Automated Packaging Systems delivers semi and fully automated packing systems capable of bagging up to 10 times faster than by hand – and that’s just the start. With European headquarters in Malvern, Worcestershire, and its global manufacturing hub in Streetsboro, Ohio, Automated Packaging Systems has been world leader in the design and manufacture of printed flexible bag packaging systems for over 50 years. They invented the Autobag® bagging machine and Bags-on-a-Roll™ concept.
The company has more than 30,000 systems in use worldwide, supported by the industry’s largest field service operation, and has European business units in Belgium, France and Germany, and also operates through a comprehensive European network of distributors and agents.
Celebrating 30 years of UK manufacturing this year, Automated Packaging Systems continues to innovate. It makes its newest GeoTech® environmentally sustainable packaging with reprocessed and oxodegradable material in the UK to complement its existing range of quality packaging materials.
Mail order fulfilment has become an increasingly important part of the portfolio in recent years. Automated Packaging Systems is leading the way with modern solutions designed specifically for this sector including the Autobag AB 255 Mail Order Fulfillment OneStep™, an all-in-one bagging solution.
Peter Wylie, Automated Packaging Systems’ UK Managing Director, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – First of all, Peter, as UK MD, what does your role involve day to day? Are you personally involved in developing tailored solutions for major customers?
Our business in Europe is growing and we are growing our range of systems and packaging materials to enable us to support new sectors, all of which makes my job an exciting one. In the past couple of years the team here has expanded the scale of our manufacturing base and launched systems in to three new sectors – food, medical and mail order fulfilment. Planning and coordinating change on that scale is a challenge. My role is to set our course and keep us on track, ensuring we meet and exceed customer expectations, hit revenue and profit targets, and remain a partner of choice long into the future. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with customers – large and small – it’s an essential part of my role, helping ensure that our long term direction of travel keeps us on course to meet their needs.
WLN – Who else is in the senior UK management team besides yourself?
The team here is heavily customer focused, with most of my senior colleagues dedicated to ensuring we have the best products in the right markets at the right time, backed by first class sales, service and support. Together, Andy Pretious (Sales and Marketing), Ed Hubbard (Corporate Services), Craig Dockery (Operations), James Lockyear (Service) and Colin Rashbrook (Quality), plus country heads Jens Pfeiffer (Germany), Guy Van Acker (Benelux) and Nicolas Kalisz (France), are responsible for all aspects of our business in Europe.
WLN – How big is Automated Packaging Systems as a company?
I have over 1,000 colleagues worldwide, 180 of which are in Europe, dedicated to ensuring we deliver a quality service. Global turnover is $200 million, some €35 million of which is in Europe, and those figures are growing.
WLN – You’ve got a big anniversary in 2014. What are you doing as a company to celebrate 30 years manufacturing in the UK?
It will be business as usual this year, and we are focusing on the future. We have worked hard to emerge from recession stronger and are committed to growing our customer base across more sectors, helping ensure we can survive and thrive for many more years.
WLN – What systems do Automated Packaging Systems have in its range?
Our three core brands are Autobag®, SidePouch® and AirPouch® which are differentiated by technology and not application. Systems are tailored for specific applications such as adding in-line weighing to our food bagging machine or high quality sealer for mail order applications. We also offer a vast array of materials and bag features such as tamper evident seals and resealable zips, depending on the needs of the application.
WLN – What are the main target sectors for your bagging systems?
I’ve already mentioned our commitment to deliver specialist bagging solutions for food and mail order fulfilment, but our core business is the same today as it was when Hershey and Berney Learner invented the first Autobag more than 50 years ago. We sell most of our machines for industrial applications, where they are used to bag kits, electronics, hardware, plumbing parts, automotive spares and the like faster and more efficiently.
WLN – As well as bagging systems, you also offer void fill and protective packaging solutions. Can you tell us more about your offering?
Under the banner of our AirPouch brand we deliver reliable, robust void fill and protective packaging at the touch of a button; a 21st century alternative to materials such as loose fill chips and paper, reducing demands on storage, minimising environmental impact and improving packing productivity. AirPouch FastWrap™ delivers on-demand protective quilt and tubes at high speed, ideal for wrapping or block-and-brace. AirPouch Express 3 outputs air pillows in a range of sizes and film density – including GeoTech environmentally friendly films – all featuring EZ-Tear™ perforations to speed up packing.
WLN – You said the business was growing. What sectors are growing fastest?
AirPouch is the fastest-growing area of our business worldwide, reflecting the growth in online retail and an increasing drive to cut shipping costs by minimising weight of void fill, helping to reduce our environmental impact. We’re committed to growing AirPouch sales year on year to become the biggest brand in this field. We’ll do that through innovation, for example our new extra-wide FastWrap makes it easier to protect larger, fragile items.
WLN – Does Automated Packaging Systems target the same market segments in Europe and in the United States?
