A Day in the Life of a Thermoforming Machine Operator

Explore the day-to-day responsibilities of a Thermoforming Machine Operator.

There are so many people, machines, and materials that go into the creation of a final product. Today, we explore one part of that process by peaking into the day-to-day responsibilities of a Thermoforming Machine Operator at TriEnda.

What does a Machine Operator Do?

We shadowed Shannon Horkan, who has worked as a Thermoforming Machine Operator at TriEnda for 8 years. As an operator, this position is responsible for taking measurements of finished products, loading the thermoforming machine, solving problems that the machine might have, and sometimes filling in as a finisher or helping the production team in other ways. The machine operator is crucial to the final product’s integrity because this position also assists in maintaining excellent quality control. “I make sure everything’s running within specifications even if the other operator checks.” Shannon said, she always double checks and constantly measures the finished products. Overseeing the machines to make sure everything is running smoothly and accurately. She will also adjust the machine if it is not up to par, which assures that our products are created on-time and with the highest level of quality.

What does their schedule look like?

Thermoforming Machine Operators usually follow the 2-2-3 schedule. The 2-2-3 schedule means that the employee would work 7 am – 7 pm for 2 days on, then get 2 days in a row off, and then again 7 am – 7 pm for 3 days. This schedule is often one of the employee’s favorite parts of the work because it allows them to have a significant amount of time off with their family both during the week and one the weekends, because of the rotating schedule.

What are the challenges they face?

There are challenges to every position, Shannon discussed some of her biggest obstacles at work with us, “There is constant change, if there is a problem it’s hard to know what the problem is because of how complex the machines are, there are so many factors that go into solving the problem.” A normal day as a machine operator includes paperwork if there is a new tool, otherwise the main task is making sure that the team is using the right routers and drills.

What do they enjoy most about their job?

Luckily, there are many up-sides to this position as well. Shannon discussed the benefits of having insurance, a 401k, and the stability of her position at TriEnda which make all the hard work worth it. Part of why many employees love working at TriEnda is also the rigorous nature of our production jobs, not only physically but also the mental challenges and problem solving makes the day-to-day duties interesting and engaging. At TriEnda we cultivate an environment that is safe, fun, and enjoyable which Shannon also noted, “My coworkers are my favorite part of my job, I like everybody I work with.”

Every KFI employee is an asset to our complete operation and we are always looking for hard working, positive people to add to our team. If you are interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.  

Exploring TriEnda’s Plastic Regrind Process

As one of North America’s largest plastic thermoformers, we’ve refined and perfected our plastic regrind processes to ensure optimal material quality.

Here at TriEnda, we specialize in developing customizable, durable, and reusable material handling solutions using the plastic manufacturing process known as thermoforming. In thermoforming, manufacturers have a choice of what blend of material they use to form their plastic parts.

Within our facilities, we create our own material blend for the heavy gauge forming process we use to create our products. Over the years, we’ve perfected this process in an effort to ensure the consistency and quality of the materials that go into our material handling products.

Extruding Plastic Sheet

There are nine total extrusion lines that produce the plastic sheeting we use at Kruger Family Industries. Four of them are located here at TriEnda, and the other five are at our Penda plant just down the road. These lines pull material from four sources to extrude the plastic sheet. These sources are:

  1. Black color concentrate
  2. Virgin resin from silos
  3. Pelletized material
  4. Controlled in-house regrind

Most of the sheeting we produce here is a black colored sheet. Therefore, our specification and industry standard is 1%  carbon black in our final product. A lot of the materials that go into our blend are black already, so it doesn’t take much colored concentrate to create a uniform look. Silos outside of our facilities feed virgin resin into the extruders as part of the material blend as well, which we source externally. Material from the pelletizer also goes into the extruded sheet, and this material consists of carefully controlled virgin resin and regrind plastic that is blended and compounded in-house.

