Customized Packaging Solutions

Brenton Engineering
Written by Jen Hocken

Brenton Engineering designs, manufactures, and integrates a variety of end-of-line packaging equipment. It makes case packing equipment, shrink-wrapping machines and robotic packaging systems. It primarily works with medium to Fortune 500 consumer goods manufacturers to provide customized robotics systems for operations like material handling and high speed pick-and-place. Brenton also offers robotic and conventional case packing and palletizing.
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After a product has been developed, the end-of-line packaging process entails case packing, palletizing, shrink wrapping, and any other packaging that is required. “Taking the completed product and getting ready to ship it out to be put on the shelf – that’s what we offer here,” says Kaitie Kluver, marketing specialist at Brenton Engineering.

Brenton Engineering’s ability to create complete end-of-line systems and integrated systems is rare. If a customer has equipment to integrate into a system that is not the Brenton brand, the company will still provide the full solution and manufacture the system in-house.

The company was established in 1988 to create quality, custom end-of-line packaging equipment and material handling equipment. It gained a reputation for its complete service that includes sorting products, painting products, and other details that are outside of the usual realm of packaging.

In 1998, Brenton became a subsidiary of Promach, a packaging solutions company that serves manufacturers in industries including food, beverage, pharmaceutical, personal care, and household goods. Brenton’s manufacturing facility in Alexandria, Minnesota develops two Promach product brands: Brenton and Orion, though the sales team for the Orion products is located elsewhere. “Orion is our stretch wrap line. They are a separate entity from Brenton, but we’re manufactured in the same facility, which, from and end-of-line integration standpoint, is definitely a plus, because it’s all done right here,” says Kaitie. Promach has over twenty-five brands in total.

There are approximately 275 employees at Brenton. The front office is made up of the sales, aftermarket parts, purchasing, finance, accounting, and engineering departments, while the back of the facility holds a full assembly floor and complete fabrication shop. The company also has its own panel shop where it completes all of its electrical cabinets.

The culture at Brenton is very family-oriented, which complements a rural community like Alexandria. “Even though we are part of a large company – Promach – we still have our small-town roots, and I think that’s something that’s very appealing about working here,” Kaitie says proudly. “It’s a very employee-focused, family-focused environment.”

Brenton’s customers are medium to Fortune 500 consumer goods manufacturers in food, beverage, pharmaceuticals, medical device, household and over-the-counter products. “These customers are looking for notable solutions to their industry driven applications which is why we work directly with their purchasing teams, engineers, project managers, and packaging specialists to design and build reliable, resilient solutions.”

The company has continuously grown in both revenue and number of employees over the years, and its facility is always expanding to make room for its growth. It currently has over 250,000 square feet of space, the majority of which is manufacturing space for assembly and fabrication.

Today, Brenton has grown to eighty million dollars in revenue, and in the last six years, it has been increasing at a rate of twelve percent. The reason for its ongoing growth is its choice to move into different markets and evolve with changing trends. The decision to be flexible enough to integrate products made by other companies into packaging systems has also assisted the company’s growth.

“Some equipment we even buy from competitors and integrate into a system so the customer can see the full system running in our facility before it gets to theirs. They can train; they can learn; they can work the bugs out of it before it’s sitting on their floor, so that their start-up time is quicker, and that’s probably been our main growth factor lately,” says Mike Grinager, vice president at Brenton Engineering.

The company aims to “work together to continuously improve customer satisfaction, employee opportunity, and stakeholder value,” according to its vision statement. Brenton based its company principles on this and developed four primary values. The first outlines the need to take pride in the employees and their opportunities for growth. The second is a company’s focus on continuing to develop its customer service throughout the brand and the facility to maintain its status in the industry. The third is operations excellence, which represents the ability to be a leader in quality. Finally, the fourth is consistent process and product innovation as well as the advancement of each employee within the company.

“Our mission is to create innovative automation solutions that exceed our customers’ expectations while promoting a flexible culture centered around employees and their families,” says Kaitie.

During its over thirty years in business, Brenton has gained a few assets that set it apart in the industry of packaging solutions. The company has significant expertise in robotics and has over five hundred robotic installations in the field. “We’re a certified FANUC integrator, and what that means is that we’re in the top four percent of their integration base, and we have master-trained technicians on our staff,” says Kaitie. Brenton can integrate any robotic piece in its packaging solutions that a customer requires; it specializes in FANUC – the world’s leading robotics manufacturer – yet it is certainly not limited to FANUC products.

Additionally, Brenton tends to attract projects that call for highly-customized solutions. The company has an immense wealth of knowledge in conventional hard automation and in the standard case packer and palletizer, and it is very knowledgeable about the process of taking customer-driven ideas from paper to reality. “We are very focused on customization, and we do very well at that. We also have one of the largest install bases in the industry when you look at case packing, palletizing and robotics combined,” says Kaitie.

The company provides support and service to its customers through the aftermarket program it calls ‘Strap.’ The name stands for service, training, retrofits, audits, and parts. Its aftermarket teams are some of the longest standing in the industry. “We provide service, aftermarket parts, and retrofit solutions for all end-of-line packaging equipment, whether it’s Brenton’s or one of our competitor’s,” says Kaitie. Brenton can sell parts to end users with competitors’ equipment, and it provides aftermarket services to customers. The skilled service department is always on the go, retrofitting existing machinery and parts for existing machines.

The company has received numerous awards as recognition for its work in the industry, including awards from its robotics supplier for its number of integrated systems and innovation awards from the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute. It has received service awards and vendor awards from its customers. “All of those [awards], we take to heart, and it’s all about the employees. It’s not the company that got the awards; it’s the employees that stepped up and did the work,” says Mike.

Brenton takes pride in its small community and its family-focused attitude. It gets involved with the youth in the community through athletic programs and other extracurricular activities. It is pleased to support and encourage that development for the Alexandria school districts and the districts surrounding it because many of its employees commute to the Alexandria area.

Brenton often works on completely new projects from scratch with customers that are product specialists but do not have the knowledge to create a packaging system from start to finish efficiently. The company then works with the customer as a collaborative partner to bring their packaging system ideas to fruition.

“In this day and age, many of these are manual operations that are trying to automate, not to put people out of jobs, but because they can’t get the people to do the jobs. The workforce is not out there, or maybe it’s an ergonomic issue, so we’ll take on that challenge and solve it with the customer,” says Mike. Brenton Engineering does not walk away from any project until it is complete; it is fully committed to following through for the benefit of its customers.

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