and I’ve thought of, well, I don’t know more than half a dozen areas that I would like you to kind of talk about, but I don’t want to limit it to that. If you think of other things, obviously, please point them out because that’s what it is. So I’ll just start with one. And then we’ll go from there.

So, obviously, when you’re doing this change, oftentimes you have to switch suppliers both for the materials — you know, switching from a shrink film to a paperboard package, usually you’re looking at a different raw material manufacturer there — as well as on the machinery side, and we’re lucky enough to have Jeff from R.A Jones joining us here to give his input in this as well. So Leslie, can you just talk about, you know, some of these considerations that you guys went through as you were making the decision of the change?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Sure. I think this takes us back to a few years ago where, at Bumble Bee, we were running into what I would say was some just operational challenges with our existing machinery. It was fairly old in years and we were increasingly running into more downtime with the machine and kind of getting difficulties of getting it serviced. And so that was really impacting our operations. So as we started to look at replacing that machine, we had the opportunity to consider different types of formats for packaging.

“As we started to look at replacing that machine, we had the opportunity to consider different types of formats for packaging.”

So that’s where we led a process where we put out a request for proposals across the industry according to some of the criteria that we were trying to meet. And very quickly in that process, we kind of saw a real unique approach coming from R.A Jones in terms of offering us possibilities that we hadn’t considered.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Leslie, when was this? You said a couple of years ago.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah, I’ll let Jeff comment on the specifics of this because he’s been through this process counter from soup to nuts. I’ve come in over the last year, but really I think it goes back to 2019. Jeff, is that the right timing?

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Ah, yeah, I would say that sounds like the right timing. Yes. Yeah, yeah. We spoke for probably eight months during that period of time, developing a solution with you all. Yes.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, so pre-pandemic, just as a, you know, to put it in, you know … ohh, I can’t even think of the word I’m looking for. But you know what I mean. Put it in context.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah, it was it, yeah. It was absolutely at that time. And really it was very quickly apparent to us that R.A Jones was kind of the leader in this space, what they were presenting us — in terms of options for machinery and options for future packaging formats that we hadn’t, that were outside the current scope that we had — was very exciting for us. So that kind of led us to a collaboration with R.A Jones in terms of OK, what would be the right piece of equipment for our multipacks moving forward. And that’s where the different opportunities came up with moving from a shrink wrap to a paperboard wrapper.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, I know one of the things that I’ve seen is a prepared PDF white paper on some of the details of this project. I also had the pleasure of listening to your presentation at Pack Expo last fall and got some details that way as well. So one of the things that really struck me is, in looking at this … number one, you did invest in new machinery. But the machine actually fits in the same space in the packaging line as the shrink wrap system that came out. And you know, I know most facilities are limited on floor space and you know, knowing that you had this amount of space to work with: Can you talk through that just a little bit, how that all transpired? And, Jeff, how the company was able to then work within that limited area?

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Yeah, sure. So you know exactly what you were saying … when Bumble Bee came to us, you know, they presented what they were trying to solve, and they also gave us as far as the floor space needed in the plant for the equipment to fit. And so one of the unique things that R.A Jones can do is, we can integrate equipment, third-party equipment with our machinery. So we optimized the floor space with the machinery, with a gapping conveyor, turner/diverter. And it also offered solutions and suggestions on how Bumble Bee could change their conveyors in the plant to feed us the cans. And with that we were able to fit the machine in the plant successfully.

