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Schafer Systems Displays Ticket To Success

Schafer Systems manufactures and assembles more then 50 styles of P.O.P. displays for state and international lotteries.

By Chad Sypkens

The Front Window-In-Counter dispenser makes for great ticket visibility — both from the front and top of the counter. This dispenser is fabricated of ABS plastic utilizing two pieces of tempered glass on top of the unit. The shelves in this newly developed snap-together 12-inch Modular Mini dispenser can be positioned within the dispenser to accommodate a variety of ticket books.

About 15 years ago, Chris and Betty Schafer found the ticket to their success, right in their own garage. Noting the popularity of instant lotteries, the Adair, IA couple began fabricating acrylic scratch ticket dispensers for the lottery industry.
The couple soon hired some help and moved the company to a 10,000-square-foot building in downtown Adair. Today, Schafer Systems is one of the leading manufacturers of lottery-ticket dispensers in the world, selling its products in 38 states, plus 31 countries spanning six continents, seven territories and one province. Now operating in an 80,000-square-foot facility, the company sales exceed $8.5 million annually.

Injection Molded Modular Mini Dispensers

The first ticket dispenser marketed by Schafer Systems Inc. was the UM Dispenser. It was a colored plastic box with a roller mechanism that would allow tickets to be dispensed. Over time, the dispenser evolved into clear polycarbonate, with tape used to adhere the unit to the counter in retail stores.
But more tickets required more variety in dispensers and the need for stacking the displays. Double-stick tape was used between the dispensers for a time, until the company invented the first Single Snap-together 6-inch Modular Mini dispensers. These were first sold to the Indiana Lottery in October 1993.
“The invention of the “snap” feature was an enormous step in the evolution of point of purchase products for the lottery industry,” says Ryan Gruhn, , vice president, engineering and product development. Prior displays required tape between the dispensers in order to stack them. The patented “snap” feature made it possible for the dispensers to be stacked and unstacked easily, yet securely, while remaining attractive and reusable, he adds.
This single patented feature was so popular with lottery customers that the line expanded to a Single and a Dual Snap-together 4-inch Modular Mini, a Dual Snap-together 6-inch Modular Mini, a Dual Snap-together Bingo and a Snap-together 12-inch Modular Mini.
“Most of the dispensers are two-part assembly,” says Gruhn, whose company completes 150,000 dispensers a year. “The boxes are injection molded out of polycarbonate and have two holes molded into the box which snap into the hinges molded into the door,which then snap together.”
Multiple height stands are also manufactured by Schafer that allow the retailer to decrease the footprint of the dispenser stack, yet keep the stack on the counter. “The Cash Register Stand is the ultimate for this application,” says Gruhn. “Its base fits snugly under the edge of the cash register, eliminating the footprint entirely, and can be adjusted in height from 15 inches to 27
At the request of customers, unique Security Doors and Single and Dual Lockable Slide Mounts are also designed and patented for these snap-together dispensers.
“Our first customer for the ticket dispenser liked what we did for them and it kind of grew from there,” says Gruhn. “We are well-known for fabricating quality lottery products. We have been doing this for a long time and understand the needs of lottery P.O.P. displays. This is the niche we found for ourselves and we enjoy it.”

