Dolphin Pack expands operations, uses new tools to meet bedding producers’ complex packaging needs
When it comes to machinery for mattress manufacturing, two elements are critical: quality and reliability. Machines need to correctly perform the functions they are designed to do, and they need to do those tasks over and over again with minimal disruptions and downtime.
In today’s highly competitive environment, the stakes involved in delivering consistent performance are higher than ever. That’s why Dolphin Pack srl, an Affi, Italy-based producer of industrial packaging machines, always is looking for new ways to strengthen its position as a “go-to” resource for sleep products manufacturers that need reliable machines backed by dependable service. This goal has become an even higher priority during this period of social distancing and minimal travel caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
“Our relationships with customers have always been a top priority, both in the purchase and post-purchase periods,” says sales executive Anna Montresor. “But in today’s challenging environment, it’s an essential element for success.”
To help customers find quicker solutions to situations that may come up during production, Dolphin Pack recently introduced an augmented reality app for use with smartphones and tablets. The optional app complements Dolphin Pack’s existing remote service technology, which is built into every one of the company’s machines.
Dolphin Pack’s remote service technology enables it to connect directly with the PLC (programmable logic controller) of any Dolphin Pack machine if a customer has a problem like an emergency or some other issue in the production cycle. Through this technology, the company’s software developer can connect remotely with the PLC, run diagnostics on the entire machine and, in this way, detect exactly where the problem is and help the customer.
The service also can be used if a customer requests a software modification.
The new augmented reality app adds another layer of functionality to Dolphin Pack’s remote access capabilities, particularly with regards to mechanical and electrical issues. The app is designed to handle the “types of interventions that, before (pandemic) travel restrictions, were run by a technician who would go physically to the customer to help with an installation or repair,” Montresor says. “It simplifies a lot of the communication that is essential during an intervention.”
With its remote service technologies, Dolphin Pack can check any machine “as if our technicians in Italy are right there on-site,” says Eric Zaninelli, technical sales. “If a customer needs help, our technicians can observe operations remotely in real time and help improve the production results by giving suggestions on how to modify the settings of the machines. This speeds our ability to help customers identify the best solution to whatever problem they may be facing.”
AT A GLANCE
Dolphin Pack srl
Packaging machines for finished mattresses and foam blocks used in mattresses and pillows, as well as packaging machines for other business sectors, such as furniture and insulation
Founded in 1974 by Alberto Zaninelli
Privately held company owned by Davide
Zaninelli and Elisa Zaninelli, son and daughter of the founder
To expand its level of support for customers in North America, Dolphin Pack opened its first U.S. field office in early 2020 in Chicago. When the pandemic is no longer a threat, the company plans to establish a service team to support the U.S. market. Dolphin Pack also plans to expand its Chicago office to include a parts warehouse for more rapid replenishment of critical machine components. Currently, the company fulfills parts orders from its headquarters in Italy. It also offers a spare parts kit for customers to keep on hand so key components can be replaced immediately.
The ability to anticipate and solve customers’ problems and ensure continuity of service is a hallmark of the Dolphin Pack brand, Montresor says.
Dolphin Pack was founded in 1974 by Alberto Zaninelli. The company’s initial focus was on producing small machines for food and beverage packaging, such as chocolate boxes.
In the 1990s, Zaninelli’s son and daughter, Davide and Elisa, took over the company and started focusing on industrial packaging. Led by Davide Zaninelli’s inventive spirit, the company expanded into new product sectors and markets, including the bedding industry. Today, Davide Zaninelli is co-owner and chief executive officer; Elisa Zaninelli is owner and financial manager.
“I love to invent and to find creative solutions that make things easier for our customers,” Davide Zaninelli says. “Over time, we developed innovative machines to pack much larger products than food, such as mattresses, polyurethane rolls and panels, furniture, and windows and doors.”
Today, Dolphin Pack offers a full line of machines designed for compressing, folding and/or wrapping foam blocks and finished mattresses. It continues to serve the food and beverage industry and also produces machines for packaging automotive parts, appliances, insulation panels and more. The bedding industry accounts for about 55% of its total business.
“Thanks to the talents of our research and development and technical departments, we are able to offer advanced solutions for a range of different markets,” Zaninelli says. “We also offer customers the ability to customize machines according to their needs and, if we don’t have exactly what they are looking for, we can look for and create a bespoke solution.”