“[W]e optimized the floor space with the machinery, with a gapping conveyor, turner/diverter. And it also offered solutions and suggestions on how Bumble Bee could change their conveyors in the plant to feed us the cans. And with that we were able to fit the machine in the plant successfully.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. I know that in any bundling operation the package collation is kind of the secret sauce to making it work sometimes. Leslie, do you have anything to add on that?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah. No, I mean from our perspective, you know, it was the back and forth in terms of, you know, we kind of came in it with one perspective about what we thought we needed. I think it was from our perspective just such a great collaboration where R.A Jones was able to suggest to us “Here’s multiple ways for you to potentially achieve that outcome. But here’s some additional considerations for you to think in.” So for our perspective, you know, that was very valuable.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. And Leslie, can I ask the solution that you ultimately decided on, was it something that you guys had gone to R.A Jones with an option or something that they had proposed?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
I think, you know, we … all … there were a number of options on the table. We hadn’t really settled on one as part of our, you know, initial RFP [request for quote] process. It had been a while since we really tested the marketplace in this area. So we were pretty wide open to solutions. Certainly, there was quite an alignment of objectives between us and R.A Jones on the sustainability side, in terms of what, really the opportunities that we had there.

And for us, really, the opportunity to move to something that was more readily recyclable for consumers was certainly a big appeal, and making the switch.

Bumble-Bee-Leslie-Hushka-quote-web.jpg

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes, I know that there are a lot of people, a lot of brand owners trying to get that … I guess, the Holy Grail of their used packaging, empty packaging, being curbside recyclable to close that loop and actually get it collected and processed for recycling.

Let’s go into this sustainability angle of it just a little bit more because one of the things that I’ve learned is that … Leslie, Bumble Bee revealed that nine out of its 12 top retailers have commitments to move all plastic to being 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable materials and most in a very short time frame … by 2025. How much did that influence the decision?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Certainly that was a large part of it. We want to make sure that what we’re doing on the sustainability side is aligned with our customers and helping us kind of meet our customers’ needs and kind of being a provider of choice for them, if you will. This move of retailers to 100% recyclable, compostable, or reusable, that movement, if you will, has been happening for a number of years, really kind of being driven by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
And a number of activities are aimed around making sure that materials have the opportunity to be reused and, in particular right now where deficit is, many country systems is around plastic and plastic recycling. And how can we really put in place new systems to make sure the plastics that are in the market are getting recycled. So a number of our customers have set a variety of goals, either recycling goals or plastic reduction goals. Or goals where their plastic has recycled content in it to promote that circular economy. So where we landed is to try to meet this suite of all of what our customers were looking for. We felt that at the shift to move to get all of our packaging to be readily recyclable was going to be that sweet sauce spot. And really help our customers.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. And one of the differences between paperboard packaging and flexible packaging, maybe on the other sustainability side, is that paperboard is a little bit heavier in weight than flexible. But it sounds like in the, you know, weighing the pros and cons and the options, the idea of being recyclable kind of overruled the weight issue a little bit.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah, from a sustainability side, you have to look at the full life cycle for that packaging. And, certainly, yes, the paperboard might be slightly heavier. But when you look at the end-of-life disposal, we really felt that we had a significant opportunity to shift that instead of that film going into a landfill or predominantly was ending up that that could be recycled. And again having an overall, kind of, lower footprint. But yeah, sometimes you have to make those kind of tradeoffs and in terms of a life-cycle assessment about packaging, as folks on this podcast well understand.

“Yes, the paperboard might be slightly heavier. But when you look at the end-of-life disposal, we really felt that we had a significant opportunity to shift that.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yep, definitely. And not only on the end-of-life side of things, but paperboard packaging has a little bit of an advantage on the beginning of life, with it being a renewable material where the plastic flexible film — you know, you could argue that anything is renewable — but it doesn’t have the same renewable resource for the raw material as paperboard packaging.

So excellent on that. I do want to ask though … there are a lot of brand owners moving away from plastics and often their material of choice is paperboard for all the reasons that we’ve already talked about. What about the availability? Or, you know, finding the, you know, a supplier partner with the reliability for the material in making this change. Can you talk about that a bit?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah, we have not really encountered any difficulty from a supply of the paperboard into our operations. We are very comfortable with our supplier. We have paperboard that we have selected is made of 100% recycled content, 35% of that is post-consumer recycled content. It’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
And that was my next question.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yes, it is. So, you know, we’ve really — and that market has significantly grown, so that has not been a challenge in terms of us making the shift.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. What about the knowledge and the experience of your staff in the plant, Leslie? How was that impacted?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Well, I mean, that was I think another reason why we went with R.A Jones. I mean it was kind of almost a one-stop shop, if you will, in terms of expertise. And not only type of packaging format but right machinery solution, but the ability to train and really implement all of that. And Jeff, you know I think it’d be helpful for you to weigh in, kind of the pro … the steps that you took with the facility in terms of putting in the equipment.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes, please.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Yes. So at the beginning of the project with the facility, you know, obviously we wanted to understand what their concerns were. And we incorporated solutions for that, such as, you know, a changeover capability on the machine. The plant needs to do a lot of changeovers on the machine. So we incorporated that into it.

