Weber Marking, EDI Pass the Test
Given the serious nature of drug testing, Paul Johnson needed no other reasons to fix a nagging problem with the labels on his company’s DrugCheck urinalysis cup. Nevertheless, he had a big one some 6000 miles to the west: China.
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“For drug abuse tests, there’s a ton of competition, and there’s not a lot of these products made in the United States any more. Most are made in China,” says Johnson, president of Express Diagnostics International (EDI; Blue Earth, MN). Chinese manufacturers “can throw labor at” their production lines, making it increasingly hard for EDI to justify the high manufacturing costs caused by its ungainly labeling process.
“It got to the point where we said, ‘we’ve got to get something done,’” Johnson recalls.
After considering several suppliers to fix the problem, Johnson settled on Weber Marking Systems (Arlington Heights, IL), whose size and industry reach impressed the company head. Johnson also introduced Weber to American Thermal Instruments (Dayton, OH), which provided the thermal dots for the new one-piece label that EDI introduced in late spring 2007.
EDI describes DrugCheck as a “a self-contained, self-activating urinalysis screening device” that is sold and shipped worldwide to hospitals, correctional facilities, and other employers. The collection cup’s test strip detects the presence of drugs. EDI had been manually applying two labels to each cup, and therein lay a two-fold problem.
The principal label had a perforated panel that peeled back to reveal the test results. A second label, printed with liquid crystal ink, showed the temperature range of the urine sample. Temperatures that fell out of a prescribed range indicated that either the sample was not fresh or had been tampered with.
The first label, however, often would tear off improperly and hide the results, and some of the temperature strips “didn’t work if you handled them too many times,” says Johnson. The combination of these flaws and manual application of the two labels on each and every cup finally had become too unwieldy.
“I would not say there was a loss of business directly related to the label situation, but the application of two separate labels was inefficient, which contributed to higher production costs,” Johnson says. Weber Marking’s new one-piece label, which can be applied automatically, “translated to formidable cost savings from a production standpoint. Sales were stagnant, if anything. This [solution] helped growth because of cost savings, which were passed on to the customer, making us more competitive.”
Madonna Lira, Weber Marking’s media specialist, says the job presented some unfamiliar challenges, making it “kind of an R&D project.” The shape of the cup presented “an engineering issue,” she says. “The cup wasn’t exactly a cylinder; it was narrower on the bottom than on the top. If you just take the label and wrap it around [the cup], it isn’t going to fit properly.”
The die for Weber’s Mark Andy press also had to be suitable from the start because of its cost, Lara points out. The “labor-intensive” project took about six months to complete, says Lara, noting that EDI is satisfied enough with the results to consider selling the product to other companies for private label use.