Kliklok-Woodman Gets Into Users' Heads

60-Year-Old VFFS, Cartoning Builder Listens and Innovates

Lots of machine builders are pretty focused on meeting the needs of their end users, but not many have been doing it for more than 60 years. Kliklok-Woodman (www.klikwood.com) is comprised of two members of that elite group of companies.

If you spend six decades building standard machines and customizing them to meet each user's specific requirements, then you'd come up with thousands of practical innovations. Well, Kliklok-Woodman's history puts it at the very birth of the packaging machine industry. In fact, one of its founders, Dan Woodman, worked with Herman Lay of H.W. Lay in 1947 to build the Air Weigh System for weighing and packaging potato chips. This system evolved into Kliklok-Woodman's flagship vertical-form-fill-seal (VFFS) machine. Of course, Lay's firm was a forerunner of Frito-Lay.

To devise its customizations quickly and accurately, Kliklok-Woodman's designers and engineers say they've perfected their ability to listen and hear what end users require in their machines, applications and facilities.

"We have a very customer-centric culture," says Dr. Tommy Pool, Kliklok-Woodman's electrical engineering manager. "We handle orders from our customers as if we were doing it for our own company. This leads us to treat our internal departments as customers, too."

Kliklok-Woodman has 125 employees at its world headquarters in Decatur, Ga. Another 80 staffers work at Kliklok-Woodman International, the European division in Bristol, U.K. This is where Kliklok was founded in 1947, as a result of design engineer Reg Meller developing a method to fold glassine board and designing a tray corner lock that clicked when snapped into place. Hence, the name "kliklok" and its equally longstanding focus on top-loading and end-loading cartoning machines.

The company's clients include most of the world's largest snack food, bakery, confectionery, contract packaging, dairy, frozen/prepared food and non-food manufacturers. As its many innovations on its individual machines accumulated over the years, Pool reports that Kliklok-Woodman has seen its overall packaging technologies evolve, too. "For example, many add-ons have been integrated with our baseline machines, especially for special product handling," says Pool. "Besides running faster and better overall, our machines also have evolved their networking and now use more EtherNet/IP. Adding these newer capabilities means we must do more planning up front before we build a machine and also dream up ways for them to operate at their best in our users' systems and facilities."

Along with its technological evolution, Pool explains that the firm's 11 mechanical engineers and five electrical engineers and their job responsibilities have evolved as well. "The mechanical engineers use SolidWorks' 3D modeling software for almost all of their designs, and the electrical engineers moved from hardwiring and relays to embedded, PC-based platforms and motion controllers," says Pool.

In fact, Pool says the whole philosophy of machine building is changing in response to these recent technological shifts. "Instead of one big drive unit running in the middle of a machine, we have servos and an electronic drive for each moving device. This gives us a lot more flexibility, and gives users more precision in how they operate, gives better flexibility to run multiple products and saves energy too."