Marked improvements

Linda Casey

March 11, 2015

6 Min Read
Marked improvements


Marked improvements

Highland Wholesale Foods Inc., Stockton, CA, has replaced its manual tray and case labeling with ink-jet marking—resulting in more streamlined operations and reduced labor needs. “We would cut the label to fit the box end and glue it to the box with spray glue,” explains John Sodaro, production manager for Highland Wholesale Foods. “This hand application was slow and very labor-intensive.”

The 'value' of relationships

Founded in 2002, Highland Wholesale Foods Inc. is a copacker specializing in canned food products and is led by company president and CEO Greg Stagnitto, who also is Sodaro's nephew.

Both men have a strong background in agriculture. “For 47 years, I was a farmer in Maryville, CA, growing peaches,” Sodaro explains. “Every summer, my nephew would come and help my Dad and I harvest peaches. My nephew knows how you pick peaches, how you take care of the bins, how you get them to the receiving stations and from there, how they get to the cannery.

“His father, Frank, also was involved in Allied Food Distributing, which was a company just like ours, but went bankrupt years ago,” Sodaro adds. “Through his dad, he learned the business. My nephew knows how produce is picked and processed. Now he's on the distribution end.”

This knowledge helps Highland Wholesale Foods establish longstanding relationships with the agriculture and cannery businesses to buy canned foods at the value pricing necessary to resell to the corrections industry. “We distribute to all of the state and federal prisons in the United States,” boasts Sodaro.

Low-cost labeling


Marked improvements

The foods arrive at the copacker processed and packed in unlabeled cans called “brights,” which are stored in Highland Wholesale Foods' warehouse.

When an order comes in, Highland Wholesale Foods instructs its label supplier, Valley Printing, to prepare labels with the appropriate nutritional information. “We have on file the nutritional statements from many of the canneries around here because we are a label house,” says Scott Gibson of Valley Printing's digital prepress department. “We make sure that all of the labels that we print are as compliant that we can. We're not lawyers, but we have been in the label business for 50 years.”

The label job is imposed using Kodak PREPS Imposition Software, which enables Valley Printing to optimize press runs by allowing several jobs to be printed using one set-up—a practice called gang-run printing. Minimizing makereadies reduces setup cost, which results in cost savings that Valley Printing passes on to its customers.

The imposition then is trapped using a Rampage image processor, which then sends the plate-ready data to a Fujifilm Dart Luxel CtP device. The Dart Luxel platesetter images a Kodak plate, which is mounted on a six-color Heidelberg press. The six-tower press is used to print and coat the labels. Printed labels are finished on one of Valley Printing's many guillotine cutters.

Noting room for improvement


Marked improvements

When the labels arrive at Highland Wholesale Foods, they are loaded onto one of the copacker's many labeling lines. Operators manually place the appropriate brights into the labeler's infeed.

After labeling, the cans are manually moved from the labeler's outfeed into trays and cartons, which are supplied by a number of vendors, including Associated Packaging.

During one of his customer support visits to Highland Wholesale Foods, Sean Rhodes, packaging specialist and sales partner at Associated Packaging, noticed the manual application of preprinted labels to filled cases and trays. “I noticed they were doing the tray and case labeling by hand,” Rhodes explains. “At the end of their lines, they'd have one or two employees literally sticking labels on every case.”

Part of the reason Highland Wholesale Foods manually applied labels was its need to control expenses so it can keep its value pricing. “They're not going to put $14,000 into a printer,” Rhodes comments. “When you can tell them: 'Hey look, for under $1,500, we can eliminate a guy just applying labels at the end of your line. What are you looking at? You're looking at a week's worth of ROI (return-on-investment).'”

The low-cost printer that Rhodes recommended is a Digital Design Inc. Evolution I, a high-resolution printer utilizing Hewlett-Packard thermal ink-jet technology. While Rhodes presented a good argument for the printer's benefits, Highland Wholesale Foods didn't jump to buy right away.

Low maintenance, high productivity

To convince the copacker, Rhodes placed a demo unit on one of the corrugated case packout lines. After a week, Highland Wholesale Foods purchased the device.

“With these machines from Digital Design. we have zero downtime on them,” Sodaro exclaims. “We're marking 10 to 11,000 cases per cartridge, depending on the size of the print and how long the text is—and these machines don't clog.”

The low maintenance requirements of the Evolution 1 are by design. “This is as close to maintenance-free as you can get,” notes Steve Firmender, sales and marketing manager for Digital Design Inc. “Just like your desktop printer, these cartridges start right up in the morning. You might need to do a simple wipe on the cartridges, depending on the environment that the printers are in. There is no air or anything else that is used to keep contaminants or particles in the air away from the cartridge.”

Not just cases anymore

Highland Wholesale Foods has expanded its use of the Evolution 1 to beyond just case marking. It now also ink-jets onto trays before they are shrink-wrapped in Arpac tunnels. “After seeing the speed and the quality prints on the boxes, it was just a matter of time before we put the printers on all of our production lines,” Sodaro remarks.

In total, the copacker owns 12 Evolution 1 printers that print 27- to 29-character messages onto cases, trays and even double-stacked trays.

More information is available:

Digital Design Inc., 800/967-7746.

The Arpac Group, 847/678-9034.

Associated Packaging Inc., 562/944-7379.

Fujifilm Holdings America Corp., 800/877-0555.

Heidelberg USA Inc., 770/419-6600.

Hewlett-Packard Development Co., Specialty Printing Systems, 800/752-0900.

Kodak, 866/563-2533

Rampage Systems Inc., 781/891-9400.

Valley Printing, 209/537-4561.


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