Brampton Engineering Inc.

Sealing up a reputation in the packaging equipment market
Written by: 
Matt Dodge
Produced by: 
Lance Pelletier

Over the last 45 years, Brampton Engineering Inc. has become one of North America’s leading manufacturers of custom, multilayer flexible packaging equipment systems.

The company specializes in the production of die technology as well as air blown and water quenched packaging systems, branded as AeroFrost and AquaFrost, respectively. In addition, Brampton offers packaging system winders and software, making it a one-stop shop for all of a film producer’s technology needs.

The Brampton, Ontario-based company serves clients around the world, with a focus on the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial and personal care markets. In the last year, Brampton has finalized sales to some of the nation’s leading packaging manufacturers, including InnoPlast and CharterNEX.

Brampton Engineering Inc.

The multilayer plastic packaging is used for a range of applications, from packaging drugs and personal care products to films for electronics and field liners for agricultural use.

Built on innovation

Founded in 1973, Brampton built its reputation on the back of their Streamline Co-extrusion Die (SDC) system for multilayer film structures. The technology was developed by owner Bill Wybenga, who revolution the industry with a product which allowed users to move beyond the industry standard of five-layers and produce blown films systems with as many as seven to 11 layers.

“The more layers you have, the more complicated it is, but also, the more valuable,” says Gary Hughes, president and CEO of Brampton. This innovation allowed Brampton to quickly gain worldwide notoriety as a leading packaging system manufacturer, and this reputation continues to serves the company today.

“If you look at top 25 companies in North America making their own film, more than 80 percent will have our machines,” he says. “We’re not a high-volume supplier, but we can compete with the best in the business because what really differentiates us is our technology and how we tailor it to the client.”

This type of market saturation is a point of pride for Hughes, who says that Brampton’s products are often brought in to perform some of the most complex packaging jobs.

“They might buy one of our competitor’s machines, but at the same time they’ll purchase a more complex seven- or nine-layer machine from us for some of the more challenging applications,” says Hughes “We’re encouraged by that and know that’ll we’ll almost always win in our area of expertise.”

Revolutionizing while remaining lean

The last year has seen major structural changes at the company, where management conducted a buy-out from the company’s principal owners, Royal Bank, after almost 20 years. “We’re now implementing a lot of changes and have a very good strategy to not only survive, but to keep it growing,” says Hughes.

As the company continues to grow and further develop its own particular niche, management is looking to embrace lean manufacturing principals while still providing the superior level of customization that Brampton has become known for.

“Can a flexible custom manufacturer become efficient and lean? The answer is, yes you can,” says Hughes. “If you’re going to be a smaller player in the field you have to figure that out, and that’s the challenge we’re taking on here.”

Brampton has built its reputation around the concept of customization, with Hughes describing each product as a signature machine for a specific client. This approach that has allowed the company to distinguish itself in the industry despite being 20 times smaller than its largest competitor.

Now, Brampton is looking to offer that same level of customization while dramatically reducing the product’s cycle time, allowing the company to further differentiate itself from its competitors.

“We’re not losing custom solutions — we respect the history and the long-term experience of the employees — but we’re breaking the paradigm and showing that fitting a custom solution for a customer doesn’t mean that you can’t be efficient and effective,” says Hughes.

While some of Brampton’s competitors already offer the same cycle times the company is aiming for Hughes says they lack the focus on customization that Brampton can provide.

“The common approach is: this is our machine, here are the options you can choose, and the client has to accept those standards, whereas the conversation at Brampton is: tell us about the product you’re trying to make, tell us what’s special about how our systems will have to process it, and then we make a recommendation,” Hughes says.

 While Hughes admits that reducing cycle time while offering the same level of customization will be no easy task, it’s vital to competing in a changing North American manufacturing market. “Common thinking is that you can’t be both custom and standardized in your process, but the key to survival in this manufacturing base is just that,” he says.

As a 45 year-old company, Brampton has the institutional knowledge and in-house expertise to address this new manufacturing challenge. The company is now working to automate the design process into an algorithm, which will decrease production cycle time without losing the focus on customization. “I would say we’re halfway there right now,” Hughes says.

Striking a balance

While many in the manufacturing sector have had a difficult time attracting the next generation workforce, Hughes says that Brampton benefits from its prime location in young, populous southern Ontario. “There’s such a wealth of talent with which to build a technical manufacturing team, with five universities and community colleges located in the area,” he says. “At any time we have three student and co-op students and we have partnered on a smaller R&D project with a local community college.”

The company has already hired on of its former interns, and will routinely seek out younger talent. Still, Hughes says that a healthy mix of younger, creative employees and older, experienced workers are really the ideal combination for Brampton.

“It’s really important to get the young on board, but then also putting them on a team where their voices will get through, but will also be balanced out by experienced employees,” he says.

As the company continues to grow, Hughes says the electronics industry will likely become a growing niche for the company. While it can be difficult to move into a new market, Hughes says that cutting-edge 3D modeling, simulation technology and younger, tech-savvy workers are speeding up the process.

“In the old days the engineers would come up with a design, build a prototype and go through that cycle a number of times. Today we’ve cut that to a fraction because we can model and simulate the entire process and do terabytes of calculations using cloud computing,” says Hughes. To that end, the company has hired many specialized skills, including a recent aerospace engineering graduate who Hughes says has been able to cut prototyping time in half.

While Brampton Engineering became a market-leader on the back of its innovative Streamline Co-extrusion Die technology, the company is not content to rest on its laurels. As it works to dramatically reduce cycle time while offering the same level of customization its customers have come to expect, Brampton Engineering will remain a leading manufacturer of multilayer flexible packaging equipment.

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