PRICHARD, W.Va. — Zim's Bagging Co., a flexible plastic packaging manufacturer and printer located near Prichard, is on the brink of completing a $5 million, self-funded expansion project started last year.
The expansion comes with the addition of a brand new state-of-the-art Miraflex II C Windmoeller & Hoelscher 10-color, 59-inch web Flexographic printing press. In order to accommodate the new piece of equipment, Zim's expanded their facility by 12,000 square feet, creating a new printing department that was completed in 2018.
"This is an exciting time in our company's history and one that has taken 55 years of hard work to be able to afford. We are very proud of everyone who has helped this company get to where it is now and our customers for having faith in our business," Zim's Executive Vice President Tina Zimmerman said.
It's the fourth expansion since the company moved to its current location near Prichard, West Virginia.
Office space and an inventory warehouse were added to the Zim's Lane Facility in 1997; a decade later, they purchased a second facility at the Prichard Industrial Park to manufacture product for our expanding markets. That building consists of a large portion of their Soft Pack Division, where foam and bubble sheets and pouches are manufactured. The Soft Packing Division facility was then expanded in 2016.
The new press only adds to the collection of machines currently in operation at Zim's main bagging facility, which now holds three mechanical and one computer-driven printing press.
A 49-inch, superflex, 6-color stack press was the first press added in 1985, followed by two separate central impression presses - a 6-color, 56-inch printer in 1995 and an 8-color 60-inch press in 2001. With those machines Zim's General Manager Kevin Worthy said the company could roll off 850-feet of printed plastic label in a single color each minute, when multiple colors were added that number moved down to 400 feet-per-minute (fpm).
"I had three printing presses already that can consistently do everything we need to do, it's just faster and takes us into a new realm," Worthy said.
The new machine is slated to be used in full operations on July 1.
With the expansion, the Zim's lane facility now encompasses more than 40,000 square feet of space. In terms of future growth, the new 12,000 square-foot facility allows room for a second W&H Miraflex printer to be added.
One of the biggest advantages of the new printing press is efficiency in all areas. Not only does the printing speed more than double the time of a single color (1640 fpm) and color printing time (1600 fpm), but it also significantly trims maintenance time when replacing packaging rollers, ink, and routine cleaning of the press.
With the older machines, Worthy said everything had to be lifted into the press, including printing plates weighing 400 to 500 pounds, and could take up to 30 minutes for each plate to be changed. The new machine uses sleeve technology and workers can use a mechanical platform lift to access each individual color sleeve and do a 10-color change in a matter of minutes - a process that could take up to three hours on other presses. The new press also has a built in turbo cleaning feature, which Worthy said can do about an hour and a half of manual labor in under three minutes.
Zim's has also installed recycling technology to reclaim and re-use their ink and solvent waste, making the operation more environmentally friendly with the re-use of industrial wastes.
"This takes us (Zim's) from being able to do good work to being able to do the best work of anybody in the printing business," Worthy said.
To operate the machine, which is different from anything Zim's had seen before, Zimmerman, Worthy, and four other employees traveled to Germany to go through training courses on how to operate the new technology. Worthy compared it to switching from P.C. software to Mac, adding that it wasn't too complex once things got up and running. He said with the current technology, the company can compete with any major company in the United States, and could expand the list of companies they provide supplies to.
Zim's currently supplies products to most of the southeastern and mid-eastern U.S. to high profile customers such as Amazon, General Electric, LL Bean, London Fog, Zappos, Toyota, and Subaru.
Still privately owned and operated, Zim's Bagging Company employs more than 97 workers, all of which are local residents of the Tri-State area. They credit customer and employee loyalty for decades of success, leading them to the point of their most recent expansion.
"Our dedicated, loyal, employees and our customer-centric business model have always been our two strengths," the company states in an email message. "Through 54-plus years of teamwork, prompt communication with our customers and our hardworking employees have carried Harry (Zimmerman) Sr.'s concept through five decades. Together, we have built a reputable flexible packaging & printing business known for its continued commitment to customer satisfaction."