The company motto of Orem, UT-based Traco Packaging has always been: Promise what we can deliver and deliver what we promise.
“Our company founder and owner, John Palica, has worked to instill this mantra into every aspect of Traco,” says the company’s Print/Prepress Manager, Gary Whitehead. “Honesty always pays off, and our long history as a company attests to that.”
Traco began in 1985 as a machinery manufacturer. The company’s SuperSealer sealing systems have become known worldwide as a leader in manual sealers. As that business grew, the company began importing shrink films to supply its SuperSealer customers.
While most package printers today start with flexography and then add digital printing, for Traco Packaging it was the opposite. The company started in package printing with rotogravure offerings that fit well with high-volume printruns. Its customer base wanted a short-run shrink sleeve solution, so it turned to digital printing.
A Winning Combination
When tamper-evidency became an issue in the late 1980s, Traco Packaging used its established relationships to begin producing shrink sleeve neckbands. As technology improved, the company began customizing shrink sleeves with print. Brand owners quickly saw the advantages of shrink sleeves and began using them for prime labeling, and the full-body shrink sleeve market took-off. Traco Packaging continued to lead in this tread by offering digitally printed sleeves, flexographically printed sleeves and rotogravure printed sleeves.
With all these technologies at its fingertips, the company could provide any size job and achieve any lead time required by its customers. In addition to shrink sleeves, Traco Packaging now offers pressure-sensitive labels and many types of custom-printed flexible packaging films.
“We found that this combination left a hole in the middle for the medium-sized print jobs,” notes Whitehead. “We found that flexography was an excellent fit to fill the hole for these medium to large printruns.”
Process Control & Automation
Process control is the guiding principle for quality, notes Whitehead. He added that so many manufacturers have thrown process control to the wind in order to achieve today’s ever-increasing lead times. But Traco Packaging won’t cut corners to make a deadline.
“Without process controls in place, consistent quality is unachievable. Brand owners today are looking for consistency—both in print quality and supply.”
When it comes to an automated workflow, Whitehead admits that it’s difficult to implement at any speed, as most workflow integrators just don’t take the time to really understand a business and provide a solution that works for it, he says.
“Most systems require you to conform to their idea of what the workflow should be. We have been working to automate workflows one step at a time using our own in-house knowledge. One bite at a time, we are improving workflows to be reactive to the speed of today’s packaging business.”
Recent FLEXO Magazine Flash Polls have cited color management a top printer challenge, and Whitehead agrees. Traco Packaging relies heavily on its suppliers to provide consistent materials to help ensure consistency. From ink to plate making to proofing—Traco Packaging has suppliers that work together to provide an integrated solution for print consistency.
“Providing the proper tools for our press operators is key to maintaining consistent color management. In addition, they need to understand why we have control processes in place. Once they understand the ‘why’ of the process, they are much more willing to buy into the ‘what’ that is involved in color management processes.”
Printers also often cite cost control, reduced setup and makeready times, and short runs as top concerns. Traco Packaging tries to mitigate these issues by using the right process for the size of the print job. The company understands that not every job should be printed on a digital press. Thankfully, it has print solutions in place to fit every size job.
“That being said, we also understand that not every print process is the same and there may need to be concessions for each,” Whitehead acknowledges. “Open communication with brand owners helps bridge this gap. We want our customers to fully understand the nuances of each process and not be surprised by any hidden differences that they didn’t know about.”
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has been another challenge for companies all over the world. During this time, Traco Packaging has been able to maintain full production levels with the use of many health safety protocols. “In fact, due to the increased demand for packaging products, we have been able to sustain record-breaking production levels for several months,” reports Whitehead.
Traco Packaging is always looking for ways to expand its offerings to its customers. Whitehead says that flexible packaging and pouches seem like a logical progression for the industry, and the company is weighing its options in this category.
“The challenge is always to balance increasing capacity in our current product lines or take on new lines. The pandemic has certainly slowed this process. We have always relied on trade events to provide us with the latest information, but who knows when these events will be able to resume.”