ROSEMONT, ILL. — Patience and a deep understanding of the regulatory process are important attributes for Comar LLC, CEO Michael Ruggieri believes.
These are time-tested characteristics that have been ingrained over the decades at the Buena, N.J.-based plastics packaging firm that traces its roots back to 1949.
It's that long history of providing packaging and dispensers for the pharmaceutical and healthcare market that has taught Comar patience. “We've lived and breathed this industry from our infancy,” Ruggieri said in an interview during the Plastics Caps & Closures 2014 in Rosemont in October, a conference organized by Plastics News.
Developing healthcare packaging is distinctly different from work in the consumer goods sector.
“It requires a lot of patience. It requires a lot of investment. And you have to have a business model that can support it. This is not the kind of thing that you can throw a machine in and start producing pharmaceutical parts in the corner,” he said.
Satisfying regulations that cover products contained in Comar's packaging is key, Ruggieri said.
“The biggest challenge is being able to interpret the requirements and helping our customers connect the dots. Our customers know regulations very well. That's their business,” the CEO said. “Understanding that end requirement is by far the most important thing. And then taking that end requirement and working back through the cycle.”
That, for example, could mean redesigning packaging to include child resistant features to meet new governmental requirements aimed at reducing overdosing or accidental ingestion.
Comar looks to create a packaging solution that that allows its different customers — the pharmaceutical and healthcare companies — to maintain their own levels of comfort and individual identities.
“We try to build flexibility. Our customers are risk adverse, understandably so, makes a lot of sense. They prefer to change as little as possible when they do make a change,” the CEO said.
So Comar looks for solutions that will allow different companies to continue using their same resin types, for example, while still adhering to new regulations. Creating this flexibility within the framework of an overall solution means companies also can continue to use their same sterilization techniques and filling equipment.
Comar can take years to develop a new package. But then that package will then be used for years and years. That's unlike consumer products where packaging can change quickly.
“If you look at the personal care business, they want stuff tomorrow and the next year it could be completely different,” Ruggieri said. “Very, very high churn, but very, very short development cycles.”
Because Comar's customers avoid risk, the company has to be willing to take on more risk during the development phase of new packaging.
“We have to have a lot (of tolerance), because our of our customers' adversity to risk,” he said. “It requires that we take a much bigger risk in terms of investment to support that.”
Having so much experience in the sector means Comar has a well-established view on creating new packaging.
“Our approach is to develop products that fit well with our market, which provide nice longevity,” Ruggieri said. “It's a very methodical approach and it's different with each product. We have checkpoints along the way to think about investments and stages. As the investments get bigger, the scrutiny gets higher.”
While Comar dates back 65 years, the company just became a whole lot bigger in recent months. That's because private investment firm Graham Partners decided to merge Comar with Convergence Packaging Holdings LLC, also owned by Graham.
Comar makes items such as oral dispensers, dropper assemblies, dosing devices, closures and bottles. Convergence previously was created through the combination of Scandia Plastics LLC, Paradigm Packaging Inc. and Precision Medical Inc. Convergence brings extrusion, injection and injection stretch blow-molding options to the health and nutrition, medical diagnostics, food packaging, household and light industrial markets to the newly larger company.
The larger company, which retained the Comar name, now has seven manufacturing sites in the United States and Puerto Rico.