Next is our in-house regrind which also comes from controlled scrap material. It is extremely important that these bins are free of contaminants, like wood, metal, or any other foreign material. The associates on our production floor are trained to ensure that the regrind is clean. Our management team is also focused on controlling the quality of this regrind material as well. On a normal day, the extrusion lines will run about 50% regrind material and we keep anywhere from 150,000 – 200,000 pounds of it on-hand.

The plastic sheet that comes out of our extrusion lines is typically about 2-3 inches larger than the production tooling they’re used for. Once a product, part, or other component is thermoformed, the excess material is trimmed as part of the finishing process. This trimmed excess is sent back into the regrind loop so it can once again be used for the manufacturing of our thermoformed products. Think of it as a small-scale plastic lifecycle that starts and ends at our facilities. The entire process serves to keep our products and materials consistent in their quality and performance and helps us achieve our goals of being environmentally responsible by reusing and recycling our materials.

If you have any questions about our regrind process or the materials we use, please reach out to us and we’ll happily answer any questions you have. If you’re interested in working with us to develop a custom material handling solution that fits the needs of your product or business, go ahead and ask about that too! We love new challenges and coming up with innovative solutions to fit specific product needs, and after 40 years of experience in material handling, we’d say we’re one of the best options out there.

A Day in the Life of a Thermoforming Finisher

TriEnda employees working on a plastic pallet

Explore the workplace of thermoformed plastic manufacturing by stepping into the shoes of a Finisher at TriEnda.

Ever wonder how plastic pallets are manufactured? If so, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be diving into the world of our production associates here at TriEnda to learn more about their duties, let’s start with our Finishers.

What Does A Finisher Do?

Our Finishers are important to the production of the thermoformed plastic packaging we create here at TriEnda. We value their role tremendously as they touch every part that is manufactured for our customers. Because of this, we emphasize the development of our Finishers and many go on to earn promotions within production or even to the office if they choose.

The role of a Finisher is pretty straight forward, they’re tasked with finishing off a thermoformed product so that it’s ready to be shipped to the customer. This can be done via trimming, cleaning, assembly, and packaging of the parts and products we produce. Finishers also support their team at their work cells by assisting with the setup of secondary finishing tools like drills and handheld routers and clean up their areas by sweeping excess plastic pellets and removing scrap from the ground.

Pictured here is an example of how a Finisher performs trimming, cleaning, and drilling to finalize a product before it is shipped. Once these green pallets are pulled off the thermoformer, two Finishers utilize handheld routers to perform a rough cut on the part and remove excess pallet. The pallets are then conveyed down to another Finisher who drills drain holes in each of the legs so that water and other liquids don’t get trapped in the pallet and make it unsanitary. The final step is to use a utility knife to smooth out the rough edges.

A Thermoforming Finisher’s Schedule

At TriEnda, Finishers work on a 2-2-3 schedule, or a 7-on-7-off one. They have 12 hour shifts that happen on days or nights. Each Finisher is given three breaks throughout the day, two 10-minute breaks and another 20-minute one. When days are hot in the summer, we provide extra heat breaks and add extra Finishers to each work cell to help lighten the workload and give everyone a chance to stay cool and rest.

Every day, a Finisher has the opportunity to work on at a different work cell which is producing a new product so that they see a variety of thermoforming work. With the wide variety of material handling solutions we create, a Finisher could go a very long time before working on the same thing twice. If you’re interested in becoming a Thermoforming Finisher and joining the TriEnda team, please apply today! To send us your application, you can visit our website to view our openings and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.

4 Things You Need to Know About Machine Tooling Repair

plastic pallet

Discover how our in-house machine tooling repair service works.

As a leading plastic pallet manufacturer, our in-house machine tooling repair service helps us maintain and repair your tools to ensure production-ready status. Look into what this service does, how it all works, who can benefit from it, and the advantages you can expect from machine tooling repair.

Our machine tooling services

Regularly updated and well-maintained tools are necessary to create custom material handling solutions. By using the latest technology, we can manipulate tooling in-house to meet your ever-changing needs.

