Quebec manufacturer of cleaning products gives customers labels they can trust.
Unica Canada Inc.
Cleaning up after others can be a thankless job, but for Unica Canada Inc. in Boucherville, Que., it’s been a rewarding and often a lucrative way to make a decent living.
Since opening its doors in 1965, the family-owned company has risen through industry ranks to become one of the leading Canadian manufacturers of industrial and commercial cleaning products such as hand creams, antibacterial lotions and other sanitary and hygienic product commonly found in commercial buildings, offices, factories, hospitals and other public institutions.
Selling directly to distributors of office and sanitary supplies for commercial and institutional enterprises, the company’s ever-growing product
portfolio includes cleaning solutions for floor-care, windows and mirrors, hand-washing, odor control and carpet care, general cleaning, and kitchen and bath-care applications.
Along with a wide range of skin-care products—such as mechanic waterless hand cleaners, protective creams, antibacterial gels and foams, lotion soaps, etc.—Unica also manufactures its own proprietary Unicafoam system dispensers and cartridges, pumps and drum pumps, which are often custom-designed to the customers’ strict specifications and requirements.
To top it off, the company also produces a range of different soap formulations for laundry, as well as various cleaners for domestic and industrial dishwashers, ovens, vehicle exterior and interior surfaces, and the exteriors of trucks and boats.
“Our company is all about innovation, which is why we have evolved our product line to specifically address the cleaning needs of particular industries,” explains Unica president and owner Sylvain Arama.
Originally operating under the name of Savons Unica, the company founded by Arama’s father quickly became known for its high-quality hand
soaps that could get out the toughest grease and grime, becoming a big hit with professional vehicle mechanics.
When Arama joined the firm in 1979, he brought in some new ideas and a vision for the company, and upon assuming leadership of the business after his father retired 10 years later, he began to expand Unica’s product lines and changing its focus to specialize in the manufacture of creams, antibacterial products and sanitation products, including the introduction of a whole new line of eco-friendly sanitation products in 1999 dubbed Bionature.
“For us, it was important for us to provide our customers with greener alternative cleaning and sanitation products,” explains Arama.
In 2001, Unica built a new 25,000-square-foot facility to better respond to customer needs, but the company soon found its success to be a tad
overwhelming, prompting it in November 2009 to begin construction of an addition of another 19,000 square-feet to the existing building.
Today operating out of an environmentally-certified, 44,000-square-foot manufacturing facility employing 25 employees, the Boucherville plant
mostly caters to Canadian-based customers interests, according to Arama, with only about two per cent of its business currently done in the U.S.
Says Arama: “I believe that we have distinguished ourselves as an industry leader by our spirit of innovation, combined with our state-of-the-art
automation in a modern, environmentally-certified manufacturing plant, with our rigorous quality control measures guaranteeing that our clients
will only get high-performance products.”
The additional space in the plant has allowed Unica to add newer and larger mixing tanks and to install new automated filling equipment, as well as new labeling and packaging lines to help it meet its increasing market demand.
“Unica is not the type of company to sit back on its heels to see what the industry develops,” Arama states.
“We are always asking question of our customers and then investing capital resources into the formulation and development of new products and cleaning methods that will not only benefit our customers, but the cleaning and sanitation industry as a whole,” he says.
In a recent Canadian Packaging interview, Arama explained that the Bionature product line is more than a few cleaners.
Instead, it is a comprehensive line of ecological sanitation products that has been certified under the respected Ecologo environmental certification program founded by the Government of Canada, which is now considered North America’s largest and most-respected environmental standard and certification mark.
“All of our Bionature products are biodegradable, free of artificial dyes, formaldehyde, phosphates and chlorine, and are septic tank-safe,” says Arama. “And not only are our products environmentally certified, they are also hypoallergenic, nontoxic and noncarcinogenic to boot.”
Unica currently operates a total of eight filling lines—five of which are completely automated with a filler, capper, bottle accumulators, labelers
and other automatic packaging systems.
Says Arama: “To produce our products, we purchase raw materials from distributors, mix them according to our own formula, fill them in different-size containers—bottles, drums and such—place the finished product into our warehouse, and ship it out when we have a new order.”
