In todays world, you need a meeting like PPC to save your company $5,000 to $10,000, says Ross Quantz, president of Vulsay Industries Ltd. and incoming president of the San Clemente, Calif., based Petroleum Packaging Council.
One year we saved $83,000 [Canadian], thanks to a PPC meeting. We were looking for a specific cap, and I met a chap at PPC who sold us the product for much less than we were paying.
Quantz brings 40 years of petroleum packaging experience to his new role as PPC president, the first 29 with Vulcan Containers of Toronto, and since then as president of Brampton, Ontario, based Vulsay. Vulsay was born in 1986, Quantz recalls, when Liquid Packaging Ltd. was purchased by Vulcan Containers in a joint venture with S.A.Y. Industries of Leominster, Mass., later bought out by Vulcan. Motor oil packagers were still converting then from composite cans to plastic quarts.
We had access to this unique bottle, the elephant-trunk bottle, with an extended nozzle, Quantz says. Unfortunately, the elephant-trunk bottle never went anywhere. It was too expensive to make and fill. Vulsay, on the other hand, was off and running. In 1994, he and then-partner DArcy Bird bought Vulsay and tripled the companys sales over the next 10 years. Last year they sold their thriving contract-packaging and private-labeling firm to Delta Petroleum, the largest contract packager in North America, says Quantz, who continues as president of Deltas Vulsay division.
Lubricant packaging accounts for about half of Vulsays business today. The company also blows bottles and packages windshield washer, antifreeze, brake fluids, household, marine and agricultural chemicals, as well as flammable materials, in sizes from 150 ml. to bulk tankers. Vulsay has 75 employees, a 117,000-square-foot building, rail siding for six cars, and a tank farm that stores 8.3 million liters (2.2 million gallons).
The Road Ahead
First, the industry has had to deal with the implementation of RFID (radio frequency identification), Quantz says. Next, large retailers will want us to take ownership of inventory. I see them going to consignment inventory, so only the biggest companies can participate. Vulsay and [other companies of similar size] couldnt support inventory for large retailers like Wal-Mart. However, as a contract packager, we will continue to have a shelf presence through our large customers.
Long-life fluids and extended drain intervals may be storm clouds with a silver lining for packagers. Synthetic oils are coming up big and strong, displacing traditional lubes, and theyre promoting longer drains, so demand will fall, says Quantz. That will have a big impact on contract packagers.
At the same time, more major oil companies may outsource their packaging, Quantz notes. Majors have to control costs while they sell less. Small companies that stay ahead of the technology can sell packaging [services] to the majors. And long-life is finally affecting antifreeze and coolants, too.
Packaging materials present special challenges. Weve gone from the can to the center-neck bottle, to the offset-neck bottle. In the future, because products like 2-cycle oil can permeate through the HDPE side wall, other materials like PET [polyethylene terephthalate] may be used more, he suggests.
Quaker State now uses a center-neck PET bottle for its premium motor oils, Quantz points out. Its a center neck with an optical illusion – the bottle has one high shoulder and one low shoulder, and more attractive packaging.
Another concern with HDPE (high density polyethylene) is line speeds. HDPE cannot keep up to a packaging line, Quantz explains. You have three days blowing [HDPE bottles] to one day filling them. PET can keep up to todays packaging lines, where filling lines are doing 400 bottles per minute. Plus cooling [after blowmolding] isnt an issue for PET.
I think well see more PET.
Proliferating specifications for lubricants and other automotive fluids present yet another challenge to the packaging industry. The automakers continue to develop new categories, Quantz notes, and push for new products meeting the new specs in the marketplace. This means more variation and more products going through the packaging line.
I attended my first PPC meeting in Sarnia, Ontario, in 1974, as an associate [supplier] member. Back then, associates werent allowed to attend the meetings, Quantz says. His job responsibilities at Vulcan changed, so from 1983 to 1993, others represented the company at PPC. In 93 Quantz returned to PPC and found it a whole new association. Associate members were welcomed. There was a new focus on technical information, on education.
If youre going to belong to an association, you need to be active. Thats how you learn and how you benefit. Quantzs vision for PPC for the year ahead? Shorter meetings and increased participation, he says. Quantz urges petroleum packagers to send both buyers and plant managers to the meetings. And to save their company money, the people who come to PPC need to be able to implement what they learn.
When PPC holds meetings focused on plant management issues, associate members should send their plant managers as well, not just their sales people, urges Quantz.
The challenge for PPC is to assure that the membership can deal with changing trends in the industry: logistics management, property inventory management, scheduling, taking the costs out of inventory and out of supply chain management.
Its critical for [individual] members to get support from their companies to attend PPC meetings, so they can realize the value that PPC offers, he concludes. Some companies lose sight of the savings theyre losing if they dont go to PPC meetings. You learn a lot, you network, and you save your company money by coming back with ideas.