Sealing the future for North American caps and closures

Anne-Marie Hardie visits Massilly North America’s metal cap and lithography facility in Ontario


All courtesy of Massilly North America


Since 2012, Brantford, Ontario, has been the home of the only North American location of the Massilly Group. The facility exclusively focuses on caps and closures, servicing clients throughout North and South America. The group’s mission is to be the safest and most efficient metal cap and lithography factory in the world, and it continues to be embraced in all aspects of its 250,000 square-foot facility.

The Canadian subsidiary was founded in 1996 in Mississauga, Ontario, a city just north of Toronto. “The desire to locate in Canada came from wanting to have a physical presence in North America so that the Massilly Group could expand its global footprint, including taking some of the North American market shares,” said Garnet Lasby, president, Massilly North America. It would be Massilly Group’s first venture outside of Western Europe. Several factors helped make Canada a desirable location, shared Lasby, including that it was bilingual (French/English) and close to the US market.

Nearly 20 years later, the company is continually optimising its operation to enhance its customer experience, while also continuing to develop a strong core of engaged employees. The company has fully embraced automation, seamlessly integrating it into all aspects of its operation. The extensive investment in technology has provided Massilly employees with a dynamic environment committed to wellness and growth.

Embracing automation

The facility has adopted many technologies from other regions, mainly Europe, with a tendency to invest more heavily in automation due to the high labour expenses. “We follow technology shifts very closely to ensure that we have the world-leading productivity and material utilisation because, ultimately, this industry is fairly commoditised,” said Lasby. “So, if you want to survive and remain competitive in a commoditised industry, you need to be a leader in automation.” Massilly is continually investing in production technology for higher speeds, less waste and automation, to remain competitive and expand in North America.

Utilising the maximum aluminium sheet size has helped minimise waste and maximise productivity. However, adopting these forms of automation necessitates a downstream investment in higher speeds.

“When you get to a certain point, it is difficult to have general manual labour receiving all of that product; that investment in optimising the environmental footprint from a stamping perspective drives the need to invest in automation downstream so that the lines can accommodate the speeds at every level,” said Lasby. Therefore, the facility is continually investing in automation, which is instrumental in its vision; this includes ensuring that its operation is optimised with the best technology while also providing equipment, and the associated service, to small and mid-size North American businesses.

Massilly North America has an extensive line of in-house capping equipment inventory to support growing companies across North America. This includes providing the equipment setup, training, and servicing, to help ensure that the food processors’ equipment is running at full capacity.

Massilly’s 250,000 squarefoot facility
services clients throughout North and
South America

Growth at the centre of operations

Over the last three years, the company has made significant investments in the design end of its operation. “One of the differences for us is having everything in-house, from design to the finished product,” said Nelson Silva, vice president, Massilly North America. “That gives us more flexibility in the market than others because we do everything under one roof.”

Traditionally, caps and closures were exclusively seen as a product that would provide consumers with the security that their product was produced. However, advances in lithography are quickly transforming closures into cost-effective marketing tools. This has helped accelerate the demand for closures with a larger profile and, in turn, more space to communicate Massilly’s brand message. “There has been an increased demand for a deeper profile, to provide the brand with a bit more geography on the skirt, providing a cost-effective way to have that attractive eye line,” said Lasby.

In 2021, Massilly North America invested in Koeing and Bauer MetalStar 3 metal decorating press, providing the highest print quality at the fastest speed and largest sheet size. In addition, integrating this press into its operation positively impacted the turnaround time for Massilly’s printed orders, improving the overall efficiency and productivity of the entire process.

On 9 February 2023, Massilly North America announced it would invest in a new MetalCoat 470 free-standing coating line from Koeing & Bauer MetalPrint. The equipment is designed for both the high-speed environment and larger sheet size, handling metal sheets as thin as 0.100mm.

“We believe the new MetalCoat 470 and its coating head will provide the ultimate precision and minimise our coating consumption,” said Lasby. “Its generous sheet format of up to 1000x1200mm (39”x47”), faster makeready, and high running speeds will contribute to the optimisation of our production process.”

The addition of high-speed printing and stamping equipment into the facility over the last few years has helped grow Massilly’s client base, leading to additional investments in print technology and the need for more storage space.

The most recent addition is a fully automated 40,000-square-foot and 45-foot-high warehouse expansion, with the intent of creating 4,000 pallet positions of high-density racking. In addition, Hyster Automated forklifts will be used throughout the facility to pick up the product from the automated packaging line, put it away in the racking, and deliver products from the warehouse to the staging area for shipment.

Tides are changing

From a material standpoint, North America falls slightly behind the European market in positioning glass and metal packaging as premium products. “In Europe, you see a lot more higher-end products packaged with our packaging,” said Lasby. However, North American consumers are increasingly aware of the benefits of sustainable packaging, paying specific attention to those products that can be easily recycled.

“There’s a perception that plastic gets recycled, but now there is an awareness out there that that’s not always true,” said Lasby. “Whereas aluminium and metal cans are recyclable back into metal cans and the same with metal closures. There’s definitely been market awareness of sustainability and the environmental impact of packaging.”

As a result, North American consumers are slowly moving away from plastic packaging and looking for more sustainable options. “Previously, our customer inquiry was focused exclusively on specs; now it’s specs, environmental position, and recyclability,” said Nelson Silva, vice president, Massilly North America. “We are seeing a shift back to glass and metal, but when I started 23 years ago, it was a movement towards more Tetra Pak and plastic.”

Company culture

Massilly North America continues to be on a positive growth trajectory as more food processors turn toward metal closures for their durability, design potential, and positive sustainability story. Although automation has been widely adopted throughout the Massilly North America facility, the root of the company’s success lies with its dedicated workforce.

“The most advanced technology and equipment in the world will not run if the person running it doesn’t want it to, or had a bad day,” said Lasby. “So ultimately, employee engagement gets them up in the morning, takes that excellent investment of equipment, and turns it into superior productivity on output.”

Employees remain the primary investment for Massilly North America, beginning with providing extensive training at the time of hire and then continuing to foster a positive relationship through continued training and support. “Our experience here is that the more we’ve invested and trained our people, the higher level of engagement,” said Lasby. “We’ve had good fortune concerning our workforce; we’ve been able to attract a dedicated workforce with minimal turnover.”

The employees at Massilly North America resonate a strong sense of pride, eagerly sharing their role in the operation and their journey within the company. Employees are the heart of the operation, with several individuals who have been there since the beginning. Silva said, “Around 98 per cent of our employees report that they like to work here. Having that kind of response in a manufacturing environment is amazing; engaged employees cultivate a positive work culture, while also naturally lending itself to better service.”

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