Broadly yes, the systems and applications are the same, but the materials are more likely to vary. For example our US colleagues routinely supply polyethylene bags for food applications, but that’s much less common in Europe. There are more similarities than differences though; polythene envelopes, for example, are in increasing demand on both sides of the Atlantic for mail order fulfillment.
WLN – Each market is different; do you have dedicated departments to service different industry sectors?
We have specialist sales and service personnel working in some areas, food and mail order fulfilment being a couple of examples. There is a huge depth of experience in our traditional markets, and our technical staff can deal with a wide range of needs – from simple, unprinted bags with no features to complicated designs with compartments, hanger holes, easy-open perforations and tamper evident seals. We make sure we are always equipped with up-to-date knowledge of the different sectors.
WLN – Mail order is an industry you have only delved into in the past few years. How did you come to the decision to enter the market?
To some extent we’ve grown with the industry – because we offer printing directly onto the bag, our systems have long been used to pack for dispatch without the need for stick-on labels. The real growth came though when our mail order fulfilment specialist Martin Richards was able to offer a semi-automated next-bag-out system capable of dramatically improving packing productivity, enabling pick-and-pack operations to switch labour to picking, increasing efficiency without increasing labour costs. The result has been a substantial improvement in order-to-despatch times, enabling businesses to guarantee next day delivery even during periods of high demand.
WLN – Can you tell us more about the Autobag AB 255 Mail Order Fulfilment OneStep?
Yes – it’s a specialist system for pick-and-pack operations that dramatically speeds up the packing process, improves tracking and reduces customer returns. Once an order is scanned, the built in printer will print the address label directly onto the bag. The system then presents the operator with a pre-opened bag, ready for the product to be fed into the bag, and the bag is then sealed at the push of a switch, ready for dispatch. It’s easily integrated with conveyor systems and works seamlessly with most warehouse management software. Crucially, it’s reliable and, because operators use multiple AB255s in their operations, it reduces risk of downtime.
WLN – Why buy from APS rather than other suppliers?
Because our systems deliver unbeatable return on investment. We offer the best engineered, most reliable systems designed and manufactured to improve productivity, cut packing costs and reduce downtime. And we back every system with a level of service and support which isn’t matched anywhere in this industry. Don’t take my word for it… ask our customers. Many have tried competitor systems or switched from hand packing and wouldn’t go back.
WLN – You recently launched GeoTech, a new improved oxodegradable material. Can you tell us more about that?
GeoTech is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional polyethylene packaging, and the reprocessed material is 100% recyclable. Available in green and transparent finishes as standard, it can be custom-printed with a branded statement of environmental commitment.
WLN – How important are environmental concerns to your customers?
Very – to our customers, and to us here at Automated Packaging Systems too. GeoTech is important, but there are other ways in which we are reducing our carbon footprint. We manufacture our packaging materials in the UK to minimise transportation, and we focus on lightweight packing and void fill; by reducing the bulk and weight of packed goods we can reduce the environmental impact of transportation. And our systems deliver single-source packaging that is 100% recyclable, unlike packaging that combines plastics, paper labels, cardboard headers or metal staples.
WLN – You’ve underlined the importance of service and support. What do you offer?
Our service and support engineers are involved with customers right from the start, ensuring that we specify a system that’ll exceed expectation and deliver reliable, efficient bagging – it’s an essential part of our Total Systems Approach. Our team of technical field service engineers is the largest in the bag packaging industry and is backed by a dedicated parts and service organisation that includes technical phone support, training, maintenance, repair and custom engineering. We pride ourselves on the reliability of our systems so issues are rare, but when problems do arise 97% are resolved next-day.
WLN – Your plastics are manufactured in the UK. Are you able to provide branded bags?
Our bags can be designed and printed in up to eight colours, helping customers boost brand value, differentiate their goods and protect against counterfeiting. We work with our marketing department and agencies, and help smaller customers design bags and bag features to increase brand awareness.
WLN – How do customers find out if an Autobag system is right for them?
Give us a call on 0800 731 3643 or contact us via the website www.autobag.co.uk. An experienced member of our field sales team will carry out a free packaging survey with you, evaluating your existing packaging process to find out if we can help. The results of our study will give you a clear understanding of the options, the potential ROI and the scope to improve efficiency and throughput. Our demonstration room at Malvern offers ‘hands on’ experience and the chance to set-up and operate the system, bagging their own product.
WLN – You’re exhibiting on stand 223 at this year’s Multimodal. What will visitors see?
It is our first year at Multimodal. Our engineers and sales team will be on hand, offering demonstrations of the desktop bagger and void fill and protective packaging systems.
WLN – What are your plans for the next 30 years?
We’ll build on the success of the past 30 years, it’s a great foundation. We’re very clear what the future holds: total commitment to customer service and support; new systems and materials for a wide range of applications; continuing focus on reliability and efficiency; growth in existing markets and new territories; and investment in the people and facilities to make that possible.
Automated Packaging Systems
Tel: 0800 731 3643