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New shrink labels provide a 'buzz' for coffee roasters

Coffee. It's a vital part of many people's lives, either as a pick-me-up or as a reason to mingle. For Rowland Coffee Roasters of Miami, FL, providing this indispensable product is truly a deep-rooted, family way of life.

Most recently, explosive growth led the company to re-evaluate its production operation–which now produces 150,000 lb of coffee/day.

With 18 different stockkeeping units, having to inventory the various lithographed cans proved cumbersome. José Alberto Souto, vp of production and procurement, says, "We always had six or seven trailers of lithographed cans, each holding 50,000 cans. That's when B&H Labeling and its roll-fed shrink labeling equipment came into play."

He adds, "With the B&H system, all we need to buy is the plain tin cans on a just-in-time basis and then apply the different labels." Rowland can now store all of the labels used for the 18 skus on six to seven pallets. This ultimately saves 5,000 to 7,000 sq ft of warehousing storage space.

The look of the finished product was another critical consideration. Once the family was convinced that a shrink label would look as good or better than lithographed cans, the decision was an easy one.

José Alberto and his son, John Paul Souto, worked with B&H Labeling Systems on the purchase and installation of the BH8000G roll-fed labeler and the patented BH700 Endura–a shrink-labeling system that can handle the company's 1- and 3-lb sized cans at a rate of 400/min. After combining two small rooms, Rowland fit the system into a very compact, 12 x 20-ft space.

The BH8000G features an in-line conveyor system with a starwheel infeed for optimal, synchronized control of the cans. A dual-port vacuum drum transfers the label onto the can. The vacuum drum may be adjusted to compensate either for variances in label size, or for friction induced by temperature or humidity.

In addition, the labeling system uses the company's patented Computerized Registration System (CRS) and Theta Cutter to ensure labels are aligned and cut to the absolute tightest tolerances. The CRS requires no mechanical changes in order to change label lengths; it measures every label fed into the system and re-establishes running label length without operator involvement.

An overhead view of the blank tin cans, above, entering the labeling area. At Rowland, the labeling system runs both 1- and 3-lb sized cans at a rate of 400 cans/min. The roll-fed labeler, above right, utilizes a dual port vacuum drum to transfer the BOPP labels onto the cans.

The system applies biaxially oriented polypropylene labels provided by ROI Technologies, Inc. Tim Roberts, president at ROI, says that this relatively new film–introduced to the market two years ago–was jointly tested and chosen by ROI and B&H because of its unique shrink characteristics. "The BOPP labels can wrap around and conform to the contours of Rowland's coffee cans without any distortion to the label or image," he explains. "They only shrink into the bead of the can and not from the top and bottom, so as to cover any portion of the 'shiner,' or can." In addition, the BOPP labels accommodate backside printing in up to 10 colors.

This was a critical issue. Says Says John Paul Souto, "At first we were afraid of how the shrink label was going to look. After all, litho cans shine and sparkle. But after seeing the shrink label, we could not tell the difference. The only way we could tell the difference was by the seam on the can."

Rowland also opted for B&H's Rapid Changeover (RCO) technology, which enables its operators to easily perform size and label changeovers. José Alberto remarks, "All the changeparts of the B&H system are color-coded to guide the operator through the process. The changeover takes no longer than fifteen minutes. With the help of B&H, operators received training and became experts using the machine in just a week or two. The PLC alerts the operators of any adjustments that have to be made."

Due to the cost reductions in space and materials, Rowland reports a savings of almost 10 percent per can. "When you consider the number of cans we run and do the numbers, the system pays for itself rather quickly," says José Alberto.

Both José Alberto and John Paul point out that converting from lithographed cans to shrink-labeled cans also provides the company with greater marketing and sales opportunities to further add to its bottom line.

"With lithographed cans, you would have to insert a coupon directly into the coffee. That is something we and our customers did not want to see," says José Alberto. "With the new system, all we need to do is change labels for special promotions that we want to run, like at Christmas time. Coupons are also very easy to add to the labeled cans. This was a major attraction, a marketing tool for us."

With the conversion to the labeling system, José Alberto is quite optimistic about the future success of Rowland Coffee Roasters. He also believes that, even when the economy is in a downswing, people still want their coffee and that their acceptance of and demand for stronger coffee remains on the rise.

José Alberto is also thrilled that the future of Rowland will continue in the hands of a third generation of Souto's. Because at Rowland Coffee Roasters, coffee is truly a family tradition.

More information is available:

Labeling systems: B&H Labeling Systems, 209/537-5785. Circle No. 201.

Film labels: ROI Technologies, 410/576-1111. Circle No. 202.

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