Specialists in Interior Packaging Branch Out

Winter, Bell Co. focuses on interior packaging production for a number of markets. Now equipped with a Jagenberg slitter/rewinder, these "specialists" are becoming more diverse with additional contract converting.

When Rick Lewis, president of Winter, Bell Co., High Point, NC, and G.L. "Sparky" Stroud, VP of manufacturing, traveled to Jagenberg's facility in Massachusetts in the fall of 1997, they were hunting for another paperboard slitter/rewinder. The executives of this "interior packaging specialist" converting operation were looking to expand the company's slitting/rewinding production of "inner frame," the interior packaging structure that's placed inside individual hard-pack cigarette cartons.

But as the two were walking through Jagenberg's plant, Lewis spied a unique-looking machine on the facility's floor. It was a duplex slitter/rewinder that was smaller than the company's other two slitter/rewinders, which were manufactured by Johnstone and Shanks. "It was designed specifically for running lighter substrates," says Lewis. "but it was just a demo machine made by Kampf. It had never been out [in production]."

A Quick Sale
Though Winter, Bell had never slit anything lighter than paperboard in its 40-year history, Lewis was so intrigued with the machine, he made a declaration to Jagenberg's reps and engineers who were taking them through the plant: "Tell them to sell that machine. I'm interested in it."

Lewis was so interested in the Jagenberg/ Kampf slitter/rewinder, in fact, that it ended up in Winter, Bell's 65,000-sq-ft facility only a few months after he and Stroud saw it in Massachusetts. Recalls Stroud, "Jagenberg/Kampf brought it down in February of 1998, installed it, and then provided our operators with a week of training."

The 63-in. duplex slitter/rewinder runs 1,500 fpm and was made to handle lightweight substrates including paper, film, foil, tissue, and pressure-sensitive materials, Stroud reports. "We can slit down to one and a half inches wide, and the duplex capability enables us to rewind on two different mandrels at one time. With it, we can get a complete separation of webs. This helps eliminate both nesting and dusting. We're also able to run pressure-sensitive material [with it]. In pressure-sensitive you get some bleeding of the adhesive, so [the webs] can't be touching. And in film, if the webs touch, they'll overlap. This eliminates all that."

Stroud reports the company has added some accessories to the slitter/rewinder since its initial installation.

According to Lewis, Winter, Bell uses the machine only for contract converting at this time, so the company buys no raw film or foil materials to run on it, though it does buy paper products from International Paper and Westvaco for use in its numerous other converting operations.

A History of Adapting
Winter, Bell Co. was founded as a sheeting operation by Tom Winter and Neill Bell in 1960. Lewis says before Winter, Bell was ever formed, the two men worked together at Jiffy Packaging's operation in High Point, and through their contacts with Jiffy's paper suppliers, discovered that the area was in need of a sheeted paper supplier.

"That was how it got started," says Lewis. "The company actually was formed on paper prior to that, but soon after they bought a sheeter, they brought it to High Point, they rented a warehouse, and basically, the two men learned how to sheet paper." The company still operates two Southworth sheeters.

As the years passed, Winter, Bell's production blossomed into a number of different operations. Lewis explains, "The main industry of the High Point area, which had been here forever, had been textiles, tobacco and tobacco-related packaging, and ladies hosiery. And so, as the company continued to sheet paper, it added to its equipment in order to service these market areas in some way. First, the company began die-cutting to add to its sheeting operations." Winter, Bell now owns three die-cutters, one manufactured by Peerless, the other two by Schon.

This die-cutting capability enabled Winter, Bell to expand its sheeted paperboard operation, says Lewis. "Twenty years ago, the number one product here at Winter, Bell was the die-cut insert that goes into hosiery packaging. We would buy SBS [solid bleached sulfate] 12-point paperboard, and we would cut it into different sizes of hosiery inserts. We did this not only for sheer goods but also for the sock industry. That was the bulk of the business at the time."

Lewis adds that a shift in standard hosiery packaging took Winter, Bell into yet another area. "A lot of things changed in the hosiery industry; there were designer styles, pouch packaging, and the egg was invented for Hanes. That's when we started looking for diversification; we began to think about getting into slitting and rewinding."

Rewarding Relationships
Winter, Bell's first foray into the slitting/rewinding realm was in the form of narrow rolls; the company was providing unprinted paperboard stock to other converters. But the company's relationship with Westvaco soon led to still another slitting/rewinding operation, this time for the cigarette industry.

Says Lewis, "When our Westvaco sales rep realized we had slitting and rewinding capabilities, he asked us if we were doing anything with the cigarette business at that time. You see, Westvaco was selling a lot to the cigarette industry; one of the products they were selling is called 'inner frame,' which is the interior packaging inside a flip-top cigarette box. It's produced by slitting master rolls into narrow ones; it's production that requires very precise tolerances, core-size reductions, and diameter restrictions. Often, they would get requests for small runs, so the Westvaco rep asked us if we would be interested in trying to run some of the narrow rolls."