As we installed the machine in the field, we were able to provide training to the operators during the startup. We actually assisted and supported them, probably over a period of time of probably six weeks or so. And then we let Bumble Bee run the equipment. And then we came back probably somewhere in the three-month mark and checked in on things and wanted to see how the equipment was doing, see if they needed additional training. The, you know, line is running very well. Bumble Bee’s doing great with it.

Image courtesy of R.A JonesBumble-Bee-Queen-Bee-multipacks-web.jpg

The next check in we’re going to be doing will be in July, where we’ll, they’re going to have a planned maintenance type of time period on the machine. But yeah, we’ve been able to support them very well from a training, and they’ve been picking it up and the machine is running, running well, so.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. And if we could maybe give just a little bit more detail. What facility is this, Leslie? And it’s a single facility with a single machine where you’re running this on the line, correct?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yes, yes, it’s at our Santa Fe Springs cannery operations. That’s north of here, of our corporate office in San Diego and just South of LA. And so that’s where we’re running the major canning for tuna.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. I know that, Leslie, you mentioned this earlier and I did want to definitely talk through this point. You talked about the future of, you know, how the machine is able to let you have this flexibility for the future and future format changes. I do know that you produce a … Bumble Bee produces 26 million multipacks a year. That’s a lot of multipacks. Can you talk about though the flexibility of being able to handle different formats on here, multipacks formats, and how this is kind of a future-proof system for you?

“Bumble Bee produces 26 million multipacks a year. That’s a lot of multipacks. Can you talk about though the flexibility of being able to handle different formats on here, multipacks formats, and how this is kind of a future-proof system for you?”

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah. Well, let me talk about what we’re doing now

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Sure.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
And then Jeff can talk about what the machine and the capabilities can do in the future.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
So the, of the current formats, you know, we’re doing, you know, anything from a 12- to a 6- to an 8- to a 12-pack, if you will. And so the changeovers that Jeff referred to is, you know, we’re going to do a run of a 4-pack in a paperboard wrapper for a certain one of our brands. And then we might have to very quickly turn that around to, OK, we want to do a 12-pack of a different brand with maybe a different type of product in it.
That is really easy with this machine, and it’s a, you know, as we displayed the machine at Pack Expo, a lot of the controls are really done from kind of a handheld iPad. My, my terminology for it.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Oh, very nice. OK.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
And so it’s simple to program the machine to say we’re going to move from this type of format to that type of format. The machine configures itself. And if anything is out of line, there’s a quick ready light on the machine to say this needs to be adjusted manually.

And so let me stop there. And, Jeff, please weigh in on the more technical nature of that and the flexibility the machine has to go from the formats that we use today.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Yeah, as Leslie was saying, the … Bumble Bee had some initial formats they needed to run on the machine, and that basically there’s four. There’s the ability to feed into the machine, four infeed lanes, and currently they’re using three. So from a future proofing of the machine itself, if and when the time comes, they can add that fourth lane and actually increase the number of formats that they can offer to their customers.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Very nice.

