Heritage Bag Keeps Growing With Support From Gloucester Engineering

Heritage Bag, one of the largest can liner manufacturers in North America, is a second generation, privately owned business headquartered just outside of Dallas, TX.  With over 100 extrusion lines spread between six strategically located plants around the United States, in Utah, California, Ohio, Georgia, New Jersey, and Texas, Heritage is the recognized industry leader. Recently, they began construction on a new facility in Roanoke, TX, which will replace its presently outgrown headquarters. The new building will be much more efficient as it will house both high-efficiency manufacturing plant as well as the new corporate center in one custom-built 330,000 square foot building.

“Our new plant is really going to be a ‘Grand Experiment’ for us,” says Cray Quinn, VP of Corporate Facilities and Major Projects at Heritage Bag. “We’ll use this state-of-the-art facility to test new methods and technologies that will test the limits of what we can do. If these are successful, we’ll use it as a model for our five other plants. From material handling to labor usage, from lab testing to facility management, we envision this new headquarters as a real workplace laboratory to help make our company even better at what we do.”

Machinery Upgrades for Better Productivity

The new headquarters will hold 16 blown film lines and with those blown film lines will come bag machines from Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc. (GEC). GEC and Heritage have worked together since 1973 when Heritage purchased its first line ever from Gloucester. Since then, GEC has continued to support Heritage with blown film lines, dies, and bag machines. Most of these machines, including the original blown film line, are still fully operational and in many cases actually produce more pounds per hour today than when they were brand new.

With the new facility on the way, Heritage purchased 6 new bag machines from GEC, each equipped with the improved interface and full servo power. Not only are the new machines with servo motors more efficient and less prone to maintenance issues than the old hydraulic design, but also the new interface is easier to operate. “Sometimes we’re asking four or five people to operate 18 machines on our floor,” says Quinn. “Having a consistent, simple control system across our machines helps us train new employees faster and helps our current employees do their jobs better. That’s why over 60% of our bag machines are from Gloucester Engineering.”

With the success of the 6 new bag machines, and in an ongoing effort to increase efficiency further, Heritage had GEC retrofit some of the older models to bring them up to date.  Originally, Heritage sent in three machines to evaluate the performance and appearance of the rebuilt machines. Met with success, Heritage is sending ten more bag machines to Gloucester for rebuilding, some of which were originally built by other companies. “Gloucester is really the best in the business when it comes to aftermarket support and service,” says Quinn. “They support and improve their machines constantly, and are even willing to rebuild machines that weren’t originally theirs, regardless of the OEM. With Gloucester’s help, we eventually see all of our bag machines going to servo motors.”

Most of the retrofits have involved converting older hydraulic drives into new servo drives and providing an updated user interface and operator’s panel. “The servo motors are much more efficient and require a lot less parts” says Laurent Cros, President of GEC’s Lifetime Support Division. “They’re also much more maintenance friendly because there isn’t any hydraulic fluid. All hydraulic systems leak eventually. The servo motors take that problem out of the equation.”

All 13 of these retrofitted machines will be in Heritage’s new plant, and with its role as a model plant for the rest of the company, it is likely that the other facilities will soon follow suit and take advantage of Gloucester’s industry leading retrofitting capability.

To further strengthen ties, Pearl Technologies Inc., acquired by Gloucester in 2012, visited Heritage to discuss future sales and innovative solutions.  Pearl, known worldwide as an expert in the converting and extrusion industries, will work alongside Gloucester to help ensure Heritage upholds its reputation for high-quality products, offering blown film line enhancements from bubble to bag.

“Pearl’s offerings in extrusion and converting products are ideal for customers such as Heritage Bag” said Robert Tewksbury, VP Marketing and Sales at Pearl.  “Gloucester Engineering and Pearl are collaborating very successfully and provide value to our common customers by allowing them to produce better film, faster.”

A Strong and Growing Business

As a company, Heritage believes the US resin market will eventually trend in a positive direction for domestic converters. Polyethylene production costs are very low in the US when compared to many other regions.  This is due to the increased supply of domestically produced natural gas liquids which should create an advantage in the long-term for the US plastics industry. “If the US resin production cost advantage continues as expected and new resin production capacity comes on line as expected, then we can foresee an advantage for US converters which could create international growth for our products,” says Quinn. “It would be a real 180 from our position of the last 20 years.  Instead of battling against low cost imported bags, there seems to be an increasing possibility that we could not only defend our domestic markets but perhaps even develop some export business.”

In addition to the physical changes they plan to make to the Texas plant, Heritage also will take on more compostable and recycled bag projects. “Compostable is a popular, high growth area for us,” says Quinn. “As the market matures, we look forward to the price of these unique raw materials coming down.  That will facilitate more growth.  Our compostable BIOTUF® can liners meet ASTM D6400 which, for industrial composting, is defined as 84 days as reasonable for fragmentation of the product, and 180 days for complete mineralization and break down in a properly managed composting facility. “Completely break down” is defined as greater than 90%. Over the last 10 years the demand for this has grown but its complexity makes it challenging to do on a large-scale. We do it as well as anyone in the industry and foresee the new plant taking on a lot of projects in that field.”

