A Day in the Life of a Contract Manufacturer

October 16, 2006
Daniel Schatzman

More than two decades of contract manufacturing experience have taught Access Business Group (Ada, MI) to be two things: ready and flexible.

 

More than two decades of contract manufacturing experience have taught Access Business Group (Ada, MI) to be two things: ready and flexible.

Access runs its tablet, food bar, and powder manufacturing and packaging operations at two locations in California. The company’s Buena Park and Lakeview facilities encompass 700,000 sq ft of combined working space-including 200,000 sq ft devoted to manufacturing. With an annual production capacity of 7.2 billion tablets, 120 million food bars, 60 million pouches, and 6 million cans of powdered drinks, Access is ready to create a wide array of items.

But Access is also flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of the nutrition industry. In January of 2006, for example, the company added a new food bar line that employs state-of-the-art layered technology. Access similarly took advantage of growing consumer demand for sports nutrition products by opening a state-of-the-art powdered drink facility in 1996.

The company’s ability to leverage these two characteristics-readiness and flexibility-is a key element of its success as a contract manufacturer. “The goal is to make every customer feel like they are the only customer,” says Randy Osmun, marketing manager for global services at Access.

Access seems more than ready to meet that challenge. About 61,000 sq ft of manufacturing space at the Buena Park plant is devoted to tablet manufacturing. In addition to four Patterson-Kelly (East Stroudsburg, PA) V blenders and two high-shear blenders, the tablet manufacturing area also holds 27 tablet presses, including 20 Kikusui (Kyoto, Japan) and seven Manesty (Knowsley, UK) machines. The Buena Park location, which is also equipped with a combination of slat and electronic filling machines, can package up to 5 million bottles and 800,000 vacuum pouches per month on five packaging lines.

Meanwhile, at the Lakeview facility, Access prepares a variety of flavored vitamin, weight-loss, and protein drink mixes in its 41,000-sq-ft manufacturing area. The Lakeview location also houses the company’s 21,000-sq-ft granulation area, which contains several blenders, fluid bed systems, and a twin-screw extruder for granulation. Both plants hold FDA drug licenses and are Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Health Protection Branch (HPB) certified.

Quality assurance is carried out by a staff of 50 scientists and technicians who work in the 22,000-sq-ft on-site lab. In addition to a near-IR device used to identify incoming raw materials, the company’s QA system also includes a microbiology lab to test for pathogens, an instrument lab, a chemistry lab, and a validated Internet laboratory information system that can be used to track samples, forecast trends, and generate certificates of analysis.

While Access has strong manufacturing capabilities, its approach to customer service is equally important. “We hear from a lot of prospective customers that feel like they are a small fish in a big contract manufacturing pond,” says Bev Phillips, account manager for global contract sales, who adds that the need to keep up with an evolving industry has made the company more nimble and adaptable.

“It used to be about acquiring as many customers as you could,” says Phillips. “Now it’s about fewer customers and smart partnerships. We are looking for customers who are interested in our whole package, and who also seek a partnership relationship. This works well for us, and also for our customers because they do not compete with each other for manufacturing capacity.”