What Would PI Do?

PI, or Packaging Innovators, will always service the customer. And the corrugated plant does it well with the divine help of SunGraphics.

It's closing time, Friday. There's a frosty, frothy beverage with your name on it somewhere outside these walls that have restricted you since Monday morning. Then your phone rings. “Saved by the bell” certainly doesn't apply here. What do you do?

If you're a member of the Livermore, CA-based Packaging Innovators' team, you pick it up. That heavenly refreshment will have to wait.

“We've got really good people here,” says Mike Mazzocco, president of the Oakland/San Francisco Bay-area corrugated converting operation. “I'm so proud of that.”

Mazzocco not only is proud of “his people” for actually picking up the phone at 4:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon, but he's also proud of them for being committed enough to stay late and make sure that very-end-of-the-work-week order is given the attention it deserves.

This type of commitment, says Mazzocco, has helped the company “stay strong” in a difficult market and trying times. “We're a good team, and we're just getting better,” he says.

Part of the Packaging Innovators' team includes SunGraphics, a corrugated-folding carton, package-design, flexo-plate manufacturing facility that earlier this year celebrated the grand opening of a facility in Antioch, CA — just an hour's drive from Packaging Innovators' two-shift, 70-employee-strong operation. “We have a really good relationship with them because they operate the way we do,” says Mazzocco, meaning, for SunGraphics' employees, happy hour will have to wait, too.

Wholly Diverse
Packaging Innovators converts a wide range of corrugated packaging. “When someone asks, ‘What's your niche?,’ well, our niche is we, pretty much, can handle the whole deal,” explains Mazzocco.

The “whole deal” includes short- and long-run corrugated packaging; one- to four-color boxes; point-of-purchase (POP) displays; corrugated boxes for furniture, for automotive parts, for confections, for electronics, for wine. “It's so diverse,” he adds.

To meet those diverse demands, Packaging Innovators employs a three-color Saturn II Langston flexo folder-gluer; two Ward rotary die-cutting machines (one two-color model and one four-color model); a two-color Mini Martin (Bobst); a Bobst 1575 auto-platen die-cutter; a Tanabe 110-in. specialty gluer; and an Automätan single-place laminator. In addition, the operation manufactures all of its own inks (for control and efficiency, says Mazzocco), buys material from Cal Sheets (in which Packaging Innovators has a 25% stake), and operates a small foam plant on the premises.

Family Trinity
Mazzocco, along with his twin brother Mark (who operates another corrugated converting operation in Phoenix, AZ, that the Mazzoccos started as a greenfield site in September 2001), grew up around box manufacturing. The twin Mazzoccos' father, Bill, a naval flight officer, started in the corrugated industry with his first out-of-the-service job at Container Corp. of America. Bill also worked at Georgia-Pacific for a while, but then started his own company in 1975 in Hayward, CA. “We were a small sheet plant back then,” Mike explains.

“Every summer and vacation, since we were little kids, we worked here. We went to college, and we had a good feeling we were going to come into the company. I've run every piece of equipment out there. I've been in customer service and design. And I was in sales for ten years. My brother has done the exact same thing,” says Mazzocco.

The Mazzocco's experience, along with their team, is what seems to keep Packaging Innovators true to the converting company's name. That experience and regard for teamwork and innovation also led them to SunGraphics for prepress service, says Mike.

High and Low Issues
Printing on corrugated isn't easy. “The wider the flute, the more high and low there's going to be, and the more difficult it is to print,” says Mike of his company's “niche” production. “If you're putting down a tiny dot, you have to be able to control the dot at the top of the flute as well as at the bottom. That's what causes problems and is our biggest issue.”

Thank goodness, then, says Mazzocco for the plates (see sidebar) and service SunGraphics provides the ISO 9001-certified company.

According to Mazzocco, one particular corrugated run conveys the superior service SunGraphics offers. “[In early 2003], we were waiting, on a Thursday and Friday, for plates for a packaging run due Monday morning.” Mike adds the job was packaging for a glass run, and in order for Packaging Innovators to produce it, existing printing plates were to be provided by a competing corrugated converter.

