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May 27, 2002

6 Min Read
Dressing to impress and cut costs


A six-color press prints 300 tubs/min and lines them up in rows so that operators can stack them in boxes for shipping.

An average grocery store contains more than a few products molded at Berry Plastics' plant in Monroeville, OH. Formerly called Venture Packaging, this 150,000-sq-ft facility produces millions of tubs and lids each year for products ranging from ice cream to detergent. Today, nearly 75 percent of these packages are decorated via printing press, a secondary operation that adds to the product's appeal on a grocery store shelf at less cost than a customized package.

More than ever before in the history of injection molded packaging, decoration has become an essential for products vying for consumer appeal. To differentiate these products without adding excessive cost, global IM packaging giant Berry Plastics (headquartered in Evansville, IN) has invested in extensive decorating capabilities. "Among our 14 facilities worldwide, we have every major decoration technology, including one of the only 10-color offset printing presses in the world," says Ira Boots, Berry's president.

He explains that Berry invests capital back into business to achieve the level of cost control required by the industry. "Our customers expect that the packaging will be cost competitive so that the price they put on the product can also be competitive."

With decorating techniques from offset printing to thermal transfer, Berry produces creative and innovative packages that have a custom appearance. Instead of cutting a new tool for every package, most customers opt to use stock products for which tools are already built. Other cost reduction methods at Berry involve investment in plant, processing equipment, and tools, as IMM's recent visit through the Monroeville facility illustrated.

Decorator Secrets
Twenty printing presses populate the decoration department at this facility. Most of them are offset printing presses, several of which are capable of printing six colors, an industry standard. Several smaller presses are responsible for skirt printing, a term that refers to printing around the edge of a lid. An eight-color and nine-color press are not so standard; they are responsible for some of the more eye-catching graphics Berry produces here.

Plant Manager Howard Weatherwax explains that each printer is able to handle different sized lids or tubs. During an average day, each press runs six or seven jobs. Once each job is set up, the process is highly automated. The setup itself, however, takes skill and experience.

Plates must be produced for each color, and operators have to register each one on the tub or lid. Printing on the sidewalls of tubs, a more popular option today, is the trickiest due to the tapered surface. Tubs are stacked and automatically routed first to a flame-treating station to prepare the plastic for inking. Plates transfer the inks to a rubber blanket on a revolving drum, which then transfers ink to the tub. A UV light cures the inks, and the tubs are then ejected to a stacking system.


A state-of-the-art water cooling system from Engineered Process Cooling Systems allows Berry to regulate temperature and flow at every machine.

Creating the graphics themselves is a project Berry often shares with its customers. A graphics department at the Evansville headquarters helps determine what can be done given Monroeville's technical capabilities. Alternatively, larger OEMs tend to send completed proofs to this department, looking simply for a thumbs-up.

Success in the Details
Monroeville is a showcase facility for Berry Plastics in terms of up-to-the-minute technology and its ability to manufacture and decorate at low cost. It is equipped with the most modern machines, molds, and decorating processes known to the industry. Molds are typically high-cavitation stack molds designed for fast cycle times on large Husky presses. (In fact, 80 percent of the world's 800-ton-and-larger packaging presses are owned by Berry Plastics.)

Weatherwax believes that the success of the operation lies in a comprehensive approach to reducing costs and increasing quality. "For example, in addition to modern equipment, the workforce at Monroeville is highly trained and skilled. We use ISO 9002 operating systems, and two years ago, we incorporated Six Sigma. These two methods have made a major difference in our efficiency, and our people made this possible."

Although its tools are made by partners, Monroeville created a toolroom where tooling engineers can make mold components and spare parts as well as clean and PM every tool after a run. Also, each employee receives 20 hours of training per year in tool maintenance. Weatherwax credits this program with the plant's record of maintaining 100 percent cavitation in every mold. "Our volumes are high, and if we're down even one cavity, it can affect our productivity greatly," he says.

Plant Specifics
Productivity is a key word here. To maintain it, the high-cavitation molds must run continuously and reliably throughout the 24-hour workday. Weatherwax found that one factor slowing down an otherwise smooth production was the company's old water cooling system. "Three years ago, we replaced it with an installation from Engineered Process Cooling Systems," he says. "Since then, we haven't had one problem. We control temperature and flow at every machine, and each machine gets adequate water for cooling the mold. In our entire system, there is only a 3-degree differential."

As for molding machines, the plant contains 25 presses, most of them from Husky, ranging from 225 to 900 tons. All of the larger-tonnage machines have CBW robotics installed for automated production. Many of the stackers and sorters added to each press are built in-house, or designed here and then built by a supplier.

Most of the material processed is either HDPE or LLDPE, and the plant contains enough silo capacity to store 13 railcars, with rail siding capacity for another 13. Materials handling equipment (from Universal Dynamics) is located on a mezzanine above the molding floor, and each press receives material via vacuum pump from the silo.

In addition to Monroeville's extensive decorating capabilities, it becomes clear that every system in the plant has been installed or designed to speed production and improve quality.



Specialized end-of-arm tooling on the CBW robot uses suction to pull 4-quart tubs off a 2+4 stack mold, which includes beryllium copper cores for faster cooling.

Stack molds are the norm at Berry Monroeville, such as this 8+4 tool that produces 32 lids/cycle.



Productivity enhancements include automated tub sorters built in-house.

This nine-color printing press produces an OxiClean tub. Each press includes a flame-treating station prior to printing so tubs will accept inks.

Contact information
Berry Plastics Corp.
Monroeville, OH
Howard Weatherwax
(419) 465-5293
[email protected]

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