Vonco Products LLC
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Business View Magazine interviews Keith Smith, President of Vonco Products LLC, as part of our focus on best practices in the packaging industry.
Vonco Products LLC, based in Trevor, Wisconsin, is a contract manufacturer of custom flexible packaging for the healthcare, consumer, industrial, and animal health markets. What makes Vonco unique is its ability to take on the most difficult flexible packaging problems, providing their customers with elegant solutions that meet, or exceed, expectations. By combining ingenuity and innovation with shapes, features, and fitments the company is able to create all sorts of liquid-tight packaging solutions that go well beyond traditional, rectangular plastic bags, including custom printed pouches, bag-in-box, stand-up pouches with spouts, bulletproof biohazard transport, fluid collection, fitted infection prevention device covers, and much more. If it can be imagined, Vonco can create it.
Vonco was established in 1955 as a family business building sealing equipment for bags. It was acquired in 2013 by its current President, Keith Smith, whose background in flexible packaging helps maintain the company’s pioneering spirit. Today, Vonco employs 115 associates who work out of the company’s new 80,000-sq.-ft., ISO 9001-certified facility in Trevor, close to its former building in Lake Villa, Illinois. “It was important that we didn’t lose any of our associates with the move,” says Smith. “We have a highly technical workforce, so we weren’t interested in going too far.”
Aside from the impressive breadth displayed in the company’s healthcare and consumer product lines, Vonco boasts numerous other product development successes, including: multi-compartment bags, 95kPa biohazard transport bags, stock and custom specimen collection bags, stock security mailers, stock evidence property bags, vat liners, boil-in bags, and various promotional items.
“Many of our customers seek answers to problems that no one else can solve. They’re looking to improve packaging functionality, enhance retail shelf appeal, promote longer-lasting freshness, or reduce costs,” Smith says. “We do that for them. Every one of our solutions are custom-designed to the customer’s exact specifications. And we do it quickly. From engineering, mockup designs, and quotes, to production, printing, and fulfillment, we can significantly improve speed-to-market while keeping costs in check.”
Smith credits the company’s success to faster custom development and turn-around compared to other packaging suppliers. Customers can begin the process on the company website at www.vonco.com, by simply answering a few confidential questions to guide the development of their custom packaging needs, after which they will receive a follow-up engineering call. “Customers are encouraged to visit with ‘crazy’ design ideas,” Smith says. “Then, our Liqualoc designer bag service can produce four or five sample prototypes, based on key criteria, within 72 hours. We can then test shape, structure, dimensionals, and filling features, immediately. That, plus strong quality control and a 100-percent leak-proof guarantee for a period of one year following purchase, gives us the edge. Our customers often say, ‘I didn’t even think this could be done!’”
Serving national and international customers, Vonco’s largest market is healthcare-related, producing liquid-tight medical fluid bags and components for custom medical device applications. “We provide medical fluid bags that support applications or treatments where fluids going into, or out of, the body need to be safely and securely contained,” Smith explains. “Our liquid-tight solutions collect fluids going out, so they don’t spill, i.e. breast milk or continence products; and fluids going in, such as with IVs or dialysis.” Also, within healthcare, Vonco’s animal health products account for packaging for food, nutritional supplements, specimen collection, pharmaceuticals, and other animal care products.
“What I’m most excited about is our transition to becoming a medical device contract manufacturer,” he adds. “We’re moving forward with a clean manufacturing room that is ISO 13485-certified, which is a medical device quality standard, and selling finished products and components. Our contract manufacturing services include product design, prototyping, tooling and assembly line production, acquisition of materials, testing, product certifications, and complete supply chain management. This all requires a higher level of quality control, production lines, systems, clean rooms, and assembly. We’re thrilled with this new opportunity.”
Another key segment in Vonco’s growing healthcare division is infection prevention. “More and more, relatively healthy patients are coming out of the hospital sicker than when they went in – all because they picked up a preventable infection,” Smith notes. “We make products that allow critical medical equipment to be securely covered. We provide form-fitting bags and covers for reusable devices and trays. Our goal is to help healthcare providers maintain clean and sanitary conditions where they need it most.”
Vonco’s second largest market is general consumer retail, providing packaging for dry goods and lower-viscosity, fluid-based food, like the applesauce and baby food found in supermarkets, or cleaning chemicals one might find in grocery stores and hardware stores such as hand sanitizers, soaps, and household cleaning fluids.
“Vonco offers fast custom development and commercialization for brand owners,” says Smith. “Moreover, our supply chain solutions reduce the complexity and cost of sourcing, manufacturing, and distributing consumer-branded solutions. We’re also able to maximize margins and minimize risk by reducing waste and spoilage with guaranteed leak-proof packaging. Whether you’re filling five pouches per minute or 120 pouches per minute, this is an exciting time for brand owners to consider a turnkey contract manufacturer that can solve the entire supply chain.”
Another concern shared by many of Vonco’s customers is sustainability. “There’s definitely a growing role for flexible packaging and post-consumer recycled materials,” Smith relates. “Flexibles are a major step towards providing sustainable alternatives to rigid plastic, metal, or glass containers. When you consider the number of brand owners switching to consumer-friendly and eco-friendly solutions, it’s not difficult to point out the benefits of flexible packaging over rigid packaging: pouches are lighter and more portable, use up to 60 percent less plastic than rigid plastic bottles, require approximately 50 percent less energy to produce, generate less CO2 emissions during production, produce significantly less landfill waste, and require fewer trucks for transportation. Vonco offers brand owners a variety of recyclable options for their packaging.”
Smith maintains that while many other companies are left searching for quality employees, Vonco Products’ core values help it recruit new workers. “We care more about each other; we care more about our customers; we care more about patients and consumers,” he states. “That permeates this organization and helps us with our referral system. We touch a lot of lives with the products that we make.”
The company also works with the Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections, employing over a dozen prisoners in its work release program. “A big societal problem is recidivism,” Smith remarks. “We provide opportunities when it’s tough for these folks to find work. They’re already here, already contributing, already an important part of our team. And most of them are trying to find out, after they get done with the program, how to move closer to us in order to stay with us. In fact, the state is writing a case study on us. It’s nice to be recognized for doing the right thing.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Vonco Products LLC
WHAT: A manufacturer of customized flexible containers for healthcare and retail markets
WHERE: Trevor, Wisconsin
Pen & Inc. – www.pen-and-inc.com
Pen & Inc. of Milwaukee, Inc., a woman owned graphic design, prepress and flexographic platemaking company based in Franklin, WI, has been providing conceptual design, digital artwork, color separations, contract proofs, and flexographic printing plates since 1986. Pen & Inc. works directly with consumer product companies on their product packaging and flexographic printers such as Vonco Products. We provide solutions to everyday graphic art challenges while meeting extremely tight deadlines.
At Pen &Inc., “We Make the Impossible Possible!”