Spirit of the North
Leading corrugated packaging producer lays down a strong foundation for long-term market growth in Canada with proactive investment strategy and world-class expertise in turnkey packaging solutions
December 5, 2019
Five years may seem like a split second for a company that has been in business since 1849, but for Neenah, Wisconsin-headquartered Menasha Packaging (Menasha), its fast-approaching five-year anniversary of operating in Canada is a milestone worth celebrating.
Menasha is a strategic packaging and supply chain partner for over 1,400 of the world’s largest brands, whereby Menasha produces and distributes high-impact POP (point-of-purchase) displays, primary packaging, special packs, POS (point-of-sale) materials, as well as providing a full portfolio of customized pack-out and fulfillment products and services to its base of North American CPG and Retailer customers.
MENASHA SUCCESSFULLY INTEGRATES CANADIAN OPERATIONS
In 2015, Menasha entered the Canadian market through strategic acquisitions and the integration of long-established Canadian corrugated packaging stalwarts Pearce Wellwood and Portable Packaging. Menasha Packaging – Canada has quickly become a thriving strategic business asset for this proud, privately-owned packaging and fulfillment services leader that employs over 6,600 people in 110 manufacturing and fulfillment service facilities across North America.
For Michael Riegsecker, president of Menasha, the company’s history of success, and success in integrating the Canadian business operations, is directly related to the people on the Menasha team.
“We always say our competitive advantage at Menasha is our people,” Riegsecker extols.
“We have a great culture at Menasha … one focused on taking care of our customers, and taking care of each other!
“One of the greatest attributes of Pearce Wellwood, and Portable Packaging, was the people that worked in and led these businesses, as well as their respective cultures, making the fit with Menasha and the process of integration much easier.”
Menasha’s time-tested entrepreneurial culture, focused on delivering innovative solutions to real time problems their customers need solved, is at the core of their years of success.
As the retail industry evolves, you can be assured Menasha is evolving as well, to the benefit of their customers.
“Having a best-in-class operation in Canada with a similar mindset was a strategic imperative for us,” says Riegsecker.
“We had customers in the United States interested in us expanding our model into Canada. They had merchandising supply chain challenges they needed solved … and saw the efficiencies in Menasha leading these efforts. By expanding into Canada, we were able to bring a North American solution/approach, and efficiencies, to a portfolio of category-leading CPGs and retailers.”
“Five years is a significant benchmark,” Riegsecker told Canadian Packaging during a recent visit to Menasha’s Canadian headquarters, a short drive northwest of Toronto in Brampton, Ont.
“We have successfully integrated, and are growing our operations in Canada. Our customers see the value of us being here, and are looking to Menasha to manage their business in Canada.”
Adds Riegsecker: “We are committed to superior customer service and satisfaction, as well as continued material and supply chain innovation. We will continue to invest in our Canadian footprint and capabilities, and have a great team leading those efforts here for us in Canada.”
SHARING OF BEST-IN-CLASS SOLUTIONS ACROSS NORTH AMERICA
“Our team in Canada has a rich history working with CPGs and retailers in the Canadian market, and is leading our internal team in the understanding of those differences and how to best align the solutions for our customers with this criteria,” says Riegsecker.
Menasha also believes it is “mission critical” to understand their customers’ customer (the retailer), and what they are requiring in order to win.
In the United States, Menasha has spent the better part of 20 years building a footprint at key retailers with retailer dedicated data, insight, and design teams.
Menasha currently has a category center of excellence housing state of the art design assets, as well as a category data and insights team focused on helping customers win at key retailers.
They also have teams focused specifically on the Healthcare/Selfcare categories that are growing rapidly.
These teams work directly with Menasha customers in helping them win and maintain category leadership positions at the retailers they serve.
“We continue to look at how we help our customers with “retail integration” as best-in-class, and are excited to integrate this model with the nuances and expectations required to win in the Canadian retail landscape. Our goal will be to deliver the same value here for our customers, as we have in the United States for the last 20 years,” says Joanne Caines, general manager of Menasha Canada.
As general manager, Caines has responsibility for the sales and operations of the Canadian business for Menasha, including the 350 full-time employees, 600 temporary employees, one large converting site and seven pack-out and fulfillment operations in Canada.
Joanne is also a part of Riegsecker’s North American Leadership Team driving the capital investment strategies in Canada, and the sharing of best-in-class approaches between the U.S. and Canada.
“The equipment, automation, and facility investments Menasha has made in Canada have been very aggressive,” Caines says.
“It has been a key differentiator for us in the Canadian market,” she says, citing the improved speed and quality these investments are able to deliver.
SPECIALIZING IN END-TO-END MODEL PACKAGING AND SUPPLY CHAIN OPTIMIZATION
The retail landscape has changed for CPGs, and it continues to evolve rapidly, Caines explains.
“Retailers are doing a much better job of leveraging data to drive what is needed from their CPG suppliers… our customers,” says Caines.
“Product counts on a display can vary by region and retailer, and product f lavors needed on a display may vary based on regional, or store sales data. In Canada the graphics may vary based on region and language required.