For the bedding industry, Dolphin Pack offers semiautomatic, automatic and fully automatic machines, defined by the range of functions they perform. Semiautomatic machines, for example, include the Zephyre and Press + Ander Roll machines, which are capable of flat packing or roll packing mattresses placed in preformed bags.
In the automatic machine category, Dolphin Pack’s workhorse is the Mistral 3B MT, which wraps mattresses and foam slabs automatically while adjusting the width of lateral sealing bars for a tight pack. It can be integrated with the company’s Press machine to compress mattresses or with flat vacuum pack equipment for vacuum compression.
Fully automatic machines include the Etesian system (packs and rolls mattresses and toppers) and the Etesian Full system (packs, folds and rolls mattresses and toppers). The Ander Roll Full roll-packing machine, installed with the Etesian Full system, has a variable diameter range that extends from 7.8 inches to 21.6 inches, allowing it to handle a wide array of bedding products, including toppers and polyurethane foam, viscoelastic and hybrid mattresses from twin to king size.
“Our bestselling system is the Etesian Full, as it’s the most complete line we are producing and, in this moment, customers are looking for the machine that gives them the most packaging possibilities,” Montresor says.
In addition to manufacturing packing solutions, Dolphin Pack engineers and makes transport systems to improve logistics within a plant. The systems include components such as conveyors, flippers, its Dolphin Pack Stacker to automatically stack mattresses on pallets, and the D-Stacker, which automatically picks up polyurethane foam sheets and can stack them onto either a conveyor line or a glued base to automate subassembly operations. All of the company’s machinery can be integrated with customers’ existing lines.
Boxed beds spark innovation
In the past several years, Dolphin Pack has seen strong demand for all-in-one machines designed for the boxed bed segment. These machines can fold, roll and wrap mattresses, which operators then place in a box for easy shipping to retailers and consumers.
“Boxed beds have changed the way of selling mattresses worldwide,” Montresor says. “For our production, it has meant making an R&D investment in engineering to retrofit our existing models as folded mattresses need stronger packaging machines.”
In the past decade, Montresor adds, mattress packaging has gone from packed and rolled to compressed, folded and rolled. “Innovation comes through a necessity. The necessity of reducing transport costs and improving the maneuverability of the product once packed has created the request from our customers to improve packaging technologies,” she says. “We are manufacturers, and it is in our nature to take up the challenge to find a new solution.”
To assure that boxed mattresses maintain a high standard of quality after being compressed, folded and rolled, “we needed to develop a new model of our roll pack, reinforcing the original version to have a stronger frame and more powerful system,” Montresor says.
Dolphin Pack began to receive requests for packaging machines specifically for boxed beds around 2014 and, today, the segment is a large part of its business. “We continue to work very closely with our customers in this area, since they are always looking for ways to further automate this part of production while reducing the amount of lifting and positioning that operators have to do,” she says.
Made in Italy
The company produces its entire line of machinery from self-made components and select locally sourced parts and materials at a newly updated plant in the Verona province. “We choose every mechanical and electronic component of our machinery only from the best producers,” Zaninelli says.
In 2018, Dolphin Pack tripled its plant’s size from 21,500 square feet to 64,500 square feet, consolidating operations that were taking place in leased facilities into a single, company-owned site. The company has a workforce of 50, up from 20 a decade ago.
“The modern factory in Affi enables us to manufacture and assemble our machines more efficiently and independently,” Zaninelli says. “Having everything in one location also makes it easier for our customers to see and test our machines.”
Dolphin Pack’s culture of collaboration — and ability to customize machines to customers’ exact specifications — are two cornerstones of its success, Montresor says.
“We like to have our customers visit our facility here in Verona so that they can see our plant and this beautiful town where we build our machines,” she says. “It’s also the best way for them to identify the most suitable equipment for their production.”
In many cases, Dolphin Pack will receive a request for a feature on a machine that relates to an emerging trend in the market or a specific need that a customer might have. In recent years, for example, the company beefed up the weight-bearing capacity of one of its roll-packing machines as boxed bed manufacturers began to make their mattresses heavier and bulkier.
“We needed to make this machine stronger so that it could handle the increased weight in an efficient and safe manner,” Zaninelli says, adding that Dolphin Pack has a technical department with 15 mechanical, electrical and software engineers who work with customers to come up with solutions to production challenges. “They spend more than 10,000 hours each year researching and designing new packaging solutions.”
