- May 31, 2005, Nsenga Thompson, Associate Editor
Paying tribute to his Irish roots, Charles Connolly, president of Connemara Converting, named his company after a picturesque area located in County Galway, Ireland. However, it’s taken more than "the luck of the Irish" to grow this $40 million converting operation, which was founded in 1997.
Offering a variety of substrates, including metallized and holographic papers, coated and uncoated label and envelope stock, and wet strength label paper for in-mold labels, Connemara provides precision and cut-to-register press-ready sheets that are stacked, counted, and packaged to customer requirements. The markets served by Connemara include label printers, envelope producers, and fine paper merchants throughout North America. The company also provides contract and custom converting as well as warehousing services.
With a diverse portfolio of services and growing capacity, Connolly realized he had to increase the output of his reliable and at one time state-of-the-art Valmet (now part of Bobst) and SHM (now part of Körber PaperLink) sheeters that have been the workhorses of his operation for eight years. But he knew he couldn’t do it at his tightly packed, 40,000-sq-ft Bensenville, IL, facility.
When it came time to develop solutions, Connolly contacted Beach Technologies, a project/facilities management and improvement firm in Cary, IL. Four years earlier Beach had assisted Connolly in the specification, purchase, and installation of the Bobst TSK sheeter. Connolly found the company’s services invaluable, allowing him to focus his energy on servicing customers.
"We knew enough about what we wanted and how we wanted [the facility] to look, but we didn’t really know the specifics and didn’t want to deal with the specifics," Connolly admits. "We can hold [Beach] accountable, hold them at a price, get it done, and have a better outcome."
Connolly and Michael Beach, president of Beach Technologies, discussed options for increasing efficiency and agreed that before increasing his sheeters’ production capacity, a move to another facility was necessary and inevitable.
"The ceilings weren’t high enough, the floor was too thin, and we only had three dock doors," describes Connolly. "It was crowded, and it wasn’t the best work environment." Beach adds, "They did have a nice facility in Bensenville…but the space really wasn’t appropriate for what they were doing."
Starting from the ground up, Connolly and Beach collaborated to build a 90,000-sq-ft facility in Bolingbrook, IL, that encourages efficiency and maximizes available space. It also gave Connolly the room he needed to make the necessary retrofits to his existing sheeters.
"This was a patch of ground in August 2004, and we were in here, operational, and running by January 4, 2005," Connolly says. "So we were able to build a building, move the facilities, and upgrade, while continuing to service our customers—all in a five-month period."
Having the available space now to do the upgrade, Connolly added four shaftless unwinds (for a total of eight), an automatic pallet changer, and decurlers to the Bobst TSK sheeter.
"When we had the additional space, we were able to utilize the total menu of options that Bobst offers its customers as far as making the Bobst sheeting line as efficient as possible," says Connolly.
"They had a very good machine, and they bettered it," comments Beach.
Connolly says after operating the upgraded sheeter, he still was running up against capacity requirements and decided he should either purchase a third sheeter or upgrade a 1991 SHM sheeter that had three shaftless unwind stands. In the end, Connolly decided to execute both solutions.
"We added four unwinds to the existing machine to give it a total of seven," says Connolly. "In a close-to-perfect world, you’re able to produce twice as much with the same machine and the same amount of people simply by adding the unwinds.
"Now we have seven rolls lined up, feeding, cutting, and going out," Connolly continues. "Without compromising quality, we can get twice as much out in the same amount of time."
Just as impressive as the efficiency of the upgrades is the manner in which the company effectively integrated the retrofits into the SHM sheeter.
"We worked really hard to integrate into what was there so when you see it, it doesn’t look like it was something that was bolted onto the machine…it looks like it belongs there. It all fits together," Beach contends.
Beach admits the attractive integration of the unwinds onto the sheeter is not merely cosmetic. It has been the predictability of the additional unwind stands that has emerged as the real success story of the company’s sheeter upgrade. "If the machine functions roughly the same way and it operates the same way, you don’t have to retrain people…they wake up in the morning, and they know how to run the unwind stands, because they work just like the ones up front. They don’t have to figure out how to run them," he says. "You can’t belittle training," he adds. "It’s a very important feature. Having the machine and the technology is great, but if the operators are confused, if they don’t know how to take advantage of it, it’s really kind of pointless."
With a third sheeter planned for delivery later this year, Connolly says Connemara has brought back its capacity from four shifts, 24/7, to three shifts on the sheeters, avoiding weekend work.
With the extra time, he may be able to spend more time in the greener, more peaceful Connemara across the pond!
Connemara Converting LLC
544 Territorial Dr.
Bolingbrook, IL 60440