Issue Jul Aug 15
Eric Strub started Marburg Industries in 1972 after devising a machine to place decorative labeling on packages. More than 40 years later, Strub’s daughter, Barbara Paschal, runs the company, which is a leading manufacturer of shrink labeling, decorative labeling and tamper-evident packaging equipment.
Strub was motivated to design the machine after a friend who sold glass bottles and caps told him that the labels were manually placed on the bottles. Years later, Marburg Industries offers a variety of machines designed for banding, labeling and heat-shrinking.
The Vista, Calif.-based company serves numerous industries, including pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, cosmetics, snacks and candy, as well as small items such as lip balm and sample-size toiletries. “It’s one of those things you see all the time,” says Paschal, who has worked at Marburg Industries for almost 40 years. “Years ago, it was kind of behind the scenes.”
Indeed, it would be nearly impossible to go to a grocery store or walk through the aisles of a pharmacy without spotting myriad products that include shrink labeling or tamper-evident packaging. That wasn’t always the case, but companies that manufacture over-the-counter pharmaceuticals had no choice but to adopt tamper-evident packaging following the Tylenol murders in 1982, Paschal says.
The series of poisoning deaths resulted from drug tampering in the Chicago metropolitan area. The victims had all taken Tylenol-branded acetaminophen capsules that had been laced with potassium cyanide. The tragic incident drastically changed the industry, Paschal recalls. “The industry exploded in terms of over-the-counter products,” Paschal says.
Food Industry Interested
A few years later, the food industry became interested in shrink and decorative labeling as well as tamper-evident packaging, but typically called it a freshness seal because the term was more appealing for marketing purposes, Paschal says. The seals were first seen on glass jars and bottles, such as mayonnaise, salad dressing and syrup. “The band was like a collar,” Paschal says.
Soon, however, food manufacturers realized that shrink labeling had a useful purpose beyond ensuring freshness and safety. Shrink labeling was easier and less expensive to apply to jars and bottles, especially oddly shaped ones, than paper labels, Paschal says. “The industry has really opened up the past 10 to 15 years,” Paschal says. “Things have really changed.”
Paschal adds that Marburg Industries’ shrink label applicators have proven to be an effective and efficient tool for the food and beverage industry because they help cut cost and increase productivity. Shrink labels lock in product freshness with airtight seals and act as tamper-evident packaging. The labels also contain brand information, uses, directions, ingredients and diet information. Additionally, companies use product labels as advertising space, incorporating colors, pictures, graphics and slogans to market the item.
Printing separate paper labels can be expensive, but a shrink label that covers most of the package complete with decorative images can cut costs because it offer two benefits, Paschal says. The application of a separate decorative label and the expensive machine that is used to apply it are eliminated. Additionally, the shrink labels have a sleek, modern appearance that are sturdier than paper labels, Paschal says.
Making an Impact
Marburg Industries identifies itself as a midsize company but counts both small and large manufacturers among its clients, Paschal says. “Because of what we do, we make a pretty big impact in the market,” she says, adding that the company has clients throughout the world.
Flexibility is another one of the company’s key strengths, Paschal says. It counts numerous pharmaceutical and food manufacturers among its clients, but serves other industries as well. For example, it recently sold a machine to a company that wanted to decorate hunting bows, and it provided a solution designed to package electronic cigarettes, Paschal says. The large tins of popcorn that often are used as holiday gifts are sealed with a machine designed by Marburg Industries.
Marburg Industries has significant competition today, a scenario that greatly differs from the company’s early days when only a handful of companies were manufacturing machines for shrink labeling, decorative labeling and tamper-evident packaging machines. “Very few companies did what we did in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We decided we wanted to build a small, inexpensive machine,” she says, describing the company’s initial business model.
Today, the company is well positioned in a far more competitive marketplace primarily because of its long-standing reputation. “Nobody really has been able to take away from what we do,” she says. “Our base design and philosophy has always been the same.”
Competitors often enter the market by approaching smaller businesses because they don’t possess the reputation to do business with larger companies. To offset that shortcoming, they often market bigger, faster, less-expensive machines, but the tactic rarely works, Paschal says.
Partnering With Clients
Marburg Industries works closely with its clients to provide the tamper-evident banding, shrink labeling, sleeving and heat tunnel solutions that best suit their product lines while accommodating their budgets, Paschal says. Additionally, various machine add-ons that convert basic equipment into versatile solutions are available as a company grows, she says. Marburg Industries manufactures all of its equipment in-house rather than outsource the work, an approach that better serves clients that require customized products, Paschal says.
The company strives to avoid the “one-size-fits-all” approach. “We think customers should have a machine built to fit their needs,” Paschal says. “A company and its products are unique, and that’s why we’re happy to fill all reasonable customer requests.”
For example, companies that have an unusual or special container are encouraged to send a few samples of the product to Marburg Industries for a test run to help determine how to configure the appropriate machine. The test also helps Marburg Industries determine whether it can help the manufacturer reduce production costs and improve productivity, Paschal says.
Producing the best solution at the right price is what drives the company’s success, Paschal says. The company views every customer as a partner and works with them to develop solutions that will lead to producing products cost effectively, while simultaneously providing attractive packaging equipment to protect content integrity, she says.
In fact, Paschal adds, the relationships Marburg Industries has cultivated with clients are the accomplishment of which she is most proud. “It’s not all about sales or speed to market,” she says. “We look at it from the standpoint of what we can do for our clients.”
The company endeavors to always be responsive to customers’ questions, concerns and complaints and treats them fairly when machines require new parts or service, she says.
The company faces a variety of challenges and primary among them is keeping up with client demands, Paschal says. Manufacturers that want to bring new products to market will push Marburg Industries to provide the machinery they need, she says.
“That’s the No. 1 challenge for a smaller company,” Paschal says. Marburg Industries responds to the challenge by anticipating clients’ needs. “We manufacture the machines in batches of 10,” she says. “We don’t wait until we get an order.” Manufacturers who place an order after a batch is sold can rent a smaller piece of equipment until the next batch is ready, she says.