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August 12, 1998

3 Min Read
Winning strategy:  Automation first, molding second


Astute market assessment at IPEC led to development of its own lines of pull-top closures for bottled water and beverage containers included in this sampling of the many products it supplies.

Most custom molding operations first open their doors with the basics on hand-presses, pellets, and people-then add auxiliary equipment such as robotics as their business grows. One young molding operation, International Plastics and Equipment (IPEC-New Castle, PA), actually took the reverse tactic, and the results have been outstanding. The company has doubled its size in the past three years.

IPEC supplies standard and proprietary caps and closures to bottling customers and OEMs in the beverage and bottled water industry. In 1995, prior to getting its molding operation up and running, the company began by making automated handling equipment for these same customers. President and co-owner Joe Giordano explains. "From a philosophical standpoint, we felt it would be best to offer service and technical support to our customers before we physically had product to supply. This decision gave us a great deal of contact and helped build rapport. Our long-term focus is to be able to go into a facility and provide a one-stop shop: caps, closures, and the requisite automation equipment."

The New Castle facility molds several million FDA-approved caps and closures daily and has three shifts of 75 employees working around the clock. In a competitive, high-volume market like this, the key to maximizing profits is cycle times, according to co-owner Chuck Long. To reduce those cycles, IPEC transferred its expertise in building handling equipment to the molding floor by fabricating its own automation. "This is one reason for our competitive edge," says Long. "When you have to assemble a sport closure with a pull tab, pop-up spout, and dust cover, you must have an automated approach."

Assembling the sport "cap" requires just one automation unit. It begins with various components and delivers a completed closure. Workers supply the machine with several molded parts-pull tabs, spouts, and dust covers-which are then fed sequentially through the machine. Spouts are popped on first, then dust covers applied before the completed closure reaches a shipping carton.

To keep part dimensions in check, the plant also includes a sophisticated dehumidifying and air conditioning system. Cool, dry air is dispensed through a long duct covered in a green "sleeve" for even dispersion. "If molding conditions change too drastically," Giordano says, "we're faced with out-of-tolerance parts that can cause automated assembly equipment to come to a halt. So we've added this preventive measure to maintain our cycle times."

With anticipated market growth and a decision to double capacity, Giordano and Long recently performed a search for new presses to augment the eight Husky machines on hand. "After testing several different models from various vendors, we purchased nine Sandretto 225-ton presses equipped with large injection units," says Giordano. "When we trialed one of our molds at Sandretto's facility, the results showed faster cycle times and lower power consumption with greater accuracy for critical molding. The injection units were configured for a high plasticizing rate to boost cycle times."

Don't expect IPEC to slow down. It is opening a new facility in Brewton, AL complete with 15 Sandretto machines, and, of course, its own brand of automation equipment.

Contact information
New Castle, PA
Joe Giordano
Phone: (800) 377-4732
Fax: (724) 658-3054

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