Image courtesy of R.A JonesJeff-Wintring-RAJones-Pack-Expo-demo-web.JPG

R.A Jones Chief Technology Officer Jeff Wintring explains the machine's operations and benefits at a demonstration in the fall of 2021 at Pack Expo Las Vegas, including the easy changeover from a handheld tablet controller.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
From the, yeah. From the standpoint of the changeover flexibility, we put on the machine our Acc-U-Change and what that is … that gives the operator feedback when you do a format change. It tells them exactly what changeover points on the machine need to be changed, and then the control verifies those, that the change has been made. And the whole purpose of that is to be able to provide a vertical startup. So, you know, when they do need to make the change, the operators can take the handheld tablet or iPad, as Leslie was saying … it directs them. They make the changes, it gets verified. And then when the machine starts, it’s producing product immediately.

“When they do need to make the change, the operators can take the handheld tablet or iPad, as Leslie was saying … it directs them. They make the changes, it gets verified. And then when the machine starts, it’s producing product immediately.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, sounds like it is running pretty smoothly then. And, Leslie’s got a … she’s nodding, she’s got a good smile on her face. So I like seeing that.

OK. Let’s talk now … One of the other, what I would say, is a major consideration in any packaging operations production change, is obviously the financial investment.

So you invested in new machinery here. Leslie, can you talk a little bit more on the financial side. Maybe how this impacted the operation from a positive point of view if it did and or, you know, what were some of the other financial considerations? And I know you’ve already said that the machine that it replaced was pretty old and probably needed to be replaced anyway. So timing wise, you timed it perfectly. But, Leslie, talk a little bit about the financial side of this.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah. I mean, I think we, we could have gone a couple more years with our existing machinery. So it was a very much an active choice we made to make the switch at this point in time — again aligned with our corporate goals here. That was a significant investment and, you know, requiring us to invest in capital that we had not intended, you know. And so that, we feel, was the right decision to make and the switch at time, but it did cost us additional dollars there. We do believe that we will see the return on that over time. You know, we … in particular when we look at the packaging that we’ve been able to design and produce as a result of this new equipment, it’s much more appealing to consumers. We think in the long run this will translate into increased sales for those as compared to our competitors.

“That was a significant investment … that, we feel, was the right decision to make and the switch at time, but it did cost us additional dollars there. We do believe that we will see the return on that over time. … [W]hen we look at the packaging that we’ve been able to design and produce as a result of this new equipment, it’s much more appealing to consumers. We think in the long run this will translate into increased sales.”

But you know, it was really, from our perspective, the right thing to do and we had the opportunity and so we wanted to jump in, but it was certainly at a cost.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. Well, it sounds like you’ve got a handle on the return on investment on that and from a financial point of view that’s key.

I did want to ask … I just thought though … making this change, were there any downstream equipment changes that you also had to make, either on the, you know, palletizing side of things or anything like that because of the different material of the packaging?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
No, I mean we’re still kind of using our existing configuration. I mean, I think there were some slight changes in configurations on the pallets to adjust for that, just due to slight different dimensions in the shrink-wrap product versus the box product. But that has not caused us any kind of significant challenges as we’ve moved forward.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. Before we hear more about the pros and cons of Bumble Bee’s switch to paper multipacks and the lessons learned, let’s take a short break for a special message.

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Lisa Pierce here. Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. Have you heard?? SouthPack is back! After a break of seven years, the 2022 event will take place this year June 14-16 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, NC. Owned and organized by Informa Markets Engineering, the parent company of Packaging Digest, SouthPack will be one of six co-located shows at the all-new IM Engineering South advanced design and manufacturing expo. Sign up today at imengineeringsouth.com. That’s I M ENGINEERING SOUTH dot com.

Now, let’s get back to our Packaging Possibilities podcast.

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Lisa McTigue Pierce
So, Leslie, how did you weigh the pros and cons of making this change? And if you don’t mind, maybe just itemizing what those pros and cons are.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah. At the time we were looking to make this decision, you know that we were looking at replacing of the machinery to really, from an operational standpoint, to make that, make sure that we could address those challenges of downtime. We had an opportunity with the machine that R.A Jones has put forward to change the packaging format from shrink wrap to a paperboard that allowed us to look at: What are our customers desiring? What are consumers looking for? What are our sustainability objectives and how do we meet all of those various needs?

