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Robust inks pack a punch

In the world of candy sales, looks do matter. Says Ed Gerdow, corporate procurement director for Alsip, IL-based American Licorice Co., "Some studies show that 70 percent of candy sales are impulse buys. Therefore, it's very important for candy packaging to have a signature look, and to jump off the shelf, time-after-time." As color is king in American Licorice's packaging strategy, the company relies heavily on its film converter, Kendall Packaging of Pittsburg, KS, to provide consistent, high-quality printing for its peg bags and tray-packs of licorice products.

To achieve vibrant, eye-catching results for American Licorice, as well as for its other customers, which include packagers of products such as pasta, cheese, seafood and snacks, in September, '01, Kendall entered into a partnership with Flint Ink Packaging Div. The alliance provides Kendall with new and more robust ink systems, as well as with new ink-blending technology that has improved its productivity and flexibility, and has resulted in significant cost savings.

Time to grow
Kendall Packaging Corp., an independently owned and operated company with manufacturing facilities in Jefferson, WI, in addition to its 35,000-sq-ft Pittsburg plant, has been serving the flexible packaging market since 1948. Its specialty is barrier structures for the food industry, and its offerings include rollstock, premade bags, standup pouches and shaped pouches, in striped, metallized film and high-performance barrier film.

A 24/7 enterprise, Kendall's Pittsburg plant can surface- and reverse-print on a range of films, including polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and metallized and nylon films. Printing is done on two flexo presses: a six-color central-impression (CI) Zodiac 136 from Padane (now Schiavi) and a PCMC (Paper Converting Machine Corp.) Vision II eight-color CI press, which operates at up to 800 ft/min.

In early '01, hoping to reduce its ink inventory, Kendall reviewed proposals from a number of ink suppliers. Relates Johnny Warrick, production manager of the Pittsburg site, "Business was good, but we wanted to it to be better. When Flint Ink said it could help us increase our efficiency and be more profitable, we took a closer look at them."

After six months of audits, tests and trial runs by Flint, Kendall signed on with the ink supplier. "We saw more of Flint Ink in that six months then we ever saw of any of our suppliers in all the years we worked with them," recalls Warrick. "The service was excellent, and it's been that way ever since."

First things first
Audits by Flint of Kendall's printing processes revealed that the company could immediately improve printing efficiencies and reduce costs by streamlining its ink systems. "We switched to three very robust ink systems?Chromabond™ CMYK, a proprietary white for lamination, and Polygloss™," says Warrick. "They were less expensive than the previous ink systems, and the performance is better," he adds.

Kendall's new state-of-the art ink-dispensing system, top, allows the converter to blend inks in-house and track all ink inventory quickly and easily. A new eight-color press, middle, prints film webs at up to 800 ft/min. Many of Kendall's customers, such as American Licorice, require laminated film structures, bottom.

Chromabond, described as a "workhorse system" by Todd Brohm, technical sales representative for Flint, is a complete process ink set that also includes all the bases used to make "any color in the PMS [Pantone Matching Systemw] book." Used for reverse-printing applications, Chromabond "will run day-in and day-out and will stay fairly clean on the press," Brohm says.

According to Warrick, the new Chromabond process ink system has extended the length of Kendall's four-color runs. "The previous system's colors didn't hold up, and we had to interrupt the run, shut the press down, and clean the plates," he recalls. "The Chromabond inks run longer and maintain color strength and gloss." Warrick notes that the change has also improved solid and vignette print jobs, which are in greater demand from end users.

Polygloss, a high-gloss ink system used for surface printing, offers good color strength, scratch-resistance and gloss, says Brohm, and is available in CMYK, as well as in a full line of base colors. The proprietary white ink used by Kendall was formulated by Flint according to the structure of the film on which it was to be applied, as well as to the converter's specific opacity requirements. Flint manufactures the ink in large quantities and ships it to Kendall as-needed.

Once the new ink systems were identified, Flint worked with Kendall to create a new fingerprint for the PCMC Vision II press. Fingerprinting, explains Brohm, involves the plate supplier and the separator, and uses samples to determine the optimal print quality the press will provide in relation to the inks and plates being used. Presently, notes Warrick, fingerprinting is done on a regular basis to maintain the current high level of print quality.

Ink blending reduces inventory
Along with refining its ink products, Kendall was also encouraged by Flint to install a new state-of-the-art ink-dispensing system. Manufactured by Southeastern Process Equipment & Controls, Inc. (SPEC), the ink-dispensing system provided to Kendall by Flint not only precisely blends inks for excellent shade repeatability from batch-to-batch, but it also serves as a complete ink-management system.

As Brohm explains, the dispenser reduces Kendall's ink inventory in several ways. Through bar-coded labels applied to ink cans after blending and dispensing, Kendall can easily track all ink inventory. Labels include all batch information, including color number, job number, weight and ingredients. When leftover ink comes back after a job is finished, the can is delivered to a returned ink station where it is weighed and the label is scanned, and the can is then placed in inventory. Later, if a job arises that requires the same ink formulation, the computer will alert the operator that a quantity of the ink is available in inventory, and will identify in which aisle the ink is stored.

