Building ‘Bundles of Love’

Just through the doors to the work floor at Temco Inc., a packaging and assembly services company in Marthasville that employs adults with developmental disabilities, there is a buzz in the air and flurry of activity among the staff.

Rather than sitting at work tables, as so many of the jobs here typically require, employees are on their feet — moving, lifting, distributing, inserting, carrying, stacking . . .

They are assembling a pet care product, “Small Dog, Big Value — Bundles of Love,” for Mars Inc. (the candy bar company) in its pet care division. It includes a plastic food-grade storage dispenser made by American Plastics Group Inc. in Union, filled with a sampling of Mars Petcare items, like Pedigree Small Breed, Cesar Canine Cusine and Pedigree Dentastix.

After being assembled by Temco employees in Marthasville, the “Bundles” will be sold at Sam’s Clubs all over the country.

The job has been a boost for Temco, said Bob Engemann, executive director/general manager, not just because of the big-name companies involved, but because it presented Temco with “a fun challenge.”

40,000 Units in Five Weeks

There are several aspects of the Mars/American Plastics Group job that has set it apart from others that Temco handles. For starters, the size is much larger with a narrow time frame, said Engemann.

“Forty-thousand units — 2,000 pallets — over a five-week period,” he said. “We will ship 43 tractor-trailor loads in just five weeks.”

The assembly process also has been more intricate, requiring more steps from start to finish.

“A lot of our other jobs may be two- or three-step operations with one person doing 1,000 units a day,” said Engemann. “With this one, we’re doing 2,000 a day — 100 pallets — but it’s taking a crew of 22 or 23 people to hit that.”

Temco has it set up in an assembly line format. At the start is a table where employees are unbundling packages of dry dog food so that another employee can place a bag in each of the plastic storage bins.

Another employee picks up the bins and takes them to another table, where a couple of employees are unbundling wet dog food containers that get placed in the bins, followed by other products and literature, before heading to a table where employees place a plastic sleeve around the lid.

From there the bins are sent through a machine that shrink wraps the plastic so employees can stack them on pallets to be loaded onto a waiting tractor-trailer.

To meet the demands of the Mars/American Plastics Group job, with its large size and quick time frame, Temco did have to hire a couple of extra part-time staff, but mostly it has been able to fill the order with very little overtime, said Engemann.

“I have spent more time on the floor, filling in . . . and several volunteers and parents have come in to oversee with quality,” he noted.

At Temco, employees work at their own pace, Engemann explained. Managers set up the job, break it down into steps that the employees can manage and complete successfully.

‘Project Was a Blessing’

It was Matt Hall, vice president of product development at American Plastics Group, who came to Temco with the job opportunity. The two companies had partnered before on other work, and Hall saw this as another chance to team up.

Previously, Temco assemled the hardward packs for a bulk storage bin that American Plastics Group manufactures, “and did a fantastic job,” Hall remarked.

When Mars Petcare came to American Plastics Group with the Bundles project for Sam’s Club, Hall knew outsourcing the assembly process would be necessary.

“It’s the busiest time of year for us, and we didn’t have the room or space,” he said.

American Plastics Group also didn’t have a key piece of equipment needed for the job — a shrink wrap machine. That’s one of the packaging services Temco specializes in, said Engemann.

That’s what Temco is all about, he said — partnering with businesses to provide a cost-effective service that they either don’t have the space or equipment to handle.

It’s an added bonus that Temco, a nonprofit extended employment facility-based sheltered workshop since 1971, does it by employing adults with developmental disabilities.

“It’s an employment opportunity for people with disabilities, and they learn job skills,” said Engemann.

But that doesn’t mean that Temco can slide on quality, he stressed. In fact, both American Plastics Group and Mars Petcare toured the Temco facility and spoke with managers to ensure the project could be successful.

“It was their attention to detail and confidence in their ability to do the job that impressed us,” said Hall.

Mars Petcare agreed.

“This project was a blessing, and I would do it again,” said Renee Cutright, Mars Petcare quality and food safety manager. “I gained a perspective of life while working with the Temco folks that I could not have received anywhere else.”

“In my plus-seven years of working with Mars Petcare, this is the has been the most rewarding,” added Chad Hawkins, national account manager, “from meeting our customer’s needs, teaming up with noncompete vendors, executing innovative ways to drive the category to involving agencies that help the community. It just makes you feel good!”

On-the-Job Fun

Working with a dog food product has been a fun change of pace for the Temco employees, said Engemann, who’s enjoyed hearing the jokes and seeing the reactions of the employees.

“There were comments like, ‘Don’t eat that!’ . . . then someone will bark or say something like, ‘Well, I’ll be doggone!” Engemann said, smiling.

Then he joined in with his own pun, commenting on how it feels to be working so closely with national industries like American Plastics Group, Mars Petcare and Sam’s Club.

“Li’l ol’ Temco is running with the big dogs,” he remarked.