Flexible packaging converter and printer cei (Coating Excellence International) explains to the industry their printing capabilities, offers their company strategy, and explains why their vision means continued success for the company. 

Flexible Packaging was fortunate enough to pick the brains of thought leaders at cei. The following are a collaboration of responses from Lorna Hay, executive VP of sales and marketing; Art Bucci, senior VP of flexible packaging sales; and Beth Vann, director of marketing.
FLEXIBLE PACKAGING: What kinds of printing capabilities do you have to offer to your customers? 
cei: At cei, we are a high end flexographic printer and offer a wide range of award winning printing technologies, including metallic, fluorescent, pearlescent, matte and gloss.
We have state-of-the-art in-house graphic capabilities and are pleased to be able to offer our customers high-definition flexographic plate making, flat top dot and expanded gamut printing.
HD Flexo: These plates are produced on a 4000 dpi high-resolution laser imager. (Non HD laser imagers produce plates with a 2400 - 2540 dpi.) There are multiple advantages of these plates, including better ink lay down, plates that last longer and reduced make-ready time on press. The finished product has smoother, sharper images, brighter impactful solids and a wider color gamut.
Flat Top Dot: Flexo plates with flat-surfaced dots. Advantages are a cleaner, more precise print area, improved solid ink density and a perfect complement to HD flexo technology.
Expanded Gamut Printing: This is a 7-color process, adding orange, green and blue to a typical 4-color CMYK process. The advantages are ink, plate, substrate and press time savings.
Research shows that consumers are, in part, drawn to products by packaging by shape, size, color and realistic graphics. And, since many markets today offer consumers an unending array of choices, these printing techniques and capabilities offer our customers a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace. 
In addition, our printing process utilizes sustainable, water based inks. These inks are lower in V.O.C.s, have bolder colors than solvent-based inks, and are environmentally friendly.
We consistently invest in technology and innovation to facilitate offering our customers the highest level of print quality in the industry.
FP: What’s your best-selling printed product? 
cei: We are fortunate to have many great selling printed products. cei was recognized for superior print quality at the Flexographic Technical Association’s (FTA) 2013 Excellence in Flexography Awards competition
That being said, our best-selling printed products are our printed woven bags for the pet food market and ream wrap. The woven bags are our best selling printed product for a couple of reasons, our printing technologies provide superior graphics in a very competitive market, and secondly, our exclusive pinch bottom closure gives our customers additional print or graphic “bill board” opportunities for high shelf visibility. Ream wrap’s success in the market is due to cei’s superior color intensity and consistency. 
Customers always want their brand to not only have eye catching graphics, but to have spot on color consistency so that regardless of when the product was printed, all the products have the same color match and intensity on the store shelves.