This process also enables Kendall to rework its leftover ink. "Let's say they have a customer that they've been blending ink for for six months, and all of a sudden, they don't have that customer anymore, but they're still stuck with all these special colors the customer had requested," says Brohm. "The system allows Kendall to take that ink and work it off into other colors that are usable for current customers' jobs.

"That's where you really save a lot of money, because if you have ink just sitting on a shelf, that's money being wasted."

To dispense an ink, the operator selects the desired ink color using the system's Windows-based PC, and the computer works from a recipe provided by Flint. The system then blends the correct amount of each base color, and dispenses it into a bucket. Other capabilities of the system include formula storage, job costing and production reporting, among others.

Once installed at Kendall, the system was running at full capacity after just three days of training. Within four months, Kendall says it reduced its rework inventory by 25 percent, or 4,817 lb, and saved nearly $15,000 in ink costs. At present, Warrick says the company is down to about a 2-percent inventory of previous ink systems. Mike Southern, ink room manager, says that now that he produces only the ink needed for a job, he has eliminated color inconsistency and has reduced downtime. "There are no variations from batch-to-batch. We get excellent repeatability," he states. Southern also says he has gained about two and a half hours a day since he no longer blends ink by hand.

Press approvals are a snap
In application, Kendall's new ink solution is helping the company consistently create the signature packaging for customers such as American Licorice that draws consumers in. While American Licorice may not be a household name, its candy products have been around since 1914 and have garnered quite a devoted following. The company's candies include RedVines red licorice, popular among moviegoers, Snaps black licorice bites with pastel coatings?"a Midwest favorite," says Ed Gerdow?and mouth-puckering Sour Punche candies.

Kendall offers its customers slitting/rewinding capabilities for printed rollstock.

In '99, American Licorice discontinued production of its Snaps line, and was surprised by the outcry from devotees of the black licorice bites. "People who are fans of the candy take their Snaps pretty seriously," admits Gerdow. In mid-'02, the classic candy was relaunched in a new flexible bag from Kendall that practically pops off the peg.

Packaging for Snaps consists of a 5.5-oz hanging bag made from 100-ga polypropylene laminated to a 100-ga PP, with film supplied by AmTopp and Trespaphan. Reverse-printed on Kendall's PCMC Vision II press, film is laminated on a Schiavi Echo Jr. laminator and is supplied as rollstock to American Licorice.

Crucial in achieving the look desired by American Licorice, graphics for the Snaps bag include a flood of the pastel-colored candies, in green, pink, white and orange, against a bright red background. "There's a lot happening on that package," says Gerdow. "The colors have some subtle differences, and if you don't handle them correctly, everything will look the same."

During press approvals at Kendall, Gerdow recalls that the converter's ability to formulate inks on-site greatly facilitated the process. "It's much easier for them to make subtle adjustments," he says, "because they can blend the inks in-house and can make smaller batches.

"I think the Flint Ink system helped tremendously in the press approval process," he adds.

In addition to Snaps, Kendall also provides packaging for American Licorice's Sour Punch Straws and Sour Punch Bites. The sweet licorice candies, dusted with a sprinkling of sour powder, are offered in 4.5-oz peg bags, made from the same PP/PP lamination, printed in vibrant colors of green, blue and pink, for Apple, Blue Raspberry and Strawberry varieties, respectively. Seven flavors of Sour Punch Straws, in a laydown tray for count goods, are packaged in surface-printed OPP from Trespaphan.

A strong partnership
Over the last year, Kendall has nearly doubled its production, and, according to Warrick, the company's change in ink systems "has played a big part in that growth." "It's kind of funny," he remarks, "because a lot of the things Flint has helped us with have actually reduced our ink usage. But our business is growing, and that benefits them, as well."

Kendall is in business for the long haul and expects success from itself and from its new partner. "We want a long-term relationship with Flint Ink," says Warrick. "So far, Flint has provided excellent support for new technologies, ink systems and training, as well as new business."

More information is available:

Ink systems, blending technology: Flint Ink Packaging Div., 734/622-6000. Circle No. 281.

Film converting: Kendall Packaging Corp., 262/404-1200. Circle No. 282.

Flexo press, laminator: Schiavi spa, Bobst Group USA, Inc., 973/226-8000. Circle No. 283.

Flexo press: Paper Converting Machine Co., 920/494-5601. Circle No. 284.

Ink blender: Southeastern Process Equipment & Controls, Inc., 704/483-1141. Circle No. 285.

Film: AmTopp® Div., Inteplast Group, Ltd., 973/994-8000. Circle No. 286.

Film: Trespaphan GmbH, +49 (0)6142-200-3224. Circle No. 287.

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