Commodore Plastics LLC
Issue Fall 14
Commodore Plastics LLC did not get to where it is today by settling for the status quo, and its dedication to customized foam equipment is what continues to set the company apart. “We don’t show a customer what we have, we ask them what they want,” President Brad Braddon explains.
The Bloomfield, N.Y.- based company was founded in 1980 by Braddon’s father, George Braddon, after he realized there was a need in the market for foam products that the larger companies were ignoring. Commodore specializes in manufacturing meat trays for food processors and grocery stores. “I would really characterize us as a producer of food packaging,” Braddon says. “We make expanded polystyrene foam trays for food packaging.”
Since its inception, Commodore has been building its own manufacturing equipment to make foam packaging products and today the company also sells its machines only overseas. “The reason that we build our own equipment is because we aren’t a giant company, and to be competitive as a smaller company we run custom equipment that allows us to have a full product range like our competitors do,” Braddon explains. Commodore prides itself not only on supplying companies with foam trays, but also on building a reputation as a supplier of affordable and high-performance machines that assist companies in starting a foam-manufacturing operation.
Commodore manufactures all of its foam packaging trays in its 200,000-square-foot New York plant and works with food processors throughout the United States. The company sets itself apart by customizing the tray to fit its customers’ needs. “We don’t care if they want something that is different than what we have already,” Braddon explains. “The reality is, many customers want a different tray.”
When a customized order is placed, Braddon explains that it is mostly because a company wants its product to be displayed differently or its product doesn’t fit well in an available size tray. “For example, if you are making a sausage patty, it would be nice if the tray fit the patty exactly, as opposed to being too large,” he explains. Commodore’s engineering department is quick to build a prototype and can prototype a new tray for a company in about one week.
Because of its build-to-order business model, Commodore is often making new products and the features on its thermoform machines are designed to change quickly between items being produced. Through Lean manufacturing techniques, molds are easy to access and removal and installation times are measured in minutes, rather than hours. “We consider efficiency by how we are able to deliver the product to the customer the way they want it,” Braddon explains. “We don’t necessarily try to go faster, that’s not critical. We try to have the best product and get it right the first time.”
Being efficient at Commodore means achieving low scrap percentages and fast line change over during high-volume production. Most of its trays are packaged with use of packing aids rather than by automated equipment. All of its scrap is 100 percent recycled because it goes back into making trays.
To make its expanded polystyrene trays, Commodore purchases plastic pellets that are heated and injected with gas to form cells that are then made into rolls of foam. “If you go to the supermarket and you buy cookies, that plastic container could be made with clear polystyrene,” Braddon says. “The only difference is that we foam the plastic to make the foam tray thereby reducing the amount of material used.”
“One thing that makes it environmentally friendly is that we take a little plastic and make a lot of tray,” Braddon adds. A big trend in packaging and the automotive industry is light-weighting, which uses less plastic, lowers cost, improves gas mileage and makes processes more efficient. “If foam was invented today instead of 1960, people would probably love foam as a creative way to light-weight,” he adds. “Anywhere a company can foam a plastic, they are doing it.”
Since the middle of first-quarter 2014, Commodore has been manufacturing coffee cup sleeves. The foam coffee sleeve weighs about two grams, which makes it very lightweight, and foam is also a great insulator. The sleeves can be found in supermarkets and coffee shops.
Commodore manufactures foam label stock that is used as insulating labels on products, such as on microwaveable meals and soups. Braddon is working to develop a foam label that will prevent a person’s hand from getting hot or cold when holding a drink or heated meal. His goal is to see the foam label be used in the beer industry in the future. “Moving forward, I see ourselves still serving food processors in foam trays,” he adds. “Our intent is to grow in the processor segment because right now, I think we are making the best processor tray in the industry. We are also looking for opportunities for growth.”