For a plant that is less than three years old, UK-based Cepac is making its mark in the converting industry. Not only is it gaining the respect and awe of competitors, but it also is breaking world box making records. The managers admit that they are taking packaging where it hadn't been before, due to the employees who don't accept any limitations.
Managing Director Frank Stainton and Technical Services Manager Brian Hardy had worked together long before Cepac opened. Both started their 30-year careers together at Hygena Packaging (Hypac) Scunthorpe, a subsidiary of MFI.
The Cepac plant is owned by HSA, a family-run business based in the Republic of Yemen. HSA has established factories in the Middle East, the Far East and Europe, primarily focused on the food industry. Its corrugated manufacturing started in Yemen to provide packaging for the group's food business. The group looked to expand its corrugated business into the UK after running successful plants in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt for 25 years.
Cepac was custom-built on a 225,000-square-foot site near Rotherham, England in 1999. In November 1999, the building was not yet completed but board was already running on its new heavy-duty 110-inch wide BHS corrugator. The company officially opened in January 2000.
The center of Cepac's operations is its 110-inch BHS corrugator, the widest and fastest corrugator in Britain. Automated conveyors then send the board to the appropriate converting machine - an Emba 245 Quick Set flexo folder-gluer, an Emba 170 folder-gluer and a United Container Machinery Flexus rotary diecutter. Since Cepac's specialty is just-in-time orders, its warehouse space is limited. Orders usually go from the strapping units directly to the truck.
The plant produces B-, C- and E-flutes and B/C, B/B and E/B doublewall. The company may run F- and G-flute, as long as "there's money in it," Stainton says. "We're a mercenary site," he admits. The plant limits its tonnage to only what is profitable. "At the end of the day, we're still running a business and we must stay on top," he says.
With the HSA group's background in the food industry, it comes as no surprise that Cepac's key customers are food companies. Since its target market is food, the plant is dedicated to maintaining its high hygiene standards. The plant has achieved the British Retail Consortium and ISO 9002 accreditation.
The plant employees all have to wear clean overalls, hair nets and they may not wear jewelry while working. The facility has an Impact dust collector to ensure the plant is dust free at all times. Also, each piece of machinery has its own dust extraction system to keep the plant as clean as possible.
Ability is Not Everything
Many of Cepac's 128 employees are local men and women but the crew leaders have industry experience. Stainton and Hardy look for the right attitude in their employees, knowing the ability to run machinery can be taught. The plant floor employees have been trained on-site by the suppliers and at the local technical college.
When Cepac's Kiwiplan computer system was completed, the shift managers and crew leaders trained at the college to use the test system. This was before the plant was even finished, so once production started, the employees were already experts on running the system to its best advantage.
A Team Effort
As a result of the extensive pre-operational planning, the plant was pre-disposed to break records. The machine operators immediately set their sights high. They read that a world record was set on an Emba folder-gluer similar to theirs, and they knew they could do better.
"When they were all ready to go, all directors and management were banned from going within 30 yards of the machine," Stainton says. "We let them do what they thought best, and they beat the record at their first attempt."
Hardy says the crews see everything as a challenge - not only to challenge competitors but also themselves. The plant trains everyone to run the corrugator, diecutters and flexo folder-gluers so everyone has the opportunity to break world records, management says. "Success breeds success," Hardy says.
"We're training them the modern way - that is to run very fast," Stainton says. He believes that training is what makes a successful facility. Cepac takes employees in as apprentices and in addition to the on-site training seminars, the company also pays for them to attend college. The company fosters a team attitude, which has kept absenteeism to a minimum, something unusual for a factory job.
Coraweb is Cepac's specialty lightweight, recyclable board. "It gives people a competitive edge," Stainton says. "Customers then don't have to hide the price of the box within the price of the product."
"Our emphasis on-site is health, comfort, safety, welfare, and then the machines do the work," Stainton says. "You won't see anyone slaving away or breaking a sweat. They are here to use their brains. To make quality at high speeds - if we can't get the quality, we shut down the machines and rebuild them."
The plant has rebuilt every machine on-site. "We're rebuilding to make them faster at higher and higher quality levels," he says. "It really is a simple system - it revolves around the people. The technology does the work. All management has to do is wait hand and foot on the people - get them all in the pension fund and have private healthcare among other things."
It may be simple to Stainton and his crew but the company must be doing something right to repeatedly break world records.
Production on Cepac's Emba folder-gluers has been so great that within several weeks of the plant opening, key operators had qualified for the Emba Century Club. The Century Club is for crews who convert 100,000 cases in eight hours, complete 100 orders in a day or convert more than 50,000 square meters of board in eight hours.
The crew for the Emba 245 Quick Set flexo folder-gluer converted 70,083 square meters in that time frame and the Emba 170 folder-gluer crew made 220,224 cases in eight hours.
But that commendation isn't the only recognition Cepac has received for running its Emba machinery. The plant has set seven new world records on its machinery - not bad for a plant that is less than three years old. The latest production record, achieved last October, is for producing 124,202 cases in eight and a half hours on the 245. That record compliments the performance of 235,775 cases in 10 hours on its 170, with 191,250 cases in the first eight hours.
One way to ensure the highest quality levels are met is the weekly bonus program. The employees actually pay for the waste that is created. If a product isn't at the highest quality, it doesn't get shipped. Overtime comes out of the weekly bonus also. "Making boxes is pretty easy," Stainton says. "Making money is the hard part."
Cepac caters only to the UK market and specializes in just-in-time orders. The plant then keeps very little paper stock and finished goods stock. The paper can actually be shipped in and then leave later the same day as boxes. "Our warehouses are constantly on the road," Stainton says.
The focal point of Cepac's technology is its BHS corrugator. When the company was in the initial planning phase, managers decided to install the widest and fastest corrugator in Britain. The complete BHS heavy-duty 2.8-meter (110-inch)-wide corrugator goes up to speeds of 400 meters (1,312 feet) a minute.
The plant has a fully-equipped design department and laboratory, with the design and samplemaking equipment from Barco Artios. The ArtiosCAD software and Kongsberg CM1930 PremiumLine samplemaking table is used by Cepac's two structural designers and two graphic designers in addition to its design manager.
The integrated computer system from Kiwiplan schedules the corrugated and converting machinery. The system also features unit load tracking, a finished goods inventory system. Since time equals money, the converting equipment is completely automated and features Serco Feedmasters and semi-automatic palletizers for high speed production. Serco also supplied the plant's starch kitchen.
The converting equipment includes a United Container Machinery Flexus rotary diecutter and uses vacuum transport, dryers and a servo drive. The 245 Quick Set flexo folder-gluer and the 170 folder-gluer from Emba Machinery AB join the Flexus. A second Emba 170 is going to be installed in November.
The Signode bundle strapping units accompany the pallet compression strappers and Octopus stretchwrap unit.
The waste board is removed by an Impact extraction unit to an American Baler Co. baler.
A Simple Idea
"The idea is that simple," Stainton says. "We buy good quality paper. We make board that is always flat. If the board is flat, it'll run through the machines, which are all automatic, fast. It just couldn't be simpler."
"The business should be ours anyway," Stainton says. "Our quality is better. We are more cost-effective than anyone else. So why would you buy from anyone else besides Cepac?"