By Robin Baumgarn
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SIBLEY, Iowa — It’s had several names since beginning operation 43 years ago. Regardless of the name on the door, Coveris has produced quality bags for many foods and products consumers buy regularly. Now, the company has increased production in its popcorn bag division with the purchase of a new state-of-the-art machine.
History: In 1972, Chase Bag Co. opened in Sibley. The company was sold in 1990 to Union Camp, then sold again in 1999 to International Paper. From 2001 to 2013, the company was known as Exopack, owned for a few years by the Sterling Group, and was purchased by Sun Capital Partners Inc. in 2005. Sun Capital Partners Inc. still owns the business, but following the purchase of additional international companies, the name is now Coveris.
Since its inception, the company has provided many Sibley residents and their families with employment. Coveris’ workforce in Sibley averages 22 years with the company. Plant manager Gary Vipond considers the seasoned workers one of the plant’s biggest assets.
Today: The 242,500-square-foot facility employs 160 people. The staff serves the paper bag needs of approximately 225 clients. The company manufactures four particular types of bags: sewn open mouth, pinch, popcorn and self-opening sacks. Coveris primarily prints and produces bags for charcoal, seed, feed, sugar, microwave popcorn, flour and agricultural products. The facility supplies bags to Pioneer, Clorox, Mars and American Popcorn, among others.
The process: Before a microwave popcorn bag reaches the new machine, it undergoes a few other steps. Initially, 1,800-pound rolls of paper are printed with water-based inks. The rolls can be printed two bags wide, and in a single shift, approximately 850,000 bags are printed. From there, the bags are laminated and the printed paper is combined with a plain paper with a Mylar layer between. The plant is able to produce 400,000 laminated bags.
Machine: The new addition to the company’s mechanical fleet cost approximately $500,000. The machine has double the efficiency of some of the facility’s older equipment and is capable of producing 450 microwave popcorn bags per minute. Two large rolls of paper, printed with the bag logo and information, are fed into the machine, which then cuts the bag, seals one end and stacks the bags for an employee to sort into outgoing shipments.
A touch screen enables monitoring of the bag to ensure each is cut and produced properly.
Any bag not making the grade is discarded by the machine before it is sent to the end of the line. In a single shift, the machine can produce 180,000 to 200,000 bags. One truckload of popcorn bags leaves the Sibley plant five days a week.
“This new machine represents Coveris’ commitment to commercial and operational excellence, two of the key pillars of the Coveris Business System,” said Vice President of Global Strategy and Commercial Excellence Chris Wrobel. “The high speed capabilities of the machine will enable our Sibley plant to increase productivity without compromising quality, a manufacturing principle we abide by in each of our facilities. The Sibley Coveris plant upholds this expectation of excellence, and we are excited to continue our investment in the Iowa business community with the ongoing addition of new technologies.”