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Zepnick Solutions marks 20 years providing complete, efficient cheese packaging lines

By Alyssa Mitchell

GREEN BAY, Wis. — When Jody Zepnick founded Zepnick Solutions Inc. two decades ago, he had a vision to create a company where people wanted to work, and where cheese and dairy customers could come for trusted automation solutions to run their businesses.

Twenty years later, Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Zepnick Solutions Inc. is positioned as a recognized leader in personalized automation solutions, driven by its company values of family, accountability, collaboration and technical excellence.

Jody Zepnick, CEO, had a background in the high-performance paper industry, working with Procter & Gamble. Paper still is included in Zepnick Solutions’ offerings today.

“I was trained on highly efficient systems. When I started working in dairy, I saw an opportunity to make a huge change in the reliability of parts performance in manufacturing and packaging,” Zepnick says.

Particularly, Zepnick sought to avoid the common “starts and stops” associated with individual pieces of equipment in a line and instead provide a complete solution that flowed and improved production and packaging efficiencies.

“We do complete cheese equipment lines — either block or shred — from the brine system all the way down to the palletizer, including printers, labelers and case packers,” Zepnick says. “Customers now can see double or triple the throughput of product with the same number of operators.”

Zepnick Solutions also has been a leader in providing automation and robotics technologies in cheese and dairy. In recent years, the company has seen new technologies emerge with 3-D vision in the dairy industry, Zepnick notes.

“We’re working with our customers to help evaluate and standardize their products and equipment in terms of packaging. Some of these technologies weren’t available even five years ago,” he says. “Higher-speed processors now allow us to evaluate complex images and conditions faster in order to package more products with less equipment.”

As more companies add automation and robotics solutions to their offerings, Zepnick has worked to stay ahead of the curve by working closely with customers to understand and add value to their businesses.

“A lot of companies sell robots. But we’re not there to sell a particular piece of equipment. We’re there to provide the right solution. You can’t find the answer to the problem before you fully understand it,” Zepnick says.

“‘Personalized automation solutions’ is more than just a tagline on the company website. We listen to our customers and find out what their needs are. Every customer is different,” Zepnick says. “We don’t want to just provide a technical solution — we want to offer a business solution.”

Zepnick Solutions has the expertise to manage projects from initial concept through construction and commissioning, he adds. The company offers feasibility studies, concept development, capital cost estimates, equipment and construction specification and management, and turnkey solutions.

In the last few years, Zepnick Solutions has added dairy and utility process engineering to its services as well.

“We provide engineering and development assistance to the process,” Zepnick says. “A lot of our customers will buy a piece of equipment — for example, they may want to install a pasteurizer — so we’ll work with them to determine what they need to connect the pasteurizer to their existing operation in the most efficient way possible.”

Zepnick notes the company is always looking for new ways to add value to its customers’ businesses.

“We don’t have salespeople, so all of our business is either repeat or word of mouth references,” Zepnick says.

“We’re always fully engaged and on board to study any issues that come up, whether it’s new equipment in a new plant or what they need to formulate a new product.

“We depend on the relationships we build with our customers, so we’re always adding value,” he adds.

“Loyalty to our core values has contributed to continuity in our customer base and stability among our highly-skilled professional staff.”

Because of this, many of Zepnick Solutions’ customers have been working with the company for more than 15 years, and several customers continue to work with Zepnick as they move from company to company, he notes.

In fact, Zepnick says the company’s first customer is still a very active customer.

Zepnick reflects on the company’s progression over the past 20 years from simply control engineering to equipment specialization to complete turnkey systems.

“It’s really been quite a change from controls engineering to complete turnkey systems,” he says. “One of the things we’ve found helpful is our strength in the controls area. A lot of companies do turnkey systems, but when it comes to control strength, they have to utilize someone else. That started as our foundation and it’s still a strong capability in our wheelhouse.”

And despite its growth in offerings, over the past two decades, Zepnick Solutions’ founding principles — humility, love of family, individual accountability, collaboration and a passion for technical excellence — have remained the same, Zepnick notes.

“Those principles got us where we are, and we don’t see that changing going forward,” he says.

As of 2019, the company is 100% employee-owned with an employee stock ownership plan, Zepnick notes.

“It’s a big step for us, but as we continue to grow, we need to expand the leadership and everything that goes with that, so it was a great direction for us to go in,” he says.

Zepnick adds that creating a “great place to work” incorporates everything in the business.

“From our customers to our benefits to our payroll to our first-Friday happy hours — we always try to put our employees ahead of everything, including profits,” he says. “We have to have appreciation and individual ownership of our results. We all have to be doers. Even as CEO, I still work on projects. I still meet with our key customers. It’s an important part of understanding the challenges everyone goes through.

“We look forward to the future with enthusiasm and confidence knowing that our dedicated professional staff will continue to provide personalized automation solutions to an ever-increasing base of satisfied customers,” he adds.

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