NEWARK — Size doesn’t matter to the people at Maco Bag. Big or small, they make it all.
The smallest bags they produce house 1-by-1-inch dental X-rays. The largest ones serve as shrouds for military equipment, or line the inside of tractor-trailers.
Housed in a 240,000-square-foot facility on Van Buren Street, just north of the Erie Canal, Maco Bag Corp. manufactures heat sealable pouches and custom bags and also provides contract packaging services for clients who want their packages filled with their products on site.
Among some of Maco’s larger clients are Exxon-Mobil, Xerox, Dow Chemical and Johnson and Johnson.
Maco was founded in the 1930s in Rochester by Stuart McDonald as an advertising agency, but transitioned into the packaging business during World War II. Maco remained in specialty packaging after the war ended and aligned itself with big Rochester companies such as Kodak and Xerox, according to Director of Operations Douglas Kirchhoff.
The company eventually was sold to the Miller family and run by Scott Miller, who is now semi-retired. Today, Miller’s sons, Craig and Michael, serve as president and vice president, respectively. They each own one-third of the company, with employees owning the other third through a stock-ownership plan.
About eight years ago Maco moved from Victor to Newark, setting up shop in the former Fold-Pak plant. Kirchhoff said the site was attractive because it offered the company the capability of consolidating both its flexible- and contract-packaging businesses under one roof.
Maco employs about 150 people. Another 25 to 30 are hired as contract employees through a temporary agency. Kirchhoff said the contract employees are used as a flexible workforce for short-term projects.
Employees work Monday through Thursday. There are two 10-hour shifts — 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. — and blocks added on Fridays, depending on customer needs, Kirchhoff said.
About two-thirds of the company’s business involves its flexible packaging line, while the other third is made up of the contract packaging business. The latter branch started about six or seven years ago, Kirchhoff said.
The company’s plant is divided into four areas: its flexible packaging converting area; liquid co-packing area; dry co-packing area; and warehouse.
On a weekday earlier this month, workers were punching out small bags for dental X-rays. Kirchhoff explained the flex packaging area has 30 work centers with different capabilities of producing different widths of material. The company’s niche is specialty bags that can be more complicated, be it bags for medical specimens that have multiple layers and seal with blind tape, or ones for the military for MREs — meals ready to eat, that is.
Kirchhoff said the company also produces plastic military shrouds for equipment, keeping it safe from seawater and sand; bags for the auto industry that house parts; and ones for the copier industry for printer cartridges. They produce three-dimensional bags and also do ones for the chemical industry to store powders or gels.
The biggest growth area is in contract packaging. Kirchhoff noted the company is both kosher and organic certified, so it can package those types of products. The anchor of the contract packaging department is the Arm & Hammer line; Maco packages its refrigerator air filters.
That line starts with a 2,000-pound supersack of baking soda, followed by an area where round pouches are made, then filled with baking soda and sealed. The disc of baking soda is then inserted into plastic packaging, labeled, heat-sealed, boxed and stored until an Arm & Hammer truck arrives to distribute its product.
Maco also packages artificial sweeteners and baby cereal, and has the capability of blending ingredients found in baby formula.
“We do millions and millions of pouches,” Kirchhoff said. “We fill quite a bit of pouches.”
The credit crunch and recession of several years ago did affect the company, but Kirchhoff said it has slowly built back to “a sustainable level” — although not to pre-2008 levels, he noted.
Today’s biggest areas of growth are in dental packaging and liquid pouches, Kirchhoff said. Two years ago the company invested more than $1 million in equipment to have the capability to fill liquids in plastic pouches and bottles. One of its major projects in that arena is the bottling of organic agave syrup under the Domino brand.
Maco also allows companies to try out new product and packaging concepts on a short-term basis, or enlist Maco to help them in a research and development capacity. Kirchhoff said it’s important to be flexible in today’s marketplace, and Maco strives to match the right packaging materials with its customer’s applications.
“Some new companies come to us all the time,” Kirchhoff said. “They may have an idea for a new product, but have no idea how to package it.”