And in terms of weighing all of those, it became very easy for us to make this decision, which was consumers want recyclable packaging. They look to brands to solve that problem for them and make it easier for them to recycle packaging. So looking from a shrink-wrap product that that plastic can be recycled. But it requires the consumer to go through extra steps to do that versus a paperboard wrapper that allowed them to incorporate that right into their home recycling system.

“[C]onsumers want recyclable packaging. They look to brands to solve that problem for them and make it easier for them to recycle packaging.”

That was an easy check for us to put in the “pro” column.

Also from a …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Leslie, if I could just …

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah, I was just going to add …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
If I could just make a point on that. Umm, I’m in the package … . I’ve been doing this, and writing about this for a long time and I’m still not clear whether shrink film, because it’s got different properties than … I know polyethylene film is recyclable at store drop offs with a lot of the grocery bags and other types of things, but I still don’t even know if shrink film is appropriate to put in store recycling collection bins or not. So yeah.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah, it’s a challenge with consumers, with the various types of plastics, to educate them on what can be recycled. Generally, shrink film, which is either polyethylene or polypropylene, can be recycled in in-store drop offs. But again, you’re asking the consumer to undergo additional steps to segregate that material out from their other recyclables and take it back to the store. We wanted to make it easier for consumers to just put the paperboard wrapper into their recycling system. And, again, they want that, they want to be part of the solution.

Image courtesy of Bumble BeeBumble-Bee-light-tuna-pack-web.jpeg

Graphics give retailers flexibility in displaying the carton vertically or horizontally.

The second major pro for us was that we could redesign the packages and change the graphics on the packages to address some concerns that we see from a retailer perspective. The shrink wrap gets pulled and sometimes distorts the bar code making it difficult to scan. You don’t have that issue with the box.

“The new paperboard box is designed to be displayed horizontally or vertically on the shelf, so that allows the retailer to have some flexibility in the set.”

Also the new paperboard box is designed to be displayed horizontally or vertically on the shelf, so that allows the retailer to have some flexibility in the set and potentially in the space where they had two or with a package horizontally might have taken up a slot for two, three, or four products, they could change that and stack it vertically and fit different types of products in the same space. So that has been a strong response that we’ve seen from the retailers, to have that flexibility in the system has been a tremendous pro versus something we could never achieve with this shrink wrap film.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yeah, I love it when packages allow that retail display flexibility. So thank you for that, OK. Anything more on the pros and cons?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
I think those were the big things that really drove our decision.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. Excellent. So we’ve talked about a lot of things here as the considerations. How were you able to convince corporate leadership to make this change?

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Lisa, I feel very fortunate that we have a leadership within Bumble Bee that’s very, very tied to our sustainability objectives. It’s really baked into the mission of the Bumble Bee Seafood Co. to, you know, feeding people through the power of the ocean. All of our sustainability initiatives are baked into our purpose and our business strategy. So from my perspective, this was very easy to get management to see the benefits from a sustainability side, the pros that we could see with both consumers and retailers.

“[W]e have a leadership within Bumble Bee that’s very, very tied to our sustainability objectives. … [T]his was very easy to get management to see the benefits from a sustainability side, the pros that we could see with both consumers and retailers.

They could easily see the cost, but that is very … we’re very fortunate that they were able to see the long-term value of making this change. I know in all companies they don’t have perhaps this strong connection with leadership on the sustainability side. But for us, our management could easily see that this was the right thing to do, to make this step at this point in time, and for easy for us to get them to approve this change.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, well, lucky you. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Could I ask then too about the speed to market for this? I know that a packaging format change … I know this was on the secondary packaging side of things and not necessarily on the primary packaging side of things. But anytime you’re making a major change like this on the packaging line and with your packaging, it does take time. Could you just give us a sense of how you felt with how the schedule of this project went? And I know, again, we were right in the middle of a pandemic, so that may have thrown a wrench in the system too, but if you could just address this.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah, it may be best for Jeff to weigh in here. Because, I mean, I, you know, only coming in the last year, you know, was not part of the full project. So, Jeff? Please, jump in.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
OK. I mean making those changes during the pandemic, as we had said, it was … we started on it prior to the pandemic, right?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yep.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
And then we were fortunate enough, R.A Jones was fortune enough that we were able to keep the engineering teams working during the pandemic. So we were able to consult with Bumble Bee and keep the project moving forward.

