Bagmakers add a strong link to quality chain

Sengewald USA believes in high quality equipment all along the line. Amplas bagmakers fit perfectly into that philosophy.

Sengewald USA, Marengo, IL, is a manufacturer of plastic mono-films, laminations and coextrusions for the food, nonfood and medical packaging industries. The operation comprises extrusion, printing and bagmaking. As with any converter, each production segment influences the other.

Sengewald USA sees its printing operation as carrying on the graphic arts tradition mastered in Europe and insists on extrusion and bagmaking equipment that complement the sophisticated printing technology. The painstaking efforts are reflected in the end results. Key to those results is bagmaking equipment from Amplas.

Parent company KNP BT, with world headquarters in Amsterdam, entered the US market in 1986 by distributing film produced in West Germany. Success in this venture led to the opening in 1989 of an 85,000-sq.-ft. operation in Marengo. Starting with a staff of 15, Sengewald now employs about 300, with an additional 15 to 20% growth expected in 1995.

Insisting on Quality

"Our philosophy is to be a fully integrated flexible packaging operation," says president John Quinn. "We insist on the highest standard of quality in all phases of our operation. This includes producing our own low-, medium- and high-density polyethylene film."

Ron Markham, vice president and technical director, explains that the company tried film from outside suppliers but was not happy with the quality of printing that resulted. Deficiencies in the film made registration difficult, especially in the area of gauge control. "Gravure printing requires a very flat sheet," says Markham, who reports that with the in-house extrusion operation, gauge control is no longer a problem.

Sengewald USA runs three blown film extrusion lines, two from Windmoeller & Hoelscher and one from Battenfeld Gloucester. "Our blown film is produced with auto profile control, which means a one-mil-thick film measures just that - all the way across the sheet. Its variance is [+ or -]4% or 5%, not the [+ or -]10% found in many industry films," says Markham.

Characterizing his firm's approach to bagmaking, Quinn says, "When you have multimillion dollar investments in eight-color printing presses, you don't want to scrimp when it comes to the machinery that produces the product the customer finally sees. We can't afford to sacrifice the effect of high quality printing with a poorly constructed bag."

A Stand-Out Operation

Sengewald USA's goal is to "produce a package that stands out against the customer's competition," adds Quinn. The company's film converting capabilities include wicket bagmaking, integrated handle configurations for bags, custom perforation patterns for easy-open packages, bottom- and side-gusseted bags and bottom-seal bags.

The bagmaking department consists of three 30-in.-wide Amplas model 770W-S22 wicketers with 22-in. wicket arms. The high-speed machines can produce 90 to 175 bags/min., (2 to 4 mils thick) depending on size and application.

Markham notes that the Amplas machines provide the "degree of control needed" for the widths, gauges and thicknesses Sengewald USA is running. "We can fold without stretching."

A power-driven unwind (available from Amplas as an option) is an important feature, says Markham. "It provides the tension control that we need without the drag from brakes."

Markham adds that their printing presses have sophisticated unwind and tension control systems. "We wanted to carry this over to our converting operation as well," he says. "We don't look for what's cheap but what will do the job."

Features on the Amplas equipment include strap handle unwind and centerfolder inserter; pneumatic gusset and strap presealer; V-tip and wheel gusseting; electro-mechanical edge guide and positionable centerfolder; web stopper with servo-driven perforator; and dual-station driven unwind with braking.

The first wicketer, installed in March 1992, was used to test new products. It was our "do-everything machine," says Markham. A universal side-weld machine, the wicketer is equipped with a special perforation feature and web stopper for one-side bag perforation and also has strap-handle capability.

Adding Capabilities

As demand increased, two more wicketers were purchased in 1993 and 1994. The first machine still is used for special feature production and as a new-product test machine, but the other two machines are running at capacity.

All three of the wicketers have centershaft-driven two-position unwind stands with a capability of handling rolls up to 36 in. in diameter. This feature is designed to decrease setup time by approximately 50% between roll changes.

Unlike drag belt or disc brake unwinds, the Amplas unwind is driven. By driving the roll, tension can be controlled during machine interrupts and start/stop. Without this feature, the product could reportedly exhibit film stretch, inconsistent gusset depths and off-center wicket holes when running large-diameter rolls. This would be totally unacceptable to Sengewald USA's base of customers, who insist upon exacting standards.

Problem-Solving Expertise

All converters advertise their expertise in finding solutions to customer needs, but Quinn believes that Sengewald USA's depth of expertise places it above the competition. "Our design team offers some 80 years experience in problem solving - film, extrusion, printing, laminating and bagmaking."

And they do more than design, he points out. They are out on the machines to make sure the design works. The same person who designs in the lab has to make the product work in production - on the customer's machines.

"We pride ourselves on being able to compete with larger converters, but we are small enough to be responsive," adds Quinn. A case in point was a special order from a food producer that came in on a Monday. By Thursday Sengewald was able to begin limited production using existing equipment. "Still we found that some modifications were needed," Quinn says.

"Discussion with Amplas resulted in new parts being delivered on Saturday morning. By that afternoon the job was run."

Quinn says that the customer was delighted with the quick response, and the success led to steady business with production of about 50,000 lb./month.

Sengewald USA maintains a close relationship with Amplas, according to Markham. "From service people to vice presidents, they are always ready to handle our problems. One time it was around 5 or 5:30 pm on a Friday. Within 20 minutes, one of the engineers was able to help us out of a jam."

In a Good Position

Sengewald USA is well-positioned to meet the demands of new trends in flexible packaging.

Quinn explains that source reduction is a major concern for leading consumer product companies - smaller packages and thinner gauges of materials. The challenge is to produce lower-gauge materials but still deliver the performance the customer wants.

This is an area where smaller producers have trouble, Quinn says. "They just don't have the resin blending or coextrusion capabilities to make it happen." Sengewald USA is able to produce film gauges as thin as 0.75 mil.

The company's technological know-how has produced dramatic growth over the last five years, but acquisition has also played a role.

In June 1994 Sengewald USA increased its size with the acquisition of Stone Container's Consumer Products Flexible Packaging Division. The acquisition included Stone Container plants in St. Paul, MN, and Grand Forks, ND.

What's the outlook for Sengewald USA? Undoubtedly the company will continue to build its business on unique printing capability - its "source of pride and reputation." Backing that up will be high standards of quality and state-of-the-art equipment. The bottom line should be a path of continued growth.


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