- February 29, 2004, Nsenga Byrd Thompson, Associate Editor
With smart investing, including Ro-An bagmaking equipment, Packaging Personified Inc. is turning dreams into reality.
The story of Packaging Personified begins in 1975 with two hard-working Sears employees. With 30 years of combined experience coordinating third-party packaging for the retail giant, Dominic Imburgia and Phyllis Muccianti realized what many of us discover during our careers: They could take what they knew and start their own business.
With $1,000 of start-up capital, Imburgia and Muccianti set up their small business with just one phone between them and Muccianti's kitchen table as an office. The partners gradually grew the business and found their future lay not solely in sales but in manufacturing as well. It was there, with just four bag converters and a small production staff, that the company's full potential began to take shape.
It's been nearly 30 years since Imburgia and Muccianti sat at that kitchen table. Now, each sitting in his or her own office, they both look proudly at the more than 600 customers they have acquired over the years. Today, with nearly 200 employees across five states and three production facilities (including a 100,000-sq-ft headquarters in Carol Stream, IL, and a newly acquired plant in Sparta, MI), the company has evolved into a thriving bag manufacturer with many nationally recognized customers.
Imburgia and Muccianti haven't done it alone. In 1988 and 1990 respectively, Imburgia's sons, Joseph and Dan, came on board, along with a competent production, sales, and customer service staff, to help drive the company to where it's at today. The brothers, who both serve as general managers, take great pride in the continued success of the company.
Explains Imburgia's eldest son Joseph, one of the keys to PPI's success and stability has been its commitment to its customers. “We like to make sure we are in a position to understand our customers, anticipate their needs, and be able to provide solutions for them.”
In order to invest in their customers, PPI anticipated they would first have to invest in themselves. “It was a philosophy of my father and Mrs. Muccianti right from the start to make sure we had the most current technology available, because it's a very competitive marketplace out there,” says Joseph.
With that philosophy, PPI aggressively brought in equipment it believes will allow the company to meet customers' needs.
Success Is in the Bag
One big item in PPI's “shopping bag” has been its investment in Ro-An's bagmaking equipment. Purchasing its first Ro-An PolyStar at the 2001 CMM exposition, the company would buy three more that year to replace its clutch and brake bagmakers. Most recently, the company added another five Ro-An machines to its bagmaking capabilities, which include Polystar and Web Masters models.
“We have made a commitment to [Ro-An] equipment because we've been happy with everything they have done at this point in time,” says Joseph. “Because we did have different equipment, we know how big a decision it is when you change who you are going with. So we really researched and evaluated where we wanted to go when we made that decision.”
One of the big attractions for PPI to the Ro-An equipment has been the vacuum section on its newer machines. “A lot of products we produce get downgauged thinner and thinner. People are trying to come up with a more cost-effective package, and that section really appears to handle the film, [especially] light film very well,” Joseph describes. “When I saw it run at the show, it was just very consistent and very solid. It seemed to run better than all the other equipment of its type [at the show]. Since it's come to our facility, it's done the same.”
“Ro-An presented us with technology that allows us to run our mix of products at effective rates and reduce our set-up time on an order. We feel it has paid off in production efficiency,” adds Dan.
The company's trust in Ro-An equipment has been strengthened not only by the efficiency of the machines but the stellar service Ro-An has provided.
“I have been impressed beyond what my expectations were. If they have a service person in the area, they send him out to check on our needs and see how we're doing,” Joseph says. “They have done an excellent job.”
Another addition to PPI's production capabilities has been in its extrusion department. Extruding its own film since the late 1980s, the company realized about five years ago that updates were necessary in order to meet customer satisfaction. In those five years the company replaced all its extrusion equipment and moved to Davis-Standard.
PPI purchased its first Davis-Standard extrusion line at NPE 2000. “The first thing we got from Davis-Standard was a retrofitted air ring for an existing extruder, and we experienced improved layflat and improved output,” says Joseph. “From there, we bought a die package and experienced the same improvement in the product we were producing. We then bought our first extruder from them, and with their screw technology, we feel what they developed gave us the most control over the product we were producing.”