cei by the Numbers

Annual sales: $250 million
Size of company: Nearly 1 million square feet of manufacturing space
  • Wide web extrusion coating and laminating of film, foil, paper, board and nonwovens
  • Wide web adhesive laminating of film, foil and paper
  • Complete on-site woven poly bag manufacturing
  • EB coating and laminating
  • Wide web flexographic printing processes
  • On-site graphics including design, layout and digital plate production
Number of employees: 500 full-time employees
Number of plants, and locations: 3 strategically located plants in Wrightstown, Appleton & Hebron. We also have a direct selling team in several key geographic regions across the country.
cei’s flexible packaging solutions include converted roll-stock, stand-up, box bottom, two and three side seal, side gusseted, quad-seal pouches and shaped pouches. Many pouch features including press-to-close, slide, and hook & loop zippers, handles, vent punches, spouts, fitments, perforation, venting valves, laser scoring tear notch, reseal labels. 
Throughout its 15 year history, cei has been renowned for its promise of excellent manufacturing and quality products by receiving numerous awards and recognition.
Key Markets:
  • Pet food & treats
  • Dry Mix
  • Condiments
  • Sugar
  • Cheese
FP: Are you planning on rolling out any new products? 
cei: Our commitment to innovation is evident in two new products we’ve recently commercialized. The first is our next generation woven poly bag with slider zipper – the first bag of its type in the market. Among the many benefits, this bag has the strongest seal strength available, which can reduce damage claims by up to 100 percent, and these bags run on existing sealers with only minor modifications. It’s truly a win-win for our customers. Earlier this year this bag took top honors for its pinch bottom innovation and user friendly convenience.
Secondly, cei was recognized for sustainability achievement in packaging for the Simply Heinz™, single serve mayonnaise sachet. This patented sachet replaces traditional foil structures, providing cost savings and a more sustainable product. 
On the horizon, we have several new and/or next generation products in the works. Without letting the cat out of the bag, we look forward to being able to offer these innovative product solutions for the pet food, cheese and condiment markets.
FP: In which areas can you (or do you want to) improve? What sorts of realistic improvements does the company want to make within the flexible packaging industry? 
cei: We remain focused on offering our customers the best quality, service and innovation available. We are also aware that the flexible packaging industry is ever evolving and changing. So in order to maintain and uphold our focus, cei has a robust continuous quality improvement group that reviews all of our processes. As a result of that internal scrutiny we continually make improvements in our manufacturing processes. The result for the flexible packaging industry is, and will be continue to be, unique solutions like “just in time” warehousing programs, lighter weight packaging and unique recloseable and sustainable options. cei also monitors consumer behavior, and purchasing preferences and unmet market needs through our own qualitative and quantitative research methodologies via focus groups, usability studies and surveys. The data collected is ultimately used to guide cei’s product development process. 
FP: What is your impression of the flexographic industry? 
cei: The flexographic industry, not unlike other industries, is moving toward using more and more environmentally friendly materials and processes. Specifically, printers are not only using more recycled materials, but also less toxic, biodegradable inks and solvents. At the same time, customers are requiring increasingly higher quality. So, the challenge becomes how to be environmentally friendly while still meeting the high standards our customers have come to expect.
Our continued success can be attributed to our commitment to sustainable practices. Many other converters consider themselves “green” but we take “green” to a higher level. From the initial design of a product, to the recycling of shipping packaging for the finished product, we raise the bar on closed-loop sustainable manufacturing.
Some of the closed-loop processes that we utilize include:
  • 100 percent aqueous-based chemical and developing solutions are used in printing plate operations. Chemical and plate components are controlled through quality auditing and production reporting systems that reduce manufacturing error and premature plate failures. Used chemicals are sent back to the supplier for rejuvenating.
  • On-site plate manufacturing conserves press, plate, ink and chemical wastes by producing higher quality printing plates and replacing plates before print quality diminishes
  • No process waste water goes into the city waste water system
  • Our environmental methodology embraces a top down approach. cei’s sustainability successes are enhanced with the implementation of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership’s (SGP) program. cei is also members in the FPA, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, FTA, Wisconsin DNR’s Green Master program and the How2Recyle labeling program. Our corporate vision is dedicated to leading sustainability efforts within the industry as well as helping customers meet sustainability mandates via:
  • Supplier and customer recycling assistance
  • Production using renewable energy
  • Continual monitoring of the sustainability trends, government requirements and customer needs
As competitive as the marketplace is, customers don’t want to sacrifice quality or incur increased costs when partnering with green printers and suppliers. With on-site flexo and offset plate manufacturing, we are able to control the quality of printing plates resulting in faster order-to-press times while still delivering superior products. This also eliminates having to travel to pick up new and replacement printing plates.
In addition, since October 2011, our plate mounting is a zero waste-to-landfill operation. Retired flexo plates are disposed of by converting them into boiler fuel pellets. This process enhances our commitment of customers’ intellectual property stewardship, with the added benefit of landfill avoidance and reuse of valuable energy producing materials.
Advanced technical printing with water-based inks on complex multi-layer structures makes for high-quality impressive (and green) products. We also utilize an in-house ink-formulating specialist employed by a major ink supplier to develop custom formulations that meet cutting-edge ink adhesion applications. 
FP: In what areas can your company be used as an example to other converters? In what capacity could other converters look to your company as being the standard, or a template, that they could strive to become? 
cei: The key, in our opinion, is knowing and understanding that in the crowded marketplace our products need to meet and exceed consumers’ expectations of our customers’ brand and ultimately the packaging – that’s what equals success. In order to meet the needs of our customers and ultimately the consumers we continue to push the standards of quality and innovation. Our standard of excellence is high – as it should be. In order to continually reach those high standards, the entire company has the same goals, vision and focus.
At cei we strive to be proactive rather than reactive; in essence identifying, reducing, minimizing or eliminating potential issues before they occur. To that goal, cei has embraced a comprehensive view of Continuous Improvement including all facets of the organization and culture. From Product Design management utilizing DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) to DMAIC methodologies in day to day processes, in short, cei is centered on excellence. 
FP: What can we expect to see from your company in the coming year? 
cei: More of the same…We will continue to place a high emphasis on listening to our customers to truly understand their needs and the unmet needs of the marketplace. We will focus on new products and continued investment in manufacturing with an emphasis on cost & process improvement. Finally, we continue to develop our existing team at cei to ensure we are the “best of the best” and add strength to the team via a targeted recruitment process. We believe our employees are the strongest asset we have.
FP: Any thoughts on being named a Top 25 Converter? 
cei: We appreciate the recognition and are honored to be on the list. In the fifteen years since its inception, cei has been a Top 25 Converter for eight consecutive years. A feat we are especially proud of since our rapid growth has been organic and can be highly attributed to our dedicated employees and close relationships and partnerships we have with our customers. 
FP: What is your corporate strategy? 
cei: cei’s strategy is to grow our business by delivering outstanding customer satisfaction via key market penetration, offering innovative products, providing best in class manufacturing and by helping our customers become more efficient through innovative solutions that reduce their overall cost to market and help them become more competitive in the marketplace.
Our Motto – To offer our customers the best quality, service and innovation in the industry. 
FP: What do you believe is helping the company to succeed in business? What are you offering that other companiesmight not be (aside from customer service)? How is your company unique?
cei: cei is committed to helping its customers become more successful by manufacturing the highest quality, most cost-effective flexible packaging products in the market. We combine consistently high quality products, worldclass customer service, innovative new products, clean production technologies
and renewable resources to meet our customers’ changing requirements.
We have a unique blend of IP protected technology, a strong understanding of our core markets and a “can do” attitude built within the company and we listen to our customers. We know our customers look to cei to be experts in our core markets. 
Our uniqueness is in our people and our ability to apply our knowledge and expertise to design and manufacture a robust product portfolio for our key markets. At the end of the day, it’s really the once small company mindset that values employee contributions and fosters employee empowerment. It’s the all hands on deck and doing whatever it takes to get the job done attitude that is proudly fostered by all of our employees. 
(920) 996-1900; www.coatingexcellence.com