60 seconds with Jim Lancaster, Lantech
Jim Lancaster, Lantech
Location: Louisville, Ky.
Experience: Worked at Lantech since 1990; CEO since 1995
Duties: Manages the day-to-day operations of facilities in Kentucky, the Netherlands, and Australia as well as sales and service personnel around the world
Modern: First, congratulations are in order. You’ve just celebrated 40 years in business. What has contributed to Lantech’s longevity?
Lancaster: There have been several things. Culturally, we’ve had a commitment to understanding our customers’ environments for 40 years. We understand the operating conditions in the back end of a factory and what stretch film machines have to do in the real world. The ownership and management has been the same for 40 years. We love equipment, and we love what we do, and those things have kept us in business and have kept us at the forefront of the industry for those years as well.
Modern: How is the transport packaging and load unitization segment of the market changing, and what is driving those changes?
Lancaster: Let’s start with the most significant driver of change. From a cost reduction and environmental perspective, the primary and secondary packages have been dramatically reduced in structure in the last 5 or 10 years. The case used to be the predominant outer package. That turned into a tray, and now it’s a shrink bundle. More recently, the package inside that case or tray or bundle is less rigid. Think about bottled water. When it was in a glass bottle, you only needed stretch film in an emergency. Now the water is in an extremely thin plastic bottle that feels like a water balloon. That same evolution is going on with cartons of cereal and other consumer goods. That’s impacted us in two ways. One is that what used to be a minimum amount of containment to hold the load together is a minimum and maximum. We have to hold the load together without damaging the product. And, what I call the band of success is far narrower. That means we have to be much more precise because the range between protecting and damaging a load is so much narrower than it used to be.
Modern: Is the end user community paying closer attention to products like stretch wrap than they did in the past as a result of the changes in packaging?
Lancaster: They are now. In the past, even if they had standards as to how to wrap a load, they really didn’t have a way to measure that. Stretch wrap equipment has evolved to the point that they now have a way to wrap a load and hold it to a standard throughout the wrap. That standard is far more important.
Modern: The automation side of the materials handling industry is in growth mode. How are stretch wrappers being integrated with automated systems?
Lancaster: Well, automated stretch wrappers have been part of the material flow in manufacturing applications for a long time. The bigger change that I’m seeing is that the distribution business is putting automation in the warehouse, especially in the beverage industry. The opportunity in distribution is an automation opportunity. But there are still real waste reduction opportunities by making better use of stretch film and transport packaging. There are comparable savings in thinking through the demand flow through a warehouse as there is in automating.