All Zipped Up: Hard-to-Beat Valley Packaging Tackles New Zipper Technology

Valley Packaging's investment in Hudson-Sharp's patented Inno-Lok technology is helping the contract converting operation win big in the zippered-packaging game.

A nonworking zipper — possibly one of the most frustrating things known to humankind. Well, that's besides your favorite football team losing its shot at the Super Bowl.

But back to the zipper.… Seinfeld fans may remember an episode in which George's zipper malfunction ruined his session with a therapist. Prior to a meeting this last winter, PFFC's own Yolanda Simonsis found herself stuck inside her floor-length coat due to a broken zipper. And for those of you that have seen the movie There's Something About Mary, well, you know zippers can be downright dangerous!

But when a zipper works — whether it's keeping your coat closed or your food fresh — it's a temporary closure device that's hard to beat.

Richard and Lance Czachor, owners of contract converter Valley Packaging, Green Bay, WI, certainly are aware of this. And with the recent investment in a Hudson-Sharp Inno-Lok® machine, this father-and-son team is taking zippered packaging a step further — or a step out, depending on how you look at it.

Outward Progress
According to Valley's VP, Lance Czachor, his father's operation bought its first PDI (now part of Hudson-Sharp) zipper machine in 1995, around the same time he started at the plant. “That's also when I came on board. So really, the zipper technology and myself, well, we seem to have a parallel presence [at Valley.] When I got out of the Navy and came here, I think the machine had been here for three months or so.”

Lance says zipper technology development and promotion originally provided him with a niche project within the operation. “That's where I began pushing. At first, I was the guy who ran the machine, then I was scheduling it. Gradually, I found myself providing quotes and talking to people about stand-up pouches and zippered pouches.”

But as the technology and the demand for packaging with longer shelf life and better closures has increased, making zippered bags and pouches has become much more than a niche at Valley. “This is an area where we've seen growth in the last five years; we've put in five or six zipper machines since then,” says Lance.

Valley's newest zipper machine, the Inno-Lok, was a bit of a departure for the company, a path, in fact, the company was not sure it wanted to take initially.

“We had looked at Inno-Lok when it first came out, which was two or three years ago,” recalls Lance, “and we didn't understand who would ever buy that ‘zipper-on-a-roll’ stuff. But a year ago last spring, we became convinced it was a keeper. There seemed to be a lot of work out there [for this type of machine], and we thought we could do our internal work with our back-seam bags also. So, we placed the order.”

“That zipper-on-a-roll stuff,” as Lance refers to it, runs through the patented Hudson-Sharp machine and is transformed into bags. The film and the machine technology are taking Valley's packaging a step further — by taking a step out of the process. “We pre-apply the reclosable fastener to the rollstock, transverse to the film edges,” reports Lance.

By taking out the “add-the-zipper-at-the-end” step, the pre-zippered form/fill/seal packaging film and the Inno-Lok help reduce waste, keep cycle and production rates moving, and diminish the need for extensive machine modification, says Lance. He explains, “The whole idea behind Inno-Lok is that a guy who has a vertical form/fill/seal machine can get film pre-zippered, and then, with either little or no modification, he can run the same machine he always has, but now he can run zippered bags.”

All the Right Moves
Valley Packaging has been around since 1954, though it was not always owned by the Czachors. “My dad bought the company in 1976,” says Lance. “At that time, the principal products were cellophane candy bags, and basically, for nine years, he stumbled along in the [candy packaging market], while doing some poly bags, too.”

According to Lance, his father's business was “making a living” for his family, but a forced move and new production changed Valley's staid course. “I think it was 1985,” Lance remembers. “He was kicked out of the building he was in because they were renovating. It was a TIF [tax-incremental financing] type thing where, essentially, they moved him.”

In 1985 Richard Czachor's newly located Valley Packaging not only moved its physical whereabouts, it also moved into a more lucrative production area: pouch and back-seam bag production. “When he moved into the new place,” says Lance, “that's when he started buying pouch machines and back-seam bag equipment. The brand of choice was Totani, which was represented by Amplas here in Green Bay. That's when things really started to turn.”

In 1995 Lance joined his father in their hometown of Green Bay, and he has helped the company move further into zipper technology. “Basically, the Inno-Lok added another tool to our arsenal,” reports Lance. “We already had this back-seam machinery and all these stand-up zipper-pouch machines. The Inno-Lok was something different, and we thought there was a pretty good niche for it.”

“Pretty good niche” is a dead-on description of Valley's production; Lance says the company does only zippered and back-seam bags. No film production, no treating, no laminating, no slitting, no printing.

But, says Lance, “We make packaging for just about anything that sits in a bag. We make a lot pouches for cookies, snacks, dog foods, dog treats. We make back-seam bags, the plastic bags with coffee in them. We make a lot of those with the valve on them. We make a lot of agricultural bags, for potting soils and things like that, and we also do a lot of medical packaging.”

And if you're not interested in just any old bag, Valley Packaging has incorporated some other unique capabilities recently, Lance reports. “Now, we can produce contoured pouches, and we can apply a slider zipper to stand-up and flat pouches. We also can install fitments, or spouts, in our pouches.”

Not only does Valley run the gamut in bag production, it also converts a wide array of substrates, which Lance reels off with ease: “We can produce bags and pouches from polyester/polyethylene; polyester/metallized polyester/polyethylene; polypropylene/polyester; polypropylene/polypropylene; straight polypropylene; nylon/polyester; and polyester/foil/polyethylene. Just about anything. As long as it's a laminate, we can handle it.”

Offense Is the Key
Investment in the Inno-Lok was a bold move, “kind of a leap of faith,” remembers Lance — neither he nor Richard knew exactly what Valley was going to do with it. “We were thinking it's an area people would want to go into. So, we took the offense and bought the machine, [even though] we really didn't have a lot of work. However, we knew the machines that were in the field were filled up.”

Bold moves and aggressive machine investment aren't anything new to Valley, Lance explains. “We're always looking at ‘the next thing.’ It's rare for us not to have either our eye on a machine or a machine on order. [That's been true] from the time I've been here.”

Recently, Valley Packaging made another physical move, this time into a custom-designed, 68,000-sq-ft, state-of-the-art facility, where the company has 45 employees and operates on a three-shift, five-day-per-week schedule.

Like the building, Lance says, Valley's Inno-Lok is customized. “We had our machine specially painted: It's green and gold, kind of unique.” (Green Bay Packer colors for you non-NFL fans.)

Lance says the uniqueness of the Inno-Lok, at Valley in particular, is about to disappear. That's because the company has ordered another Hudson-Sharp Inno-Lok and is in the process of its installation, though he doesn't say whether or not the machine will be another tribute to the Packers.

Meanwhile, Valley's venerated Packers seem to be in the same holding pattern the company knew in its pre-zipper packaging days; maybe another green-and-gold machine will bode well for the healed Favre this season.

But even if Valley's new Inno-Lok isn't painted green and gold, and even if the Packers continue to stumble, Valley will sustain the Packer spirit and continue to be a converting operation that's very hard to beat.

CONVERTER CONNECTION
Valley Packaging Supply Co.
Green Bay, WI;
920/336-9012; fax: 920/336-3935


SUPPLIER INFORMATION
Hudson-Sharp Machine Co.
, Green Bay, WI; 920/494-4571; hudsonsharp.com

Amplas Inc., Green Bay, WI; 920/496-0525; 800/553-5222; amplas.com



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