Thermoformer Aims for Better Process Control, Higher Capacity, with New Machine and Upgrades

Barger Packaging (Elkhart, IN) has completed a multimillion-dollar investment in equipment and facilities as part of its corporate initiative toward continuous improvement. The exclusively medical and pharmaceutical packaging producer made the investments to increase capacity, achieve better process control, present deeper draw capacity, and reduce labor after investigating customer needs through interviews and site visits.

“Barger is committed to continuous improvement and reinvestment in more-efficient new equipment as we strive to contain costs, yet still maintain the level of quality that our OEMs require,” explains Scott Duehmig, Barger’s vice president and general manager. “While others are retreating from medical-specific thermoforming, Barger is investing in this industry and our customers.”

Qualification activities are underway on its new 3036CFT thermoforming line from Modern Machinery. The custom-designed thermoformer utilizes 24 separate servo control stations to maintain the tightest tolerances possible. Modern Machinery worked very closely with Mike McFarland, Barger’s operations manager, and his team to address key customer needs during machine design: cleanliness, accuracy, process control, and efficiency. Barger had previously obtained a sheet-fed former from Modern Machinery for its BargerGard manufacturing and prototyping operations.

The new thermoformer will provide “exceptional reproducibility and consistent production of high precision parts,” says Michael Auger, vice president of sales and marketing. “It meets the increased demand that we are experiencing by providing additional capacity, maintaining short lead times, and broadening the range of product offerings that we can offer to our customers.”

For instance, the machine allows Barger to better control temperature, pressure, and time,” Auger explains. “Such control will allow us to experiment with new materials our raw material suppliers may offer or that our OEMs may require us to use in production.”

A pick-and-place out-feed system from Bosch Rexroth stacks parts for easier inpsection and packing, saving labor. Also, “we expect safer and faster setup times as a result of automating tasks that are currently done manually,” says Auger.

In addition to the new thermoformer, Barger has also increased its ISO Class 8 clean room area tenfold. “The fully climate controlled production area enables tighter process control and reduced particulates,” adds Duehmig. “With OEM expectations that their suppliers are compliant with the quality systems requirements outlined in FDA’s 21 CFR Part 820, we see our upgrades giving our customers the confidence that the custom packaging solutions we create mirror their own high compliance environments and standards. This regulation has become the foundation of our business ensuring that we hold ourselves to the same standards that our customers are held to by FDA.” Auger reports that “100% of all prototyping, manufacturing, and inspection are now conducted in our certified Class 8 cleanrooms.”

Based on Barger’s upgrade, a leading medical device manufacturer has awarded Barger “a significant amount of business that would not have been given to Barger without the enhanced cleanroom,” adds Auger.

Barger is also working to save customers time and costs by conducting design reviews and first-article inspections via teleconferencing, led by Mike Nielsen, responsible for business development. “Using SolidWorks and Internet-based meeting tools, our customers save on travel expenses, and we improve communications and increase accuracy, which ultimately gets them to market faster,” he says. Three full-time designers report to Nielsen.

Duehmig says that Barger understands that medical device companies are “looking to be lean in manufacturing and packaging, and we embrace those initiatives.”

An affiliate of the Welch Packaging Group, Barger Packaging provides sterile and non-sterile packaging solutions for the medical and pharmaceutical industries worldwide. The company, originally founded in 1887, has had a medical niche since 1971. Welch Packaging has invested about $2 million in Barger in the last two years.


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