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Panther Industries

by Eric Peterson / CompanyWeek on March 1, 2016, 07:23 am MST

www.print-n-apply.com

Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Founded: 1999

Privately owned

Employees: 18

With a who's who of national retailers on its client list, the labeling machine manufacturer is growing rapidly and expanding its catalog with an eye on natural foods and craft beer.

After ImTech acquired Arvada-based Stadia Label, Panther founder Jim Thompson struck out on his own and started his own label-focused manufacturer.

"We've always made industrial labeling equipment," says VP Christian Dow. As much as things stay the same, he adds, Panther's market has changed: The company has grown with e-commerce and is now a supplier to some of the biggest stores on the Web. "Our biggest customers are the large retailers: Target, Walmart, Amazon, Dell."

That means cutting-edge automated labelers that automatically detect the height of the package coming down the conveyor at massive fulfillment and distribution centers.

Dow says Panther is helping customers modernize operations with a keen eye on the tenets of Industry 4.0, a.k.a. the fourth industrial revolution. It follows that the company's products are designed to integrate with a customer's existing processes and systems.

The company's Panther 2000 and Panther P8 labelers include a built-in operator display that relays real-time information on job status, feedback, and errors.

"We're not a low-cost leader," says Dow. "We're selling more of a full-featured product."

Panther's catalog includes equipment that wraps bottles, automates packing lists, creates traceability-based solutions for produce, and customizes labeling machines for myriad industries. Beyond its retail base, the company sells to a wide range of manufacturers, including numerous breweries and food companies.

The company's barcode labelers are often used to streamline manufacturing processes by making parts and packages easily trackable.

Early on, Panther's labeling machines led to keg labelers for Coors and Anheuser-Busch, which led to more work in the beer industry. Now the company has set its sights on smaller breweries.

"We have a bomber labeler for the craft beer industry," says Dow. "We have a lot of interest from the wineries as well."

Panther's "semi-automated" bomber labelers debuted in 2015 using the company's existing P2000 and P8 machines as base technologies, with a starting price of $16,000. The modular design allows the user to upgrade to a more automated solution that can handle up to 100 bottles a minute.

Sierra Nevada Brewing, Boulevard Brewing and August Schell Brewing are among the company's current brewery customers.

Growth has been increasingly strong. Panther has more than doubled in size since 2008 and saw 23 percent growth in 2015. Dow is bullish on 2016. The first quarter "is shaping up to be one of the best we've ever had," he says.

Challenges: "Our challenges are about our growing pains -- scaling production to meet the demands of our sales," says Dow.

Opportunities: The West. Dow says that the eastern and central time zones account for 80 percent of Panther's sales. "The mountain [time zone] and West Coast are our latest frontier."

He says the company has seen more business in Colorado, citing cannabis and natural foods along with craft beer as big growth sectors.

Needs: Talent. "We have three openings," says Dow. "We're looking for some field service technicians and assembly techs right now." Panther is participating in career days and other outreach, he adds. "There's not a lot of people looking for work right now."

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