“Our customers need to address all of these nuances in order to win with their customers. Our customers also need to evolve their supply chains to deliver convenience and retailer customization…and they need to be able to respond to opportunities much faster than they did in the past! The fact that we
can do this makes us a strategic extension of their supply chain. We are a one stop shop, end-to-end, customized supply chain solution provider.
“In the past, the CPG’s would have to find outside co-packers to do the specialty packaging manipulations, arrange for transportation to ship to co-packers, plan procurement of the packaging supplies and so on,” says Caines.
Now they can come straight to Menasha, which can manage all aspects of the project from design to material manufacturing, supply chain planning and pack-out, to retail distribution—delivering speed and supply chain efficiency to their projects.
“It’s all in-and-out, make-and-ship work,” Caines says, “and it accounts for about 80 per cent of what Menasha does in Canada.”
Riegsecker adds, “We have evolved from being a packaging supplier in the mid-1990s to a services provider, an end-to-end supply chain solutions provider with the agility and speed to service our customers’ needs today.
“Retail is changing so fast that our CPG customers need their packaging suppliers to adapt to the new realities of taking an order today and delivering it tomorrow, in multiple formats, in smaller quantities, and customized for each specific retail environment”.
The end-to-end process is a tightly coordinated and tightly managed process, says Caines, citing a new value-pack designed for a large food CPG that holds three large bottles of different condiments in one convenient, portable and consumer-friendly three-pack carton.
“Menasha project managed the entire effort from designing the packaging, to executing the pack out and fulfillment, to managing the volume, availability, and shipping of the base product to our facility, to warehousing and, ultimately, distribution,” Caines states.
“It is also important to note that our designers design around which machines and automation can be leveraged to ensure we are optimizing the end-to-end supply chain for our customers, while still maximizing the overall brand experience. Our design teams design not only for consumer engagement, but for total supply chain optimization!”
“Our ability to manage the entire process from the design stage through distribution makes us a more specialized operation than you typically find in what is often perceived to be a commodity business,” Caines states.
MENASHA PROJECT MANAGERS: OPTIMIZING THE SUPPLY CHAIN & IMPROVING SPEED
As national sales director Andrew Bowen highlights, some of Menasha’s larger CPG clients have in fact entire Menasha project teams working on-site alongside the customer’s packaging and supply chain teams, as well as in their distribution centers full-time, essentially outsourcing all the key packaging-related retail supply chain operations to Menasha.
Bowen says such a high level of trust is a testament to Menasha’s expertise and operational excellence.
“Our project management teams are truly integrated in to the management of our customers’ supply chains, and how we help take their brands to market,” says Bowen.
“These teams have significant expertise when it comes to planning and how to execute as efficiently as possible.”
Adds Bowen: “From managing material and pack-out schedules, to coordinating base product availability and outside creative agency timelines, they help drive speed and cost-savings for the brands we represent.”
When Menasha is supporting the front-end processes for their customers, their ability to unlock incremental savings and speed initiatives multiplies.
MENASHA CUSTOMERS SEEING IMMEDIATE VALUE IN NEW & FACILITY EXPANSION
Located just blocks away from the headquarters is the MCX Facility, Menasha Canada’s newest highly-automated site, housing 12 production lines and a large warehouse with a high-racking storage system accommodating over 5,500 different pallet positions. The 125,000-square-foot plant operates on a busy two-shift, Monday-to-Friday schedule that often requires over 250 temporary workers to join the plant’s 65 full-time employees to support peak seasons.
Assembled from scratch and started up 18 months ago, the lean and flexible MCX facility is designed to meet the JIT ( just-in-time) needs of Menasha’s customers, according to Simona Grigorof, senior operations manager of the facility.
The MCX facility is a beehive of well-organized activity that runs with clockwork precision—enabled by the latest in network planning and warehousing software platforms that Menasha has started to integrate directly with customer software systems.
Having started her Menasha career as a line leader 10 years ago soon after arriving in Canada, Grigorof offers compelling proof of the company’s commitment to engaging and motivating its workers, including the temporary staff, as well as fostering teamwork in all parts of the organization.
“I went from being a production leader to production supervisor, project manager, production planner, site manager, and now senior operations manager,” Grigorof relates.
“You hear a lot in the media about the treatment of contingent workers,” adds senior director of operations Mike Bruce: “Our people are our most valuable resource, so we do our best to look after them, especially when it comes to safety, and to offer them an attractive place to work, so that we continue to have this talented labour pool available to us.”
Menasha’s nearby 90,000-square-foot converting facility on Summerlea Road is a living validation of Menasha’s commitment to the Canadian market.
Boasting a portfolio of state-of-the-art new printing and converting equipment, the operation is a testament to what can be achieved with a lean manufacturing mindset and focus on quality and capital investments.
Led by Michel Alvarez, the 88-employee operation has recently shifted to a two-shift schedule from three shifts, according to Alvarez, while significantly boosting its daily output.
