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Redbox Collaborates with Suppliers to Improve Efficiencies

A unique company with an innovative business model needs a creative, innovative solution to its manufacturing challenges.  Redbox revolutionized the entertainment industry 10 years ago by democratizing access to movies with a simple, yet effective, business model: Give consumers convenient access to the hottest new releases at an incredible value. Today, Redbox is a key destination for entertainment, offering DVDs, Blu-ray™ and video games at more than 34,500 kiosks across more than 29,000 retail locations nationwide. A Redbox kiosk is located within a 5-minute drive of 68 percent of the U.S. population and the company recently rented its 2 billionth disc.

As Redbox is in the retail business – not the manufacturing business – they were not aware of some of the advancements in mold, molding, automation and decorating technology that would allow them to increase productivity, efficiency and quality, while reducing costs, including the costs of decorating.

As Redbox planned for future needs, the company began a sourcing process to find a plastics supplier to serve both current and future product needs. “We did an extensive search for plastics companies, looking for a long-term partner to develop a mold and to manufacture the disc case, which is the primary product our customer carries with them,” says Brad Weinshenker, Director of Engineering for Redbox. Evco Plastics, a leading contract injection molder/manufacturer headquartered in DeForest, Wisconsin, was chosen for the project.

“As we started project discussions with Evco Plastics, we were led to a solution involving a high-tech mold and molding technology – automated in-mold labeling – that would involve leading-edge automation technology that would be instrumental to giving us the flexibility we need,” says Weinshenker.

Evco shared opportunities for Redbox to improve efficiencies and reduce costs from the current mold and molding process.  “We explained to Redbox that they could be doing much better in a stack mold and using automated in-mold labeling (IML) technology for their decorating,” says Gary Racine, Market Development Leader for Evco Plastics.  “We talked to them about our ability to produce a part at lower cost, with better quality, better efficiency and better throughput.”

Evco Plastics designed and built a 2+2 stack mold for the Redbox case application that would increase the productivity by reducing cycle time. Bernie Degenhardt, Automation Manager at Evco, recommended CBW Automation as the automation supplier for this project.  With CBW’s expertise in state-of-the-art automation technology for the injection molding industry, specializing in the packaging market, the company would design and build the IML automation to produce parts with the cycle time and efficiencies that was quoted to Redbox.

That meant integrating the IML automation with the mold and molding as one continuous process. “The automation has to work within the cycle time of the mold, including picking and placing labels, removing the parts, flexing the living hinge, closing the case and putting them on a conveyor to inspect and pack into a box,” explains Degenhardt.

Redbox, Evco Plastics and CBW Automation were happy with the results of their collaborative efforts. “Using the stack mold configuration and customized, high-speed automation for the in-mold labeling operations, we were able to achieve a significantly lower cycle time,” explains Racine. “In addition, the automation developed by CBW solved a number of quality issues Redbox was having by closing the polypropylene cases automatically, handing them off to the transfer unit while flexing the living hinge, then putting the cases it on the transfer unit and closing the cases.”

Evco’s Racine was also pleased with the way the project progressed. “We’re not in full production yet, but will be soon, and Redbox expects that it will meet their production requirements for quite some time,” Racine says. “One of the keys to this is because we’ve been able to achieve excellent productivity and efficiency, and increase throughput that allows them to achieve their current volumes with one system.”

Redbox is achieving better quality cases, with greater consistency and repeatability in the IML production process.  And with a lower scrap rate.  “We’ve been able to improve the quality of the case by strengthening the living hinge through adding some unique features to eliminate hinge cracking, and reduce voids that had been an issue,” Racine adds. “While we’d originally considered cut-in-place labels in the CBW system, ultimately we decided on pre-cut labels stacked in magazines. The automation works very well and provides the static charge required. We pick up and load a total of eight labels in each mold-open cycle.”

Originally, during the startup days of Redbox, the cases were pad printed. However, the company experienced a lot of degradation of the inks due to repeated handling of the cases.  “While we had some history with the IML concept, we’re now seeing just how this technology  has provided us with a solution that gives us everything we need – the coloring,  the labeling and the quality we need all in one step, and with decreased costs, improved production time and flexibility,” says Weinshenker.