The biggest selling point on the Davis-Standard lines, adds Joseph, “was their willingness to sit down, go over the materials we were using and what we were trying to achieve as far as a finished product, and really come up with solutions.”
The company has continued its investment in Davis-Standard with the installation of a coextrusion line installed last February.
Gearing Up for Gearless
To compete with converters focused on print capabilities, PPI also felt the need to update its printing equipment to stay ahead in a competitive market.
“Graphics is another area where the envelope is always being pushed with regard to what can be presented on a package,” Joseph says. “People say all the time that you know it's a couple of pennies a bag, but that's what the customer sees when they go into the store, so your package represents your customer's product on the shelf.”
Already going gearless with its Ro-An bagmakers, the company recently added an eight-color, 58-in. Kidder Comexi gearless press to its existing flexo presses (including eight, six, four- and two-color presses, both in-line and out of line).
“We identified a number of current customers with increased demand for eight-color printing, and the additional capability has allowed us to approach other markets that might not have been available,” says Joseph.
Dan adds, “Comexi provided technology that has allowed us to stay at the front of printing production technology. We have seen improved quality and production efficiency.”
PPI has done the bulk of its investment in what has been a lagging economy but has stayed focused and moved forward.
“You see a difference in the economy. The existing customers slow down a little bit, but you always have to be looking for new customers to try to fill in the gaps and help yourself expand,” Joseph maintains. “The concern is if you get behind the curve with your equipment, and you are running a lot slower, you can't compete.”
The company believes its equipment purchases during the recession has kept them ahead of the curve not because the equipment has the most gadgets, but more importantly in their opinions, the new equipment has offered PPI the critical features necessary to service its customers.
“There's a lot of things that you could put on a piece of equipment that will make it automated or make it a little fancier, but that's not necessarily what we've done. What we've done is gone out and bought what we feel is the best possible technology to get the end result,” Dan says.
“We are not interested in the most complicated piece of equipment or having the most bells and whistles. What we're looking for is something that is going to impact our productivity and quality,” Joseph adds.
Bringing It All Together
PPI has invested in other areas of the company besides equipment. In 2001 it became one of the first converters to install Concord Business Solutions' Axapta ERP system with CRM (customer relationship management) e-business capabilities and SCM (supply-chain management) specifically designed for the converting industry. The software offers such industry-specific features as fully integrated estimating; workflow and job costing; shop-floor data collection; inventory traceability; and Web site maintenance capabilities.
Joseph explains, “The main goal was to get out of the system we had that was becoming difficult to manage. [We wanted] to be able to get data more quickly and have something tailored to our industry, but Concord also was able to tailor toward our processes.”
With all the investments PPI has made, the last one may have been its most ambitious — the recent acquisition of a bag production facility in Sparta MI. This addition brings a new market to the company's diverse résumé of bag production.
“The addition of drawstring, drawtape, and handle bags has provided our sales staff with the ability to approach a wider customer segment; we have diversified our product line,” Dan says. “Customers that in the past would have looked to an alternative supplier now are able to have many more of their packaging needs supplied by Packaging Personified.”
“Our Sparta production facility brought the ability to expand our markets and product offerings. In addition, personnel at each facility are able to share thoughts and ideas which have allowed Packaging Personified to become more effective in meeting our customers' needs,” Dan continues.
PPI believes its success not only has been through wise investments but through the strong and competent support of its employees. “It's a family business — and not just family members,” Joe contends. It's a large group of people that have fun working together to achieve a common goal. There's a lot of hard work, but there are also a lot laughs.”
“I enjoy what we do,” Joseph says with enthusiasm. “We are committed to being the best we can in this industry. Ultimately, the only way you can do that is to help your customer.”
It has been through committing to its customers, and itself, that PPI has “personified” successful bagmaking.
246 Kehoe Blvd.
Carol Stream, IL 60188
Ro-An Industries; roan.com
Comexi America; comexi.com
Concord Business Systems; concord-solutions.com