Challenge: Remaining financially competitive on the global market
Solution: Developing innovative equipment for growth
The next time you dive into your favourite yogurt snack, take a look at the packaging. Chances are it may have come from IPL's plant in Edmundston, New Brunswick.
IPL is a leading North American manufacturer of injection-moulded plastic products for the food and bulk packaging, environment and material handling sectors. The Edmundston plant now employs over 210 employees.
A key challenge for the plant is remaining competitive in a global marketplace where other manufacturers use low-wage employees to keep costs low. IPL turned to technology and innovation to get a leg up on the competition and remain leading edge. In 2010, the company implemented flexible manufacturing. It was also one of the first in North America to implement in-mould labeling, a state-of-the-art digital printing for packaging.
IPL saw the need to offer variety and flexibility in packaging to their clients. The problem is that labels IPL need are being produced in Belgium (over 300 million labels were purchased last year). This adds time and expense to a business that succeeds on being able to offer the best times to market. Producing labels here saves time.
"Up until now, when a customer gave us new packaging, it could be 10 to 12 weeks before we would have those labels back so the customer could package and market," explains Joey Corriveau, Production Director for IPL Edmundston. "On a competitive edge, time is more important than cost, and with this new technology, we can get the labels today and send the packaging to the client the next week."
The technology being implemented is designed for future growth and is now supplying other plants within the IPL family across North America. "This moves us from being an importer to an exporter of these industry leading labels, adds Corriveau. It allows us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We need to always be a step ahead of the market to keep our costs and margins in line. Doing in-mould labeling in house while all our competitors are still obtaining labels from Belgium gives us a three-year jump start. We're never going to be able to compete on price. But by reducing the lead time and the up-front investment, and continuously investing in innovative technology, we secure our competitiveness and growth."
The new technology is also expanding IPL's workforce - already up over 200 from just a 150 at the beginning of 2017 - and eliminating lost revenue in inventory obsoleteness, reducing the amount of inventory on hand.
"The Edmundston plant is one of the most advanced in value-added retail containers, and it has been a leader in the deli business," concludes Corriveau. It is now diversifying into the yogurt business which is a low commodity, high-volume, high-throughput, lower margin business."
Partnerships focused on building, growing and scaling up a business, such as the one with the Government of Canada, also play a key role in IPL's continued growth. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping IPL remain competitive in a global market, while creating more jobs in the region. An investment of $750,000 is helping IPL get the new digital printing system required for In Mold Labelling (IML) production, which will add 10 new jobs to IPL's workforce and will allow the company to produce labels and ship them to clients all around the world.
IPL Plastics is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada's economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to www.acoa-apeca.gc.ca