When TekPackaging needed special carriers for a new medical grade product it was making, it turned to Bassett Mechanical.

In November 2009, the Illinois-based thermoforming company was charged with manufacturing a part for a customer, a medical device company. While TekPackaging regularly implements such projects, one aspect of the shipping process proved challenging.

“We normally pack our products in corrugate boxes, but with this particular project we needed special stainless steel magazines, or carriers, to get them to our partner, Outlook Group in Neenah,” explains Ron Kuehn, production manager, device, at TekPackaging. “Outlook Group would then put the product on its automation system for packaging.”

Outlook Group recommended Bassett Mechanical for the job. In addition to having successfully worked together in the past, Bassett’s ISO certification was critical to TekPackaging.

“All the companies we work with are ISO 9001:2008 certified, and that is especially important to medical and pharmaceutical companies that have stringent quality control regulations and requirements,” Kuehn says. “We also liked Bassett because they do a lot of diverse types of fabrication.

“There are many companies that say they can fabricate something, but Bassett’s expertise is in designing and fabricating things— whether it’s in HVAC or a design for the dairy industry—that last for a lifetime.”

Senior Project Manager Paul VanderHeyden said his crew received the order to design and develop the carriers, which would each hold 90 polycarbonate plastic tubes.

“We needed to make the stainless steel framework that the product gets slid into,” VanderHeyden says. “Then, once it arrives at Outlook Group, the carrier becomes a magazine for loading the product into packages.”

Bassett was given three months to execute the project, which included designing the carrier template and manufacturing 260 carriers, each measuring approximately 1.5 feet square by 6 feet in length, out of stainless steel. “We determined that it took about four to six hours to complete one carrier and we normally don’t do repetitive manufacturing,” VanderHeyden says.

To be as efficient as possible, Bassett fabricator Dave Hillman took on the challenge to develop a work process for the job. He combined creativity with lean manufacturing techniques to find solutions that worked.

For example, each step of fabrication had its own work station, complete with visual instructions, specific locations for tools and parts, and special components called jigs and fixtures to hold the
parts in predetermined positions. The parts were enhanced through standardizing the work. Small notches were designed into the parts so that during assembly there was no need to measure, because the notches indicated where the welds should be placed.

“All of this greatly reduced the time needed to make each tray,” VanderHeyden says. “The first one took three and a half hours, but it soon became only 45 minutes, which was a savings of 80 percent. Then we shipped them to the customer as we completed them. It worked out

The Bassett crew also helped TekPackaging design a special skid that the carriers would be mounted on for transport. “We built a latching mechanism to latch the carriers down so workers could just open the latches and get the carriers out easily once they arrived at their destination,”
VanderHeyden says.

Kuehn says Bassett’s assistance was invaluable. “One of the reasons they got the contract was because they were willing to try something new,” he says. “They listened to what we needed and helped us develop a prototype and then they got everything correct.

“With Bassett you get the whole package: they can do the engineering and the fabricating and they’re willing to work with multiple vendors. It was a very positive experience.”