April 23, 2010
by Andrew Joseph, Features Editor
Product rejects and defects may be a regrettable but unavoidable part of life in today fast-paced, fiercely-competitive CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry, but thanks to companies like Repack Canada Inc., there is no reason for poor-quality or inadequate packaging to keep otherwise perfectly decent products from reaching their rightful shelf-space.
Marketing itself as a ‘disaster restoration services’ provider, the Mississauga, Ont.-based company has carved itself a lucrative niche in the briskly-growing third-party manufacturing and co-packing marketplace by, according to president Carol Levy, enhancing its standard contract packaging capabilities with uncanny eagerness to take on the odd repacking jobs that either no one else wants to do or has even thought of doing.
“We differentiate ourselves from other contract packagers by our involvement with various product reclamation projects for clients throughout Canada and the U.S.,” Levy told Canadian Packaging during a recent visit to one of the company’s two 10,000-square-foot facilities located about a 30-minute drive west of Toronto, with the other nearby building housing Repack’s graphic design sister-company The Freelance Portfolio Inc., which Levy founded 28 years ago.
Levy says a lot of such ‘packaging reclamation’ work revolves around products with faulty or unreadable UPC codes, ruined labels, and products entering the Canadian market either without the proper bilingual packaging in place, or missing key labeling requirements such as the Nutrition Facts table, to use an example.
“For many of our customers, Repack is their last line of defense before their next and final destination—the store-floor,” says Levy, stressing the importance of having the vast graphic arts and merchandising display expertise of The Freelance Portfolio staff at her disposal to meet even the most challenging customer demands and deadlines.
“Repack and Freelance Portfolio work closely together to ensure that our deadlines are always met, that there is no product waste, and that our customers are more than satisfied,” she says, praising the two companies’ shared ‘whatever it takes’ work ethic to instill disciplined attention to detail, responsiveness and personal attention among staff to resolve even the most daunting tasks.
“A client of ours recently came to us with thousands of a canned product that could not be scanned at the store, causing great inconvenience all around,” Levy recalls. “But rather than destroy the product and lose the order, the customer sent the cans to us, and we proceeded to remove the labels and replace them all by hand with working UPC codes—doing it quickly enough to ensure that the product was back on the store-shelves in no time.”
While the company’s business premise sounds simple enough, it certainly wasn’t all easy going for Levy right off the bat when she purchased Repack back in 2000.
In fact, the company lost money for the first two years while operating at its old and cramped 4,500-square-foot building in nearby Milton, with not even enough elbow room to accommodate all the workers needed to execute some of the larger customer orders.
Once the lease ran out, Levy relates, the company swiftly moved on to its current, much larger Mississauga location that has also allowed Repack to tap into a higher-skilled local workforce pool.
Today employing 20 people to handle about 300 different projects per year, the two companies generate combined annual revenues in the $2.5-million range, Levy reveals, crediting the new location and better in-house talent for keeping the business growing even during the worst of the recent economic recession.
“There is nothing worse than having a customer come to you with work and having to turn them down when you realize you are limited by the size of your own operation,” states Levy, “which is why I have vowed to never let the operation’s size limit my business opportunities.”
Equipped with a state-of-the-art, motion sensor-controlled security system, temperature monitoring devices, and top-of-the-line air-conditioning, pest control and sprinkler systems, the new Repack facility boasts all the pre-requisite infrastructure and certifications to reassure the company’s existing and prospective clients about its professional pedigree, including the Excise Warehouse license, a Spirit license, a Health Canada Establishment license, and a Health Canada Precursor A license for the handling of precursor products as outlined by Health Canada.
Says Levy: “When people hear that we now have air-conditioning, some of them may immediately assume it’s merely us pampering the staff, and while that is certainly an added bonus, the air-conditioning in our production area was a calculated addition that has allowed us to expand our range of work.
“Take chocolates, for example. We can now package chocolates in the summer without the fear of them melting, so it has had a very positive effect on the types of jobs that we could take on,” states Levy.
HOT AND COLD
“Also, the storage of OTC (over-the-counter) pharmaceutical products is limited to a certain range of temperature. Too hot or too cold could have an adverse effect, so we have put in place certain fail-safes that allow us to work with them safely and securely,” she says, adding that precise temperature monitoring is just one of 39 key modus operandi principles outlined in the company’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) manual.