And then actually developed the solution, engineer the solution, and you know get it manufactured within the time frame that they needed. So R.A Jones, we worked very hard to support our customers during the pandemic. We worked very hard to keep our manufacturing open. We did … we made sure that we tried to keep the employees segregated as much as possible. We let the, and only the essential workers in the building at the time.

So we were very successful at that and we were able to support Bumble Bee, as well as our other customers, in doing that. So I think that was key, so.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Well, Jeff, thank you for the for to being able to do that. Thank you.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah. To add on, you know, from my perspective, you know, we started to install the machine last December, kind of at our turnover time around the holidays. So a couple of weeks for installation, that machine has been up and running since then, you know. And the rollout to, you know, we started to have packages in market right, over a month ago. So in terms of having that type of capability to get it in place, get it up and running quickly and kind of transition from older inventory to these new packages started the market … from my perspective that’s been very smooth and it seems to be very efficient from a timing perspective.

Image courtesy of R.A JonesBumble-Bee-multipacker-web.JPG

The paperboard multipacker on display at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2021.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, let’s finish on I think what is going to be a positive note.

So there are a number of companies, number of other packaging professionals at brand owner companies considering a format change, whether it be from plastics to paperboard or some other change. And I’m just wondering, Leslie, if you could maybe share some lessons that you may have learned from this project. And even you, Jeff, I’m sure you’ve learned a few things too. So if you could just talk about maybe lessons learned that could maybe help some other people making a similar decision.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Yeah. From our perspective, you know, what I would suggest to companies is, you know, really get clear on what your objective is first. And of what, from a business objective and your overall sustainability objective, is you know Step 1.

Step 2 is kind of the process that we went through with R.A Jones … is really seek to understand from experts in the marketplace what are the wide variety of solutions.

And then 3, identify a partner that is aligned with you on the objectives that you’re trying to meet and co-create solutions with them. It’s very much the process that we went through. I think through that process, we came up with a solution that was better than what we could have envisioned at the start. And I think that often companies feel like they have to figure out exactly what they want at the end point. And they kind of lose a lot of opportunities to co-create and develop solutions that were, in the end, better than what they could have created on their own.

Step 1: Get clear on what your objective is first.
Step 2: Seek to understand from experts in the marketplace what are the wide variety of solutions.
Step 3: Identify a partner that is aligned with you on the objectives that you’re trying to meet and co-create solutions with them. … [T]hrough that process, we came up with a solution that was better than what we could have envisioned at the start.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Thank you, Leslie. Jeff, any other input from you?

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Yeah, I would say that it strengthened, confirmed our philosophy, our desire to do customer-centric solutions with our customers. You know, it was a journey with Bumble Bee, with the initial discussions and understanding what their, you know, their key drivers were for the project and then how we adapted a piece of our standard equipment, how we customized that, such that they, we could meet with their, you know, provide a solution for them that met their business needs, that met their flexibility needs, their speed that they needed to produce at, and obviously make a machine that was easy to operate for their, for their operators. So I think it’s that further understanding and learning and confirming that we are doing the right things in how we’re working with our customers and trying to provide solutions for them, so.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Excellent. Well, Leslie, Jeff, congratulations. I know it’s always a thrill that you work on a project, you work so hard on something and you finally see it in the store, finished, and there for sale. And the proof is when they, those sales start going gangbusters. So congratulations on that. And thank you so much for talking to us today and telling us what you guys learned about this project, through this project. So, thank you, guys.

Leslie Hushka (guest)
Thanks, Lisa.

Jeff Wintring (guest)
Yeah, thank you, Lisa.

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