The company continued working with Westvaco, but, says Lewis, as it grew and increased its slitting/rewinding expertise, company officials decided to get Winter, Bell into the market directly. "We targeted the cigarette industry; we went out and knocked on doors and told them that we were available to supply them with inner frame. We could [give them] very, very quick turnaround, and we had no real minimums or maximums. And, obviously, the companies we called on were the major players, which all happened to be in our area: Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Tobacco, American Tobacco, and Ligget and Brown & Williamson. We have been working with those people for over 20 years, supplying inner frame for the hard-pack boxes." Winter, Bell also supplies inner frame internationally to such companies as Japan Tobacco and British American Tobacco, adds Lewis.

Garnering Honors
Winter, Bell's expertise at inner frame production has garnered the company much recognition from its customers, says Lewis. "I think that's the highest level of credit that you can receive. We've received three awards from Phillip Morris for zero defects, which means that for four consecutive quarters, we have shipped product with what they consider zero defects. While that award program has been discontinued, we're still winning awards from our customers; Lorillard Tobacco Company just bestowed us with a fourth Outstanding Vendor award."

The company's award-winning products and its expertise at producing various types of interior packaging lends credence to Lewis's assertion that Winter, Bell Co. is an "interior packaging specialist."

However, the company's excellent record also can be attributed to its technologically advanced ordering and distribution system, notes Lewis. "To supply these companies with the product they want today involves a lot of teamwork on our part. In fact, we are receiving orders from our customers over the Internet, through e-mail, in our EDI [electronic data interchange] system. From there, we are producing orders, and we are sending them through an advanced shipping notice via EDI to tell them what the load will be and when it's ready to ship."

Old Stand-Bys and More
Winter, Bell intends to carry on the production that makes it an "interior packaging specialist"—it still does a great deal of production for both the tobacco and hosiery industries. But Lewis says the company also will continue to diversify, especially with all the controversy surrounding tobacco use in the US today.

"We're proud to supply the tobacco industry, but obviously, the federal government is working pretty hard on the industry these days, and things are changing. So when we had an opportunity to buy a piece of equipment that makes honeycomb packaging, or 'Cell Pack,' we bought it. 'Cell Pack' is our trade name for a type of honeycomb citrus fruit packaging specifically used for the export industry. Citrus growers need a product that surrounds each fruit individually and protects it while it travels from southeastern Florida to Europe or to Japan." The company's two honeycomb machines are patented pieces of equipment made by a British manufacturer.

Lewis believes Winter, Bell's success is due to its focus on quality, its diversification, and its teamwork. It was this teamwork that eased it into the partition-making business.

He explains: "Sparky and I thought the partition business might be a good one for us, so we started looking for a stripper and partition assembler, and we located a supplier—Milwaukee Tool & Die. We flew to Wisconsin, looked at the equipment, and as we were coming back on the plane that night, we started thinking about who would be our best employees to run the equipment."

Lewis continues, "When we felt comfortable that we were going buy it, we flew two operators up there so they could see it being built, and they actually made some changes. In our experience, most of the better manufacturers are willing to make some changes. They came back and told their co-workers, 'We went out and saw a machine that the company is looking to buy, and we think it will be a good product line for us to get into.' We are proud to have that kind of employee involvement."

Winter, Bell Co. will continue in its diversification direction, states Lewis; he says right now the company is targeting the areas of laminating and other types of die-cutting. Since the time of PFFC's visit last fall, Winter, Bell has installed a Lamina wet laminator for sheet-to-sheet lamination production.

Someone once said, "Make no small plans." From the looks of how Winter, Bell has grown and continues to diversify, it seems Lewis and Stroud would agree with that.


Supplier Information
Jagenberg Inc./Kampf Machinery Div.
, Enfield, CT; 860/741-2501; jagenberg.com

Johnstone Engineering & Machine Co., Parkesburg, PA; 610/857-5511

Shanks Converting Equipment Corp., Newark, NJ; 973/824-0236; shanksconverting.com

AirTrim Inc., Springfield, OH; 937/324-2272; airtrim.com

International Paper, Purchase, NY; 914/397-1500; internationalpaper.com

Westvaco, Chillicothe, OH; 614/772-3111; meadwestvaco.com

Southworth, Portland, ME; 207/797-8111

Peerless Machine & Tool Corp., Marion, IN; 765/662-2586; peerlessmachine.com

Schoen Machinery USA, Beverly, MA; 978/524-4170; angelfire.com/ma/schoenusa

Milwaukee Tool & Die, New Berlin, WI; 262/821-0160

Lamina System AB, Boras, Sweden; +33 23 34 00; lamina.se



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