Alvarez attributes this success to the installation of new highly-automated production equipment, and more streamlined processes.
This open third shift now represents open capacity for customers looking to grow.
One of the company’s most recent capital investments at the plant was the installation of a large format folder-gluer that Alvarez calls “The Cadillac of all the folder-gluers out there.”
Manufactured by Alliance Machine Systems International, LLC of Spokane, Wash., the model J&L Mark 5 specialty folder-gluer consists of individual modules, with each performing a different manufacturing task.
The process begins with the feeder, where eight vacuum-assisted belts feed the unfolded and unglued corrugated display into the machine.
Next, the material travels into two identical folding modules for front and back folding, after which the next module applies the glue and makes any final folds, as needed, all in one pass!
At the end of the machine, the displays are automatically stacked in to neat stacks that are quickly wrapped and secured by an Orion stretchwrapper—and prepared for shipment to Menasha’s fulfillment centers, where their service teams will pack the displays with customer base product and ship to retail.
“It does everything we need to do in one quick pass,” says Alvarez.
“It used to be a very labour-intensive process, but having two glue lines incorporated into this machine’s design has automated the whole process for us, allowing us to re-allocate the manpower to other jobs within the facility.”
“For complex designs that would traditionally take us six hours to produce at speeds of 800 to 900 sheets per hour, with more people, this folder-gluer can process the same amount of material in an hour,” he states.
“For more simple designs, we can achieve throughput speeds of up to 12,000 sheets per hour,” Alvarez says, “while handling all common f lute sizes and board thicknesses. Throughput has roughly doubled with this new investment, compared to some of the older equipment previously being used.”
Other recent capital investments in the facility include:
- A wide-format Automatän litho label laminator, capable of throughput speed of up to 4,500 sheets per hour.
- Heavy-duty MarquipWardUnited G-Grafix die-cutting/finishing machine from BW Papersystems.
- Hitek flatbed cutting-die storage system—a fully-automated system for secure storage and quick retrieval of hundreds of different dies used at the plant.
- Large-format ESKO Kongsberg C cutting table, a multifunctional digital finisher for signage, display and packaging applications.
- State-of-the-art HP Scitex 15500 digital printing press for high-speed direct color printing across a broad range of corrugated board grades from 0.8-mm to 25-mm thick.
As part of its Canadian expansion, Menasha acquired a one-third ownership stake in Mississauga, Ont.-based TenCorr Packaging Inc., a well-established manufacturer of corrugated sheet stock with two plants in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) region.
“The majority of the raw materials coming to our converting facilities is shipped by TenCorr already cut-to-size,” Caines relates, “including single-, double and triple-wall corrugated, in f lute from A through E and BC.”
CULTURE MATTERS: MENASHA COMMITTED TO INVESTING IN ITS PEOPLE
For all this considerable investment, though, Alvarez says he is even more encouraged and pleased about Menasha’s ongoing investments in its people, which includes uncompromising focus on workplace safety, continuous skills training and development; decent wages for both full-time and temporary staff; and plenty of opportunities for career advancement within the corporation.
“It’s a truly diverse and people-centric culture,” Alvarez states, adding the company is 100-percent committed to succeeding in the Canadian market.
“Menasha really cares about us … and they invest in their people so they are able to do the best job they can, so that they can grow personally as individuals, and with the company.”
Concludes Alvarez: “I have never been happier with my work life than I am today.”
Caines says she is proud of the company’s “industry-leading” workplace safety track record, maintained through intense focus on workplace safety education and training, and their commitment to continuous improvement in this space.
“Coming in to a safe work environment has been a source of pride for Menasha for generations, and it will be the same way in our Canadian operations.”
COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING AND SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS
Riegsecker adds that Menasha is committed to leading the corrugated industry when it comes to sustainable packaging solutions.
“We talked about the growing focus on the ‘Circular Economy’ and the important role Menasha and the rest of the packaging and supply chain industry can play,” Riegsecker relates.
“Our customers’ are building metrics around their impact on the Circular Economy, and suppliers like Menasha have the opportunity to positively enable the initiatives they have in place.”
As proof, Riegsecker cites Menasha’s ongoing efforts to reduce its own carbon footprint through more efficient water consumption, reduced GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, continuous alignment with new standards and certifications, and keen focus on material recyclability content.
“Our relationship with all the major CPG companies affords us the opportunity to see many examples of companies investing in more environmentally-friendly packaging, which may not necessarily be the most economical packaging option available to them,” Riegsecker notes.
“There is a big shift within our customer base in terms of what new criteria is acceptable in taking products to market today,” he states.
“There is a positive and growing trend within our customer base to evolve their focus on doing the right things in our communities and in our environment. We are excited about the role we can continue to play here in helping customers meet their goals.”
FIVE YEARS IS A SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE
Adds Caines: “As we reflect back over the last five years, the success Menasha has experienced in the Canadian market has been tremendous, and we’re excited for the future as we continue to leverage the strong foundation that has been laid to continue to grow existing CPG partnerships and build new relationships in Canada.”
– Photos by Naomi Hiltz