Pleasant Prairie-based LMI Packaging Solutions’ products are featured in grocery stores, cafeterias and convenience stores throughout the Midwest and around the country. While many consumers have seen their products countless times, almost no one knows who made them or where they were made.
LMI Packaging specializes in lids for perishable dairy products that are sold in single-serving packages – products like yogurt, pudding, cottage cheese and cream cheese. The company also produces lids used for salad dressings, gelatin desserts, and inner seals for some beverages.
“We’ve got to hold the product and help keep it on the shelf as long as needed,” said Jean Moran, president of LMI. “And it’s got to be consumer friendly – graphics are important too.”
LMI’s lids are most commonly used on yogurt containers, but are also found on cottage cheese and other dairy products. In recent years, LMI has also started producing plastic lids, which are increasingly gaining traction in the food and beverage industry.
The company’s lids are made in a wide range of styles – foil with heat sealing, foil laminated onto plastic, plastic or even paper. Material is brought to LMI in large coils, whether it is plastic, foil or paper. The material is embossed for texture, printed, and cut before it is shipped to customers.
A large percentage of LMI’s customers use foil lids. However, the company’s sales of plastic lids have increased since they were introduced four years ago, largely because of LMI’s engineers and the way they work with the company’s clients.
“We don’t just sell our products to customers. We have engineers that get our customers up and running,” Moran said. “We work with our customers to understand their bottom line and how we can mold our product around what will benefit them.”
LMI regularly sends its engineers to work inside its customers’ operations, especially when they are setting up new production lines. Because food producers are packaging such large quantities at a time, they can’t afford for their machines to break, making the set-up process of new systems critical.
“When we’re ramping up our customers, we’re there at the machines, holding (our customers’) hand to make it painless,” Moran said. “They can’t be down for any length of time. With our engineers, we’ve really made them part of who we are now. And that’s not normal for our industry.”
In recent years, LMI has helped many of its customers switch from foil lids to plastic lids. Although the switch sounds simple, it requires significant changes to machines and systems – areas where its engineers and their close working relationship with customers are crucial.
“When you’re transferring from foil to plastic, it takes a lot of background, skill and understanding of the product,” Moran said. “Our customers don’t always know what they need.”
LMI Packaging has about 50 employees. It has almost the same number of production workers as it does engineers and support staff, allowing the company to form close working relationships with its clients, Moran said.
“We’ve done a lot of work inside the organization to improve our value to customers,” she said. “We’ve got the shortest lead times in the industry, and we run inventory control for our customers as well.”
That close relationship with customers has paid off in recent years. LMI Packaging has averaged almost 25 percent sales growth per year for the last three years.
The company believes it will be able to continue its growth by continuing its focus on food-related packaging, Moran said. The company is now working with several customers on more environmentally friendly packaging solutions.
“Now that we’ve transferred (some customers) from foil to plastic, we’re able to both go to some biodegradable materials and improve shelf life at the same time,” Moran said.
LMI is also working to further deepen its relationships with customers by offering them solutions to more than just packaging-related matters.
“We do a lot of lean manufacturing here and we can offer them services and training (in it),” Moran said. “We’re also partnering with adjacent technologies, like filling machine manufacturers. Our customers are always looking to improve their products – and (collaboration) is where innovation comes from.”