Samsonite Corp. has found a way to make colorful luggage cases from parts that had been discarded.
In the past two months, Samsonite has used $100,000 in marbled-look parts — produced during color changes — to make injection molde d cases. Previously, it typically lost the equivalent of 70-80 cases for every color change on its four presses.
The cases, which Samsonite began making about three months ago, have swirls of red, blue and/or purple — and no two ar e exactly alike.
``This was driven by four main points, environmental health and safety issues — we eliminate purging agents; the purging operation is dangerous; we keep from wasting material; and we have found a use for the cases other than as scrap or landfill material,'' said Kermit Hodge, business systems leader.
Plus the company has eliminated the cost of grinding the shells, he said.
``We make cases, we're not dropping product and it offsets the costs si nce we can sell the marbled cases,'' added Hodge.
Although the company has been grinding unusable or unattractive cases since the mid- 1970s, Hodge pointed out that the polypropylene loses properties after one use. The company tests the regrind on a daily basis and it only is used in black cases. Regrind accounts for 2-3 percent of Samsonite's material.
``Regrind is the most overlooked area that causes problems,'' Hodge said. ``It has contaminants, it is older and some is hygroscopic. I'm always looking for the opportunity to eliminate variances that cost us.''
The company's presses operate 24 hours a day, making about 1,440 cases each day at Samsonite's Denver headquarters. Color change s occur several times a month. If the company stopped production during color changes, the machines would be down for 45 minutes.
``It's hard to get color out of the barrels,'' Hodge said. ``And yellow is harder than black. [Now] we continue to run the machines and continue to make shells.''
The company has set a marketing team in motion. In an effort to generate interest, Samsonite has been donating the multicolored luggage to organizations such as the Americ an Red Cross and the National Safety Council. The company has not decided what to charge for the unique luggage.
The firm has batted around ideas of where to direct the marketing. College campuses — with school colors swirled into luggage — is one possibility, Hodge said. Samsonite also has considered approaching professional sports franchises with company stores, and cosmetics firms.
``We're open to all possibilities,'' Hodge added. ``We hope to go with lic ensing agreements with sports teams.''