- April 01, 2007, By Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
Rich Shaw, general production manager of Mohawk Northern Plastics, says the 35-year-old company has enjoyed sustained success by operating state-of-the-art equipment while maintaining an old-fashioned commitment to customer satisfaction.
Shaw says the company operates 14 extrusion lines from the likes of Windmoeller & Hoelscher, Davis Standard, and Gloucester Engineering, many with unique capabilities. The films, which include polyethylene (PE), low-density PE, linear LDPE, and metallocenes, can be customized to run efficiently on Mohawk's customers' equipment to further improve their productivity.
“What brings people to Mohawk is an extremely good value for our customers,” explains Shaw. “We provide excellent service; we're very responsive to our customers in terms of answering their questions. If our customers run into unexpected problems, we tend to turn things upside down to service them. We certainly have no problem customizing the film, tweaking it this way and that way.”
Shaw says Mohawk's customers tend to be very loyal. “There are plenty of people who do what we do. I think we distinguish ourselves by being competitive on price and servicing the customers' needs.”
Mohawk is a leading, full-service supplier of industrial can liners, bags, labels, and packaging for such industries as fishing, tree fruit, and processed and frozen vegetables. From its 250,000-sq-ft, three-building complex located on 14 acres in Auburn, WA (between Seattle and Tacoma), Mohawk services customers in 40 states in the continental US plus Hawaii and Alaska.
Through its customers, the company's products also appear on shelves in Japan, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In addition to its primary markets, Mohawk has found success serving niche markets such as bottle overwraps and ice bags.
“We have a pretty varied little niche within our markets that allows us to cater to some very small customers,” notes Shaw, “but it also allows us to participate in business with some very large customers. We run the whole gamut. We're not a huge company in terms of overall size and gross revenues, but we're very nicely sized compared to most companies' specific locations.”
Readily Reusable Material
Mohawk Northern Plastics, a closely held company owned by CEO Bill Gates and president Dan McFarland, is committed to keeping ahead of the competition through investment in technology. In the past five years, the company has doubled sales and invested extensively in equipment and facility expansion. A coex film line from W&H and one from Davis-Standard were added for a total of 14 film lines. Also added were two Hudson-Sharp bag machines for a total of ten converting systems.
Finally, with the addition of a new Erema RGA 1108 TVE plastics recycling system, Mohawk reclaims 250,000-300,000 lbs of plastic waste a month, which amounts to 7%-10% of raw material usage. Notes Shaw, “The extrusion process is inherently very wasteful.”
The Erema RGA 1108 TVE is designed to handle heavily printed waste at rates of approximately 500 lbs/hr, depending on material. In the patented Erema recycling system, a variety of scrap substrates is fed into a large vertical cutter/compactor unit that uses friction to compress, reduce, and prewarm the plastic.
The preheated, densified material then is fed directly to the extruder screw. Compression and melting are said to occur gradually, at a precisely controlled temperature, adding minimal “heat history” to the reclaim.
“With technically advanced systems at work in every step of flexible packaging, from blown film to quality printing to recycling, we offer our customers quality control and new product engineering from top to bottom,” says Shaw. “Our control over all the processes makes us a very reliable supplier. The addition of the Erema RGA 1108 TVE recycling system ensures the reclaim we produce and reuse is of the highest quality.
“In addition to reclaim quality, another important reason we selected the new Erema was that our older recycling systems could not handle the amount of ink on much of our waste material. The TVE is designed to vent off ink and other contaminants, and it does so effectively. The result is not only smooth operation but also top quality, readily reusable material.”
Shaw says the system is easy to operate and the automatic mode is especially effective, taking over much of the troubleshooting requirements from an operator while making the job less tedious. “The auto mode is so effective that the only downtime we experienced was when the system was in manual mode.”
In addition to the ease of overall operation, Shaw cites the fast changeover capabilities of the Erema system. “The broad range of our products creates a great deal of diversity in the waste — printed, nonprinted, white, colored, and clear. With the Erema, we move quickly from mixed to white to clear materials, and this allows us to maximize our total reclaim effort.”
A Hedge Against Inflation
According to Shaw, the success of the Erema-based reclaim contributes to Mohawk's overall dedication to being a reliable, total package supplier for every customer. “By controlling and reusing our own waste stream, we get a measure of insulation from fluctuating resin prices,” he says. “The Erema system helps us offer customers the best prices without compromising quality. With a good percentage of our business being can liners, we have plenty of outlets for all the scrap that we generate. We don't put the reprocessed pellets into the virgin product that's going into the food industry; we put it in the applications where it doesn't really matter.”
Further underscoring Mohawk's position as a total package supplier is a recent investment in a W&H ten-color, gearless Novoflex flexographic press said to be capable of exceptionally high quality print. The new press joins five other flexo presses, including two other gearless Novoflex presses from W&H for a total of six, giving Mohawk the ability to deliver the highest quality graphics as well as the ability to handle very large volume jobs, says Shaw.
The printing capabilities are supported by new Viper and Cobra mounting equipment from JM Heaford, an Esko CDI platesetter, conventional MacDermid photopolymer platemaking equipment, and Artwork Systems' Nexus digital art workflow solution.
Shaw says maintaining an arsenal of efficient, top quality equipment is key to Mohawk's ability to offer a high level of customer service. As a result, the company has doubled in size in the past five years, while GDP has historically averaged 2%-3% growth.
“We've been very successful in serving the needs of our customers and growing those needs,” says Shaw. “It's all been through providing a better product at a better value. Some of our customers have done very well, so their market share has been growing; therefore, our market share has been growing. We look at it as a partnership. We can't survive without them, and hopefully we contribute to their success.”
Mohawk Northern Plastics
701 A. Street NE, Auburn, WA
Erema North America — PFFC-ASAP 303. www.erema.net
Windmoeller & Hoelscher — PFFC-ASAP 304. www.whcorp.com
Davis-Standard — PFFC-ASAP 305. www.davis-standard.com
Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering — PFFC-ASAP 306. www.bge.battenfeld.com
Hudson-Sharp Machine Co.- PFFC-ASAP 307. www.hudsonsharp.com.
JM Heaford — PFFC-ASAP 308. www.jmheaford.co.uk
Esko — PFFC-ASAP 309. www.esko.com
MacDermid Printing Solutions — PFFC-ASAP 310. www.macdermid.com
Artwork Systems Group — PFFC-ASAP 311. www.artwork-systems.com