Spokane Journal of Business

Alliance Machine Systems rolls out new box fabricator

Valley manufacturer says model is easier to operate

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-Alliance Machine Systems
Alliance Machine Systems International LLC CEO Mark Duchesne says the the J&L Mark 5 Specialty Folder Gluer has a number of enhancements.

Alliance Machine Systems International LLC, a Spokane Valley-based manufacturer of products and services for the paperboard packaging industry, is rolling out the latest model of one of its machines for manufacturing specialty cardboard boxes.

The J&L Mark 5 Specialty Folder Gluer is the latest version of the company’s automated box folding and gluing system, says Mark Duchesne, president and CEO of Alliance. 

“(This version) has enhancements,” Duchesne says. “It’s a more integrated system, while still retaining an open architecture, which makes it easier for operators to run.” 

The new J&L machine will be demonstrated at an open house hosted by Alliance on Sept. 13 at its 80,000-square-foot facility at 5303 E. Desmet. 

“We will be running some birdhouse boxes, a box that folds into a birdhouse, to show the capabilities to produce specialty boxes on that machine,” Duchesne says.

The folding and gluing machine consists of individual modules, with each performing a different manufacturing task. The first is the feeder, where eight vacuum-assisted belts feed the material into the machine. Next, the material travels into two identical folding modules for front and back folding. The following module applies glue and any final folds as needed to the box. Lastly, the delivery module carries the boxes to a compression module, which stacks them. 

Alliance was formed here in 2000, Duchesne says, when Shreveport, La.-based J&L Industries LLC purchased the business assets of Spokane Valley-based Thermoguard Equipment Inc., and changed its name to Alliance Machine Systems LLC. 

In June 2000, Alliance also acquired two other companies, Bladel, Holland-based Serco Holland BV and Hengevelde, Holland-based Quadro Engineering. In 2001, Alliance acquired the corrugated machinery business of Spokane Valley-based ASC Machine Tools Inc., as well as its ASC/Pallmac European operations, and consolidated all the companies into Alliance Machine Systems International. 

Currently, the company manufactures products for its U.S. customers at the Spokane Valley location, and manufactures for its European market in Holland. It also has a manufacturing facility in Romania, Duchesne says.  

“The company has been in businesses for about 30 years through predecessor companies,” he says. “Today, we operate around the world, providing … box manufacturing services to large and small companies that are in the business of making corrugated containers.”

Alliance’s customers include big companies, such as Memphis, Tenn.-based International Paper Co., and a large number of independent box manufacturers, Duchesne says. 

“Our customers are supplying corrugated containers for anybody who makes anything or ships anything, from pizza boxes to refrigerator boxes,” he says. 

The price for one of Alliance’s systems can vary, depending on the size and options the customer wants, Duchesne says. On the low end, a customer might pay about $50,000 for a machine, he says, and on the high end, up to $1 million. 

Duchesne declines to disclose specific revenue numbers for the company, but says overall it’s doing well. Looking into the future, he says that the company’s overall goal is to significantly increase its product lines and sales volumes during the next five years. 

“I would hope that we can do a lot of it with the space that we have,” he says.

Alliance, which employs about 165 people in Spokane and 31 in Europe, also manufactures material handling products, Duchesne says.

“So (our products) basically take banks of corrugated board and condition them and feed them from a stack into a converting machine,” he says. “Then, they take it away from the converting machine … and palletize them to make a palletized load, which can then be shipped by truck or whatever means to our customer’s customers.”

Some of the company’s machines use robotics technology, Duchesne says, which also will be demonstrated at the open house event. 

Alliance’s machines, Duchesne claims, can help its customers increase productivity through more effective feeding of materials. 

“Our equipment allows customers to increase their throughput on their production lines, so they get more boxes per hour and have more control of the material into the converting line,” he says. 

In addition to its flagship folding and gluing machine, the company introduced last year the UltraPAL system, a modular, high-speed palletizer. The modules of the machine can be mixed and matched, depending on the customer’s product mix and speed requirements, Duchesne says.  

Beyond selling equipment to customers, Alliance also provides a range of parts and service support, he says. 

“We have a store of space parts and also have service people, some of which are located around the country,” he says. “We do telephone troubleshooting, or directly connect via a Web port to look at the equipment in real time.”

Beyond troubleshooting and supplying spare parts, Alliance also offers preventive maintenance programs; machine audits; installation services; retrofitting kits; and labor force training. 

Katie Ross
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Reporter Katie Ross covers manufacturing, hospitality, and government at the Journal of Business. An outdoor enthusiast and snowboard fanatic, Katie is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University.  

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