Due in part to its strong product quality and high-end customer service, and partly because of its primary market, business at Heritage remained strong even through the recent recession. The company has a strong customer base – some of which have been Heritage customers for over 30 years – that has a constant, high demand for their products.

Recently, many plastic bag producers have seen a rise in controversy over their products, with plastic bag bans propagating across the country. However, unlike the negative public image that gets associated with single-use grocery bags, there is no sign of push-back on trash bags from the public. “There’s no real alternative out there in the marketplace,” says Quinn. “People need to get rid of their trash, and a strong plastic bag is the most effective way to do that. While we don’t see the plastic garbage bag going away anytime soon, we have stayed on top of the trends for compostable and recycled plastic bags to give our customers all the options they need.”

“We have worked with Heritage Bag since they started up for a reason,” says Carl Johnson, President of GEC’s OEM Division.  “They have good people here and a great business model. They’re successful because of their commitment to staying at the forefront of the industry. They push themselves to stay at the cutting edge and, because we see ourselves in the same mold, we value that trait in any of our customers.”

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Collaborative Research Meeting Featuring….

University of Massachusetts – Lowell Hosts Collaborative Research Meeting Featuring Dow Chemical Company, US Army Natick Laboratories, and Gloucester Engineering

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The University of Massachusetts – Lowell hosted a seminar, billed as a collaborative research meeting between Dow Chemical Company, the US Army’s Natick Laboratories, UMass Lowell’s own Department of Plastics Engineering, and Gloucester Engineering Co., Inc. (GEC). The meeting was an all day event with seven different presentations, tours of the UMass Lowell testing laboratories and research and development centers, and a collaborative research discussion session.

The purpose of the meeting was for UMass Lowell to propose a collaboration with Dow for forging future R&D and business developments. GEC and Natick Labs were invited to demonstrate how and why they had supported and collaborated with UMass Lowell in the past and to discuss the benefits they have reaped from it. All three companies have alumni from the university’s Department of Plastics Engineering in their employ, highlighting the added benefit of Alumni Association networking.

The event was bookended by presentations by Dow first, and Gloucester Engineering and Pearl Technologies last. Six professors from UMass Lowell’s Department of Plastics Engineering gave presentations on extrusion processes, multivariate control methods, uses for bio-based polymers for packaging applications, and on their unique technologies at their site that distinguish them as a premier collaborative partner.

The lead presentation, given by Jill M. Martin, Senior Development Scientist at Dow, gave a brief overview of the company and how it has collaborated with other companies and colleges to “impact the broader plastics industry.” Martin also discussed the opening of Dow’s “Pack Studios,” a new group of facilities designed to provide collaborative opportunities through new and innovative means.

IMAG1606As part of the seminar, Dow ran their AGILITY™ 1021 Performance LDPE as a demonstration on a fully functional GEC blown film line complete with various Pearl Technologies auxiliaries, including a new bubble guide to stabilize and center the bubble, as well as side guides to keep the bubble centered in the frame before going into the nip rolls. The new Pearl Technologies systems were donated and installed with the goal to demonstrate to UMass Lowell students how productivity on a blown film line can be substantially improved with the addition of this type of auxiliary equipment.

“We are incredibly proud of our relationship with UMass Lowell and their first rate Department of Plastics Engineering,” said Carl Johnson, President of Gloucester Engineering. “Donating one of our blown film systems to their program to help students get real world, hands-on experience, as well as provide us with data, was an easy decision for us. The seminar itself went extremely well, and we were happy to be a part of such an informative, successful event. Everyone involved had a great experience.”

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Gloucester Engineering Offers Extrusion Solutions

Extrusion Solutions: From feed to finish, Gloucester Engineering keeps customers covered

In today’s ever-changing environment, it’s hard to stay ahead without paying a premium.  To combat those steep prices, Gloucester Engineering Co. (GEC) provides rebuilding and retrofitting alternatives.  Rebuilding is cost-effective for customers who have machines in comparable condition, saving tens of thousands of dollars compared to investing in new.

GEC can increase productivity and film quality by restoring dies to original OEM specs.   Dies purge and transition faster after rebuilding, as well as produce less waste as changeover are faster.  Refurbished dies also require less frequent cleaning.

Gloucester Engineering Bag Machine Rebuild

Gloucester Engineering can take a used bottom-seal bag machine of any age, and from any OEM, and upgrade, retrofit, and re-manufacture it with the latest servo drive and control package.  Rebuilding an old bag machine increases line performance, productivity and quality, as well as limits downtime by making it cleaner, safer, quieter, faster, and more accurate, all for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a brand new model.

“Our bag machine rebuilds have always been a popular service that we’ve offered here at Gloucester Engineering,” said Laurent Cros, President of GEC’s Lifetime Support Division.

Alongside dies and bag machines, Gloucester Engineering can also retrofit extruders, controls, and gearboxes, among many other things.

