Another hurdle we had during this transition was continuing to run the business at two other plants while maintaining production volume at the same pace-- 45million envelopes out the door every month. So, as we were ramping up production, we were running three different plants at one time--a huge challenge. One more challenge, one of those facilities was our plant in Elm City, NC. We were planning to shut that plant down, but didn't want to put 400+ people out of work. Fortunately, we were able to work out a deal with another company that bought the building, purchased the equipment and employed the workforce. Because that area had already been hit hard with other plant closings, textiles... automobile... what we didn't want to do was lay off Valpak employees for three months and then ask them to come back.
As we were ramping down the volume at that plant and ramping up the other plants' volume, we were also retraining that workforce to produce the new product. So, literally, when a group finished our product, the next week they began working on the new company's product--and it wasn't a slow transition at all since the new company was eager to ramp up to full production quickly. So the overall migration of work was tricky--an added factor we had to manage as part of the overall transition. The fact that we were able to preserve those jobs and keep our employees working throughout the transition was a real home run.
Q. What technology that you have recently incorporated into your workflow has had the greatest impact on productivity?
Probably the biggest one is auto-transfer; that's the functionality on the press that essentially allows us to produce product in run lengths of 10,000 and not shut the presses down between changeovers. In a traditional press environment, you would shut the press down for a 10 to 20 minute changeover and then start it back up. Here, where we have a run length of 10,000 impressions that lasts 15 minutes, we can't afford to shut the press down every 15 minutes for 15 minutes; but this technology allows us to keep the presses running, minimize waste and maximize utilization of the equipment.