Overcoming design and manufacturing obstacles, two PVC Container Corp. companies have helped Pennzoil-Quaker State launch its newest product. The publicly held processor produced the Pennzoil Roadside Rescue Emergency Fuel Additive container in five months, thanks to some fast work by two PVC Container units: blow molder Airopak Corp. of Manchester, Pa., and Marpac Industries Inc. of Kingston, N.J.
"This is one of the toughest [projects] we've done," Phillip Friedman, president and chief executive officer of PVC Container, said in a telephone interview. "We put our heads together among a few divisions to figure out what we would need."
And the companies had some strict criteria with which to work.
The half-gallon container not only had to have the signature Pennzoil yellow color, it had to be shaped like a gasoline pump nozzle. It had to be leak-free, nonrefillable and able to withstand being jostled around in a car trunk for as much as five years.
Other requirements included: an easy-to-grip, built-in handle; and a leak-proof cap that was child-resistant, yet easy for adults to open.
So the blow molder went to work. The outside of the container is high density polyethylene with a 0.02-inch minimum thickness. Airopak uses a proprietary, in-line fluorination process that blows fluorine and nitrogen, instead of air, into a container to react with the plastic and coat the inside. That provides the necessary barrier properties.
The injection molded spout had its own set of challenges. It had to be flexible and easy to use, but extremely difficult to remove once screwed onto the neck of the container.
In addition, Pennzoil-Quaker State did not want the spout taped or banded to the container, but incorporated into a recess on the bottle where it could be securely locked and stored.
Airopak was able to mold a container with an indent and not compromise wall thickness.
"We have patents on two parts of the design — the spout and the design of the bottle with a nested spout within the bottle," Friedman said.
The neck of the Rescue additive container, originally to be 60 degrees for easy pouring into a gas tank, was modified to 53 degrees to accommodate a specially designed mold.
Special notches had to be designed into the mold to ensure wall-thickness continuity and to make sure the fluorine bounced around the container to create the protective barrier.
With the angle of the blow, the fluorine was not exhausting properly, requiring Airopak to overcome another obstacle. In one eight-hour shift, the company reconfigured and built a completely new exhaust system to handle the bottle.
All containers are made on a Bekum Model 502D blow molding machine. Heise Industries Inc. of East Berlin, Conn., built a special four-cavity mold for the bottles.
Production proved difficult, Friedman said. The company had to develop a head tooling and process package that would have one parison to blow mold two different bottles. The blow pins had to be angled out rather than in the same direction, so they wouldn't hit the die head.
"Molding a bottle which had to be tilted in the mold, getting the spout into the bottle and the tolerances required and the handle configuration all made this a tough bottle to mold," he added.
Rescue is a highly refined, petroleum-based fuel additive designed to help a motorist who runs out of gas to drive about 10 more miles.
Rescue was introduced in November at an automotive show in Las Vagas, only five months after PVC Container took on the project.
"What inspired us from the outset with PVC Container Corp. and its affiliate companies was that they could visualize what Pennzoil-Quaker State seemed to be looking for right at the outset," said Pennzoil-Quaker State team leaders Alice Crowder and Michael Howe in a news release.
"When confronted with a situation that had never been experienced before, instead of saying, `It can't be done,' [PVC Container] somehow and in some way figured out a way to get the job done, no matter what the obstacles," they said.
In unrelated news, PVC Container closed its 10,000-square-foot Ardmore, Okla., facility at the beginning of the year.
When the company purchased Marpac in 1998, the Ardmore facility was a satellite plant and not making a profit. PVC Container viewed this as a new opportunity to bring in Marpac and Airopak-style business.
However, the facility continued to sustain losses, said Ken Kallish, general manager of the Airopak and Marpac divisions.
"We viewed this as a business opportunity," he said in a telephone interview. "But the new business we brought in didn't happen quickly enough. Some of our customers' business declined. We tried to keep it open for a year, but it continued to sustain losses."
The equipment and business was moved to other plants within the PVC Container organization.
PVC Container Corp., headquartered in Eatontown, N.J., had sales of $85 million for the year ended June 30.
In addition to the Airopak and Marpac divisions, which blow mold industrial containers, PVC Container makes consumer bottles and containers and supplies PVC compounds and specialty plastic alloys.
The company's stock is traded on Nasdaq under the symbol PVCC.