When buying a Gloucester rebuild, customers get full-service from start to finish.  GEC goes that extra mile to ensure the unit looks better than before.  Furthermore, Gloucester offers Lifetime Support.  If something ever arises, Gloucester promises to be there to support its customers with the technical expertise people come to expect.

To learn more about Gloucester and what it can do, visit Gloucester at www.GloucesterEngineering.com, call +1 866-585-4673, or email sales@gecextrusion.com.

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Gloucester Engineering Builds Business Integrity with New Hires

Gloucester Engineering Builds Business Integrity with New Hires

Within the past few months, Gloucester Engineering Co., Inc. (GEC) has hired four new employees.  In efforts to strengthen the company, GEC welcomes James Allick, Jeffrey Cao, Chris Carter, and Keegan Ross.

James Allick joined in February as the company’s Purchasing/Logistics Manager.  He comes to Gloucester with a wealth of knowledge regarding mergers and acquisitions, as well as 3PL logistics, manufacturing and operations metrics and management.  Prior to Gloucester, he worked for many venture capital, private equity and investment banking companies in New England.  James graduated from Clark University and Northeastern University with a BS in Economics and a BS in Business Management, respectively.

Jeffrey Cao comes to GEC with a Ph. D in Electronic Materials and a minor in Digital Signal Processing from MIT.  Jeffrey holds a patent to his name, as well as publications related to EFG (Edge-Defined Film-Fed Growth) crystal growth.  Jeffrey’s expertise in advanced controls and system integration and software engineering earned him a position with Gloucester at the end of March as Senior Software Control Engineer.

Chris Carter has 25 years of experience in quality management.  He specializes in tight tolerance machined and fabricated components for the Aerospace, Automotive and Renewable Energy industries.  The last quality position Chris held was Vice President of Quality for Americarb, a carbon and graphite supplier located in Ashland, Ohio.  Chris joined Gloucester in April as the Director of Quality.

Keegan Ross returned to the company after a 4-month work experience he started in the fall.  Now officially a part of Gloucester, Keegan serves as Customer Support Coordinator.  Graduating from Fort Valley State University with a BS in Mathematics and Georgia Teach with a BS in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Keegan has the knowledge that Gloucester looks for.  His years prior to GEC honed his technical, management, and coordinating skills.

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1000+ Days Accident-free at Gloucester Engineering

1000+ Days Accident-free at Gloucester Engineering

Gloucester Engineering has exciting news to share; we’ve just surpassed 1000 days of accident-free operation at our Dory Road facility!  In 2011, GEC underwent an ownership and management change that, among many initiatives, focused first and foremost on employee safety.  Prior to Blue Wolf’s involvement, the company was noted for having bi-weekly incidents that ranged in severity.  Today, this isn’t the case.

“This length of safety performance has never happened at Gloucester Engineering,” shares Laurent Cros, VP of Aftermarket and Service Operations.  He continues with, “This achievement talks to the professionalism of the union and the relationship between Blue Wolf and Gloucester’s management.”

Nearly all of Gloucester’s union works have been with the company for over ten years, which speaks to their experience and understanding of the shop floor.  Lloyd Rothaus, VP of Operations, shares, “Our workers have done this for a long time.  It just goes to show the experience level here and that the commitment of the workforce is geared toward safety objectives.”

Measures have been taken at Gloucester Engineering to ensure employee safety.  Every procedure and change goes through a safety analysis.  For starters, shoes and safety glasses are provided to all employees and visitors who enter the manufacturing floor, should they not already have them.  Furthermore, workers are constantly preventing potential hazards by living 5S (a lean method to organize and maintain the workplace) and keeping their work areas and floor neat and tidy.

In the last two years, safety has been a primary focus.  The management team at Gloucester encourages workers to actively engage in safe practices.  “Every meeting starts with the safety record,” comments Cros.

Weekly audits and safety walk-through keep everyone involved, helping prevent incidents.  “Topical cuts are a big deal to us so we wanted to focus our management on stopping that.  We have weekly management safety meetings and monthly meetings to discuss safety with our workers,” explains Bill Maki, Shop Floor Superintendent.  At Gloucester Engineering, employee well-being is a top priority.

“I could not be more pleased or impressed with the achievements and performance of our colleagues and workers regarding safety,” Carl Johnson, President, proudly states.  “This is a complex manufacturing environment with machines, tools, heavy equipment, and moving parts, all of which present myriad safety challenges.  This is truly a remarkable achievement, a world-class performance.”  Grinning from ear to ear, he shares, “And none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the engagement and efforts of everyone.  We’re a team here at GEC and we all do our best to make sure we’re all safe.”

As Johnson pointed out, Gloucester Engineering is a manufacturing company that specializes in making machines for the blown film and plastics industries.  Safety is not a given at GEC as it’s not uncommon to have the assembly team manipulating machines weighing over 50-tons during the various stages of assembly on the floor or having the machinists position multi-ton pieces into and out of the machining centers all day long.   Every company faces challenges in trying to balance safety vs. productivity and we at Gloucester Engineering continue to strive for excellence in employee safety.  Our next goal, three years without a lost time accident, is only 85 days away!

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