“They brought us the wrong plates on Wednesday, and on Friday, they finally informed us they didn't have the plates anymore. So, bottom line, there were no plates out there for this order, which was a glass run, and that's a big deal. Once glass is running, you have to have packaging there,” Mazzocco explains.

“This was around 4:30 on Friday night,” Mike continues. “Because we knew SunGraphics had made the plates for our competitor, we called Ron, our sales rep at Sun. We got him the information, and he and the Maumee, OH, plant — I don't know how they did it — had plates to us by 10:00 Monday morning.”

Service like that is in keeping with the commitment of employees like production manager Kirk Williams, customer service manager Tom Guenette, scheduling manager Fred McCarrell, bookkeeper Bev Flynt, human resources manager Jenny McLaughlin, design manager Chris Butterfield, and the converter's other enthusiastic team members, including what Mazzocco calls a highly knowledgeable sales staff (“They're not order takers. They're more like consultants.”) Doesn't bode well for happy hour, does it? Maybe Bay area frosty, frothy beverage vendors should do what Packaging Innovators does — service the customer — and extend drink discounts at least until 8 p.m. After all, heaven can wait.

Packaging Innovators Corp.

6650 National Dr.,
Livermore, CA 94550
925/371-2000; callpic.com

Sun Graphics, a div. of Sun Chemical Corp.
, Antioch, CA; 925/887-2400; sunchemical.com

Automätan Inc., Plover, WI; 715/341-6501; automatan.com

Bobst Group Inc., Roseland, NJ; 888/226-8800; bobstgroup.com

MarquipWardUnited, Phillips, WI; 715/339-2191; http://www.marquipwardunited.com

Cal Sheets LLC, Stockton, CA; 209/234-3300; calsheets.com

Tanabe Machinery Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan; +81 338665116

Situated for Success
Antioch, California, is the “Gateway to the Delta,” according to the city's welcome sign. And now it's the home of the flexo prepress house SunGraphics, a div. of Sun Chemical Corp.

The fact the newly opened Antioch prepress operation is situated in this Oakland suburb seems key. The fertile delta soil yields an abundance of fresh produce farmed in the area, which is then shipped via boxes and cartons (not to mention it's very close to wine country, which provides additional packaging opportunities). Boxmakers (corrugated box and folding carton converters) and POP display manufacturers in the area can take advantage of the facility's “state-of-the-art” technology — SunGraphics invested in about $700,000 worth of new technology and equipment for the new operation — as well as its location.

In addition to flexo prepress for the region's converters, SunGraphics' Antioch facility — in conjunction with its Maumee, OH, sister facility (and SunGraphics division headquarters) — can service converters across the country. Together, the locations supply services for graphic design, film processing, and flexographic printing-plate manufacturing for paper packaging and wide web flexible packaging applications.

In early March, SunGraphics showcased its new abode with a wine-country-themed open house. Customers, area converters like Packaging Innovators, as well as PFFC were treated to cuisine and wine from the Northern California region and a tour of the Antioch operation. Among the highlights (besides the wine and a driving range, which is literally out the operation's back door): a DuPont Cyrel 3000 BP flexo plate production unit and, at the heart of the operation (taking up an entire room of its own), an Esko-Graphics (formerly Barco) Gigasetter.

SunGraphics business manager Dave Garnache says it's the West Coast's largest imagesetter, capable of providing one-piece films to 96.5 × 63.5 in. “When used in conjunction with our large-format Dupont Cyrel platemaking system, the new Esko Gigasetter and Kodak Polychrome Graphics films and processors allow [us] to produce a single set of films to make flexo plates for printing of large boxes used for computers, electronics, and other industrial markets,” he explains.

Product-delivery timeliness also is a big part of this prepress provider's customer service package: SunGraphics offers fast turnaround — often same-day or next-day service. Reports Garnache, “We place a special emphasis on determining customer requirements, providing fast turnaround, and then making accurate flexo plates that assure consistency of quality when used at multiple printing locations.”
, Kennesaw, GA; 770/427-5700; esko-graphics.com

DuPont Cyrel, Wilmington, DE; 800/345-9999; dupont.com/cyrel

Kodak Polychrome Graphics., Norwalk, CT; 203/845-7000; kpgraphics.com

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