One of Unica’s recent new equipment purchases was the Vivo! Touch color label printer manufactured by QuickLabel Systems, a leading manufacturer of full-color digital label printers, barcode printers and labeling software that allows businesses to print their own labels in true
Back in 1994, QuickLabel was the first manufacturer to introduce an inhouse digital color label printer, and the company has since continued to innovate cutting-edge labeling solutions.
“We bought our first two-color QuickLabel printer back in 2003, a second four-color thermal transfer printer with 600-dpi (dots per inch) definition in 2007, and in February of 2011 we purchased the new Vivo! Touch with 1,200-dpi,” recalls Arama, noting that Unica was the first company in Quebec to purchase that particular model.
Night And Day
For Arama, comparing the older-generation label printer to the new Vivo! Touch digital system is like night and day.
“The digital image that the Vivo! Touch printer produces is superb—crisp and clear like a camera photograph,” Arama extols, noting that the new Vivo! Touch is a lot quieter than the older models, is much easier to adjust, and boasts a significantly faster output.
“My private-label distributors have been extremely happy with our upgrade to the Vivo! Touch, which make me very happy, too,” he says.
The machine uses a 1.6 GHz internal computer to quickly process large amounts of variable label data, coordinate label jobs and print color labels at the speed of five inches per second, according to QuickLabel, and the labels produced by the printer resist fading, scratching and solvent damage thanks to the use of innovative LED (light emitting diode) label printing technology.
Because the printer’s users can make their own color labels from their own graphic design software, labeling software or ERP (Enterprise
Resource Planning) system, they can print their labels without having to use a computer by simply using the printer’s touchscreen.
According to QuickLabel, the system’s on-board label printer intelligence and high-speed printing will benefit end-user manufacturers who require flexibility in their labeling process for printing photographic-quality labels in private-label and primary display label packaging, as well as for printing variable color labels from production databases or ERP software, along with labels requiring batch-specific information like lot codes, ingredients, expiration dates, etc.
Equipped with a LCD touchscreen control panel, the Vivo! Touch is considered to be a viable cost-effective alternative to other types of printers
because it uses toner in a highly efficient manner—depositing the toner only when each dot of cyan, magenta, yellow and black is required in a
printed image—and it is also capable of printing on die-cut labels, eliminating the need to install a costly die-cutting system on-site.
Purchased about eight years ago, the RG/360 filler from Serac Inc. forms the centerpiece of the Unica plant’s production line.
Featuring six stations and outfitted with an Allen-Bradley PanelView 900 color terminal manufactured by Rockwell Automation, the rotary liquid filler is heavily used by the plant for automatic, high-speed, high-precision filling of various sizes of plastic containers by gross weight
with both liquid and low-viscous products.
Some of the other key packaging equipment and supplies utilized by the Unica plant on an ongoing basis includes:
• two Markem-Imaje 9020 small-character coders, which Arama credits for being “userfriendly,” used over the past five years to apply batch numbers;
• two Markem-Imaje Crayon Plus large-character case-coders, purchased three years ago, to apply batch numbers and other key variable codes and information to identify the product;
• four-liter plastic containers and private bottle molds manufactured by long-time suppliers Action Plastique Inc. and Delta Plastique, both of
Montreal, who provide some 40 different containers sizes and shapes for Unica in total.
“While it is true that Unica has a great range of products, it is also true that we have the best prices in the market,” Arama relates.
“We are able to do that by working with volume. The more you buy the cheaper the price, but we also try to ensure that each order is processed and shipped out our door within 48 hours,” says Arama, stressing that the company continuously monitors the market due to the existence of many smaller-sized, less scrupulous companies whose only concern is to undercut the competition with cheap pricing, while ignoring the quality of their products.
“And while there are some good and honest companies out there competing for our business,” he acknowledges, “at the end of the day I just think that we have the better products.”
Arama says that Unica has over the years developed a reputation as a quality, trustworthy company to do business with, and that the only thing stopping it from having a greater market share in other provinces is that it has only recently begun to explore those markets.
“It almost sounds like a cliché, but once we start a relationship with a new distributor, it stays with us forever,” says Arama.
“We have a great product, great prices and excellent distributors,” he sums up, “which is why I’m convinced that Unica will continue to be a successful company that is always leading the way in innovative cleaning and sanitation supplies.”