The new building, which is across a parking lot from the existing plant, will house what the company is calling its innovation center, which will help customers become familiar with new types of packaging, including stand-up pouches.
“It's a place where customers can come and learn about structures and filling technologies. We can teach them about flexible packaging, and we'll help them launch new products,” Bray said.
The new building will free up space in the 66,000-square-foot main plant, which Bray expects will soon be filled with additional laminating, printing and extrusion equipment.
In addition to machinery, the company has made substantial changes to its service and quality operations. That meant hiring a team that includes Dale Ince, vice president-technology; Mike Aves, director of operations; and Darcy Asham, operations improvement manager.
An example of their work: Flexstar put in place a new information system that allows customers to track and quickly access information, like inventory and shipping schedules.
“This industry is not like it used to be, where you found 10-12 week lead times,” Bray said. “The supply chain work that we do, that's a big part of our success.”
Ince said Flexstar's strength is how it reacts to customers' needs. Another key is the workforce. While the company is only 11 years old, some employees have been at the plant for more than 30 years.
“Our customers see us as [providing] good quality service, quality print and expertise in technology,” Ince said. He also talked about the commitment to training at Flexstar, something that was confirmed by Klaus Kleemann, vice president of sales at W&H's U.S. unit in Lincoln, R.I.
Flexstar sent workers to W&H's training facilities in Germany, where maintenance crews and machine operators got both classroom and hands-on instruction. Later on, they did follow-up training, too.
“During this training the operators start with an empty press that needs to be set up completely, which gives them deep understanding of all systems,” Kleemann said. “From the beginning you start with a well-trained crew and thus maximize your productivity.”
Flexstar started with 32 employees. Now it has 122, including 50 on the plant floor. Today the company has annual sales of “over $35 million,” Bray said.
“We've doubled our revenue in the last five years, and I expect we can double again in the next five years — or less,” he said.
That could mean growing through acquisition, Bray said, but definitely expanding outside its base in western North America.
“We've had a lot of our customers ask us,” he said. “There are always plans. We'd plan to follow the same formula that has worked here.”