Play Centers Boost Lottery Sales

This 3-shelf base is rotationally molded and has a storage area with three shelves and a screen-printed logo on the front door.
The first rotationally molded Play Center Tops were sold to the Virginia Lottery in October 1991. Lottery organizations indicated a need for a place for customers to scratch off their tickets and pick up literature without tying up the checkout lanes in retail stores.
Schafer Systems Inc. now offers three “Play Center Top” designs and four “Play Center Base” designs that are all interchangeable with variable features. Customers can pick and choose features to create their own unique style and design.
“Every state or country has their own preference on how they want something built,” says Gruhn. “We customize all our products to match our customers needs. If they want something a little bit different or special, that is when our fabrication prowess comes in and we do something special for them. For us, we have no real regulations, just a matter of preference.”
The POP displays are currently installed in 16 states and seven international lotteries. Schafer rotationally molds roughly 5,000 Play Centers a year with a Ferry RS 370 4 Independent Arm rotational molding machine.Testing done by the Washington State Lottery and the Kansas Lottery proved that the Play Centers increase lottery sales from 12 to 39 percent. Benefits include a lottery presence in retail stores, high visibility, convenience, attraction, easy assembly and effortless cleaning, adds Gruhn. The Play Centers have two main parts, a base unit and a top unit. Parts are trimmed on a Komo 4R 408 P 4-head router. The base (shown below) includes 1&Mac218;4-inch ABS shelves bent on heat wire benders made in-house for Shafer’s own specific needs. The shelves are assembled within the Play Center with screws. Schafer also routs a 1&Mac218;4-inch ABS door for the base. Logos for the individual lottery customers are screen-printed on the door using a M&R Saturn Screenprinter. The top unit has a 1&Mac218;8-inch foam PVC header with screen-printed logos, an 1&Mac218;8-inch acrylic piece covering up two 8-1&Mac218;2 -inch by 11-inch pockets to hold literature, held in place by injection molded nylon arrow clips manufactured from either of the Schafer’s two injection molders: a BOY 30 ton injection molding press with robotic sprue picker or the Toyo 150 ton injection molding press. Located on the top unit of the Play Center is a 1&Mac218;4-inch thick super abrasion-resistant acrylic used for the writing surface. Schafer also uses its Ferry rotational molder to manufacture its lines of Bass Baby Boat and Connect-A-Dock out of linear lo density polyethylene from Mobil (See story below).
Schafer Systems, which rotomolds roughly 5,000 Play Centers a year, is powered by this Ferry RS 370 4 Independent Arm Rotomolding machine with a 130 inch diameter swing. Schafer also utilizes the Ferry to mold its line of polyethylene Bass Baby Boats and Connect-A-Dock lines.

Family First

While Betty and Chris Schafer continue to serve on the Board of Directors, they named Victor Aspengren president of the corporation last year. The family owned company chose to recently implement an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), to include the 75 employees in the ownership as well, offering them stock for employee ownership.
“I think it has given the employees more buy into the company and they don’t see it as a ‘me, me, me’ company anymore, but more about the overall bottom line,” says Gruhn. “It isn’t just a few people running the company here, we are all trying to work together for the good of the company which can only be positive.”
Another important piece to the puzzle at Schafer is the four-day, 10-hour production floor work schedule.
“It really helps our production employees and our assembly employees,” says Gruhn. “It is important that they have that time to get re-energized.They are the ones doing the monotonous stuff, the same thing day-in and day-out.”
The lottery dispensers call for a lot of hand assembly work. For example, a piece of UHMW tape is placed onto each tear bar to prevent scratching of the lottery tickets which would occur during dispensing. “People don’t want to buy a ticket that has already been scratched off,” says Gruhn.
Other assembly includes the installation of rollers on the door of the dispenser, locks on the doors, instruction labels, hot stamping the date of manufacture on the dispenser and manufacturer information stickers. Each door must get snapped onto the box as well.
“Our dispenser assembly is critical portion of our manufacturing process,” says Gruhn. “If one of the steps isn’t performed, the dispenser won’t function properly. Our assembly team is basically our quality control, too. They work on every part that goes out the door to ensure that our customers don’t receive poor-quality products. Giving them a three-day break can only help in making sure that never happens.”
Once assembly is completed, each part gets shrink wrapped, boxed, packaged and sent to the customer.
Schafer also pays its employees up to three hours a week to work out and exercise in the company’s work-out facility, complete with locker rooms, showers, treadmills, dumbbells, weight machines and more. “They want us to get our cardiovascular rate up and if we keep our target heart rate for a certain amount of time during our workout session, they reimburse us for that time,” says Gruhn. “It really is a great deal and unusual for a company our size to offer something like this.”

Added Fabrication Capabilities

Two main spindles from this Komo CNC router are used to cut 1&Mac218;8-in ABS dividers for drawers to be glued into ticket dispensers. “This table has vacuum underneath, pulling the sheet of ABS down, holding the part in place while the router runs through the program,” says Gruhn.
Schafer offers a wide range of plastic fabrication capabilities, including CNC router fabrication, heat wire bending, solvent bonding and thermoforming. “While we work with most plastics, we specialize in decorative parts, signage and point of purchase displays using acrylic, copolymer, ABS, polycarbonate, foam PVC and styrene and are experienced in molding nylon, acetol, PS, HDPE and LDPE,” says Gruhn. “We integrate a lot of processes into each product.
“We could use our Komo router, Ferry molder, Toyo molding press, Branