Back in 2005, when Julian Pie Company was experiencing phenomenal growth, the company realized that it needed to add automation to an awkward, labor-intensive operation of labeling and sealing its boxes of freshly-baked fruit pies.
Now, after over eight years on the production line, the company knows it made the right decision when it chose labels and a custom labeling system from Weber Packaging Solutions (Arlington Heights, IL) to solve its labeling dilemma.
Julian Pie Company was founded in 1986 by Liz Smothers. The company now has two locations, both managed by her sons. One is a storefront (Julian, CA) managed by Dave Smothers, and the other is a large bakery (Santa Ysabel, CA), managed by Tim Smothers, from which they supply some 600,000 fruit pies a year to Southern California shops and grocery store chains. In addition, pies can be purchased directly on the company's website: www.julianpie.com.
Julian Pie Company's former method of labeling its pies harkened back to the days when the company was in its early years. Particularly during seasonally busy periods like Thanksgiving, the company had to hire extra labor to manually label and seal the paperboard boxes of pies.
Blank labels literally were purchased at local office supply stores and printed using a standard office printer. The labels, which were imprinted with ingredient and Nutrition Facts information, were then hand-applied to the pie boxes, and the boxes were sealed with standard cellophane tape.
Julian Pie Company management realized that the time was right to automate its labeling operation. "My parents, Cindy Boyle (Wholesale manager) and I went to several trade shows to look at different machines from different companies," Tim Smothers remembered.
The team bumped into exhibitor Weber Packaging Solutions at the Pack Expo show in Las Vegas, where they discovered that Weber was a complete labeling solutions provider that had what Smothers wanted.
"We knew right away that we had good solution with the Weber system," Smothers said.
"We liked everything about it, including the footprint of the machine itself and the fact that Weber manufactured labels, too."
The system that Weber engineered was a customized version of its label printer-applicator that included a conveyor and a pair of label wipe-down stations. Now, instead of up to a half-dozen temporary workers, a single operator assembles a paperboard pie box, places the pie inside, and sends it down a conveyor.
The Weber label printer-applicator automatically prints a UPC barcode, ingredients and Nutrition Facts information on the label, then gently applies the center area of the label to the front of the pie box as it travels past on the conveyor.
Just inches away from the initial point of label application, a custom wipe-down station brushes the top portion of the label across the top of the box, then a second wipe-down station immediately applies the lower part of the label across the bottom of the box, sealing the package for distribution.
The Weber label material is its proprietary Flex-Lyte 155 pressure-sensitive film, and the label itself is 6.5" wide and 5" deep. The label is preprinted with the Julian Pie Company logo and slogan – "As American as apple pie" – in three colors on a flexographic press. A portion of the label is blank, permitting the printing of information specific to each type of pie.
And, eight years later, the Weber printer-applicator and labels are still keeping up with Julian Pie Company's needs.
"The Weber system is very efficient," Tim Smothers concluded. "It's very fast and it just keeps on working. And our labels look great. We're very satisfied."