The company’s mission is to “build machines capable of meeting all packaging requirements,” Montresor says — and sometimes that means inventing something new.
Lately, Dolphin Pack’s design team has been devoting extra attention to energy efficiency and reducing waste. Its goal is to make the company’s machines as eco-friendly as possible.
The Etesian line allows the use of thinner and less expensive films, providing a considerable energy savings and lower packaging costs, according to the company. In addition, new ovens for heat-shrink tunnel systems are equipped with sophisticated air distribution systems within the chamber that dramatically reduce energy consumption while still ensuring high performance.
In addition to finding creative packaging solutions for its customers, Montresor says, “we are committed to the planet and the environmental impact that our equipment has, so we’ve made R&D in this area a priority.”
Working together with polyethylene film producers, Dolphin Pack has identified a new wrapping solution that is expected to reduce material and energy use even further. The company is testing this new film on its Etesian system, where it has reduced the amount of plastic used in wrapping by 50%. Thanks to a new folding device added in 2019 that improves the Etesian system, Dolphin Pack also has confirmed that the thinner film can be used to wrap mattresses without any damage during the final stages of packaging.
A new tax being implemented in Europe in 2021 has created an additional impetus for reducing film use. “Plastic use reduction is a request that comes from our customers both for an economic benefit, as well as an environmental one,” Zaninelli says.
In addition to the cost savings, using thinner film also improves productivity, Montresor says, because each roll of film can cover more beds and operators don’t have to change the rolls as often.
These new films can be used with existing Etesian machines, Zaninelli says, providing that they include the company’s latest folding equipment. Moreover, the Etesian system can work with recyclable film.
Dolphin Pack also is creating a new box flipping system to more fully automate the box loading process at the end of roll-and-pack production lines. “Our technical department is studying the way that mattresses are flipped and loaded to see if we can make this step more efficient while maintaining the safety of the operator,” Zaninelli says.
Operator safety always has been a key concern for Dolphin Pack. “Producers want their lines to go as fast as possible, but they also want their operators to be safe,” Montresor says. In the United States, where mattresses are heavier and thicker than in other regions of the world, this is especially important. “Operators might be lifting mattresses as heavy as 150 pounds every 40 seconds, so this process needs to be as smooth as possible,” she says.
Dolphin Pack backs up all of its equipment with excellent customer service and a parts department that responds rapidly to customer requests, Montresor says. Because parts currently must be shipped from its headquarters in Italy, the company recommends customers keep a core stock at their own facilities. When the Chicago facility becomes fully operational with its own parts warehouse, replenishing needed components will become much faster in the United States.
To strengthen the company’s profile in the bedding industry and other business sectors, Dolphin Pack recently launched a new website. The site emphasizes the company’s innovative spirit and deep commitment to providing first-rate service, Montresor says.
Quality is Job 1
To ensure the quality of its machines, Dolphin Pack subjects each piece of equipment to a rigorous series of tests. In nonpandemic times, customers are encouraged to travel to the company’s plant to observe a machine in operation before it is packed and shipped. Customers also can view tests live from their own facilities via videoconferencing.
Once a machine arrives at its destination, a Dolphin Pack technician goes to the site to install it and train the operators. Dolphin Pack can support an installation remotely if an on-site visit isn’t possible because of pandemic travel restrictions.
Dolphin Pack does business in 40 countries, from Argentina and Colombia to Australia, India and Russia. The U.S. accounts for about 10% of revenues. Other strong international markets include Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.
“We have some big customers in the U.S., and we are looking to strengthen our relationships with them and also expand our base of new accounts,” Montresor says. “Having an office in the U.S. is our first step in this effort.”
Because U.S. mattress companies produce in large quantities over multiple shifts, having an office in Chicago staffed with skilled technicians will enable Dolphin Pack to be more responsive when service issues arise, Eric Zaninelli says. “We’ll be able to get someone to the plant right away.”
Dolphin Pack’s technical team in Italy also is an ongoing resource for customers. “Our experts can often diagnose and troubleshoot a problem by connecting to the machine remotely. If it’s software, they can usually make the fix via their computer, and if it’s mechanical, we’ll send someone in if needed,” she says.
According to the team, Dolphin Pack’s focus on packaging machines sets it apart from its competitors. “We devote all of our energy to this one segment of the business,” they say. “We are passionate about our job and pay attention to the details at every stage of the designing and use of our equipment.”