This explicit commitment to optimal customer service and satisfaction has certainly not gone unnoticed among the company’s steadily growing customer base, Levy relates, citing the likes of Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, Dynamic Food, C.B. Powell, TFB & Associates, Calkins & Burke, and the Canadian Fishing Company as some of Repack’s loyal repeat clients.
But it’s not all just about fixing the packaging that didn’t come off right the first time around, says Levy, pointing out that developing h
igh-impact promotional and display packaging is also becoming a key growth opportunity for both Repack and The Freelance Portfolio.
“We also offer ways for companies to create innovative promotions for their products by combining them with other products—we’ve packaged hockey pucks with tins of Gold Seal tuna; added a weekly pill-box to bottles of Centrum Select vitamins; and even added keychains holding real miniature Tabasco bottles to the boxes of regular-sized Tabasco sauce,” she adds.
Wyeth Consumer Healthcare promotions manager Glen Batista concurs.
“Repack Canada has done some challenging yeoman’s work on our behalf for the past 10 years by continually providing us with fast and top-notch service in creating in-store displays—flip-trays, sidewinder floor-stands, mini-wing displays and pallet displays—or helping us create effective promotions with special ‘gift-with-purchase’ items,” Batista relates.
“As long as I’ve been dealing with Carol, I know that when we call on her with our impossible deadlines, she will always come through for us.”
Cara Loncar, a senior sales and marketing professional in the Canadian food industry who has worked with Repack on numerous occasions, adds: “Their ‘whatever it takes’ attitude is invaluable in the fast-paced food industry, where any issues need to be resolved quickly and efficiently, and I also appreciate their personal touch.
“I know them, they know me, and I can always trust them to do an excellent job,” states Loncar.
“They have a creative collaborative approach, they have a lot of experience, and they are always service-oriented and cost-efficient, which is another very important criteria these days.”
Over the years, Loncar relates, Repack has provided her with many valuable services—including labeling and relabeling, multipacking, sample-packing and inserting, etc.—for a wide variety of popular food products ranging from Neilson ice-teas and hot-chocolates to Stagg Foods chili, Ridgways teas, Angostura bitters, Patak Indian foods and Swanson Frozen Foods packages.
THE RIGHT STUFF
While Levy credits the bulk of the company’s success to the talent and dedication of her employees, she also stresses the importance of having the right packaging systems and equipment in place for her staff to do the best job they can—especially when it comes to labeling.
Although customers often supply Repack with pre-printed replacement product labels, Repack also frequently made new labels from scratch with its own Z4Mplus model printer, manufactured by Zebra Technologies Corporation, which was recently replaced with the newer ZM400 model.
To assist the labeling process, Repack also employs a 43s small-character inkjet printer manufactured by Videojet Technologies Inc.—a cost-efficient, noncontact industrial coder that clearly prints up to three lines of text, barcodes and logos at speeds up to 800 feet per minute, in character heights of two to 10 mm.
“It’s been a pretty good printer for us—easy to use and, above all, very low-maintenance,” says Levy, complimenting the coder’s automatic printhead-cleaning during startup and shutdown; user-friendly operation; generous memory capacity to accommodate up to 25 programs; and handy versatility in terms of usable inks and substrates.
Other key packaging equipment employed at the Repack facility includes:
• a model MB34 flowwrapper and model 534T heat-tunnel from Damark Shrink Packaging Systems;
• three Damark SMC1620 semi-automatic L-bar sealers and two Damark SMC 16 shrink-tunnels;
• a model LSA-504C automatic L-bar sealer from Benison & Co., integrated with a six-foot RBS model ACT 2010 shrink-tunnel;
• a 3M-Matic 200A case-sealing system from 3M Company;
• a high-resolution model C1000 case-coder from Domino Printing Solutions;
• a Videojet Excel series small-character inkjet printer;
• a Citronix model ci1000 continuous inkjet printer;
• an Artel high-speed wraparound labeler;
• a Custtech conveying system;
• a conveying system from Baldor Electric Company;
• a model LP-2100 semi-automatic, low-profile turntable spiral stretchwrapper from Cousins Packaging Inc.
According to Loncar, Repack’s unique combination of talented and dedicated staff and high-performance packaging equipment puts the company in a fairly select group of contract packaging providers despite its relatively small size.
“After more than 20 years in the business, I am honestly not aware of any other company that offers the same range of services as Repack Canada,” Loncar sums up.
“I always feel that I am in a truly professional relationship with them, and I would never hesitate to recommend Repack’s services to others.”