We proudly offer the following machine tooling services:

• Machining: Shape tool into specified design
• Welding: Fuse tool for long-lasting results
• Fabrication: Custom tooling solutions
• Upgrades: Improve the current tool
• Modifications/Maintenance: Implement changes that improve tool performance
• Machine Tooling Repair: Mend any damage in the tool

We can form the tool’s gauge/material thickness anywhere from .060 inches to .450 inches, depending on your request. Contact us to learn more about the tooling services we provide.

Our machine tooling repair process

When you choose to take advantage of our in-house machine tooling repair services, you’ll find an unmatched consistency in what we do. We follow the same step-by-step process every time:

1. We start by going over the specifications of the tool.
2. We take note of the requested changes and ask for the CAD data and blueprints or drawings.
3. Once we have all the required information, we create a quote.
4. Upon your approval of the quote, we begin to generate parts for your review.
5. You have the option to provide a purchase order up-front or make the payment after the sample parts meet your satisfaction.

Our process is easy, accurate, and streamlined, so you can focus on what you do best.

Who can benefit from our machine tooling service?

If you already have tooling on-site at our facilities, we can easily make any adjustments required to meet your specifications. However, if you don’t currently have tooling on-site at our facilities, you can still utilize our services. Our team of engineers have developed a reverse engineering process that allows us to re-create any tool. Once the tool is re-created, we then keep it on hand which allows us to implement any future changes to welding, fabrication, upgrades, or modifications based on your needs.

What are the advantages of machine tooling repair?

When you move forward with our machine tooling service, you will also enjoy the following advantages:

• Easily upgrade tools to a new level
• Efficient repair of molds
• Maintenance and modification as needed
• On-site welding and fabrication
• Convenient access to our “one-stop-shop” for all product needs

We take great pride in our work, and it shows. At every step of the process, you can rest comfortably knowing that our talented teams will use the latest technologies and advancements to prepare your tooling for production. We are committed to quality and lead the way in the material handling industry and custom products.

As your needs continually shift, so does our product and service offering. You can count on us to provide the products and services you need to keep your supply chain running smoothly. Contact our sales team online or call 800.356.8150 today to learn more about how our machine tooling repair service can benefit your company.

Ways to Reduce Expendable Packaging

plastic pallet up close

Many companies struggle with the economic and environmental impacts of one- or limited-time use expendable packaging. As such, automotive and other industries have been shifting to reusable plastic packaging. If you’re looking for ways to reduce expendable packaging, switching to reusable material handling solutions is the first place to start. Keep reading to learn more.

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5 Tips to Prepare for Extreme Weather

Heat, thermometer shows the temperature is hot in the sky

Between floods, rainstorms, tornadoes, extreme heat, and more, it is important to have a plan for how your facility will protect its material handling solutions and cargo. In this post, we have compiled the top five tips to prepare for extreme summer weather.

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New Technologies That Enhance Our Reverse Engineering Process

digital scanner

When it comes to innovation and creative designs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a plastics manufacturer that is more dedicated to evolving along with you than us. We caught up with one of our Design Engineers Tom Bloom after receiving his certification in Geomagic Design X software using the advanced Artec Leo 3D scanner to learn more about how these tools are enhancing our reverse engineering process.

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Benefits of Virtual Reality in Industrial Design

virtual reality headset on plastic head

If we said that you could see your material handling solutions come to life before they are manufactured, would you believe us? In this post, we’ll dive into the benefits of virtual reality (VR) in industrial design, and provide insight into our process, the experience you can expect, and how we’re putting VR to work.

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Meet the Women in Manufacturing at TriEnda

2 workers looking at a tablet

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of women and all they do. As a plastics manufacturer dedicated to the continued growth of women in manufacturing, we honor our female team in this tribute featuring their own words.

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The Bright Future of TriEnda Brings Exciting Innovations and Endeavors

hand holding lightbulb up to sun

We’re investing in the latest technologies and plastic product masterminds to help us remain at the cutting edge of our industry. And because we never forget our dedication to providing an unsurpassed values-based level of service, we’ll continue to meet and exceed your expectations at every turn. Keep reading to learn more about these exciting changes that are sure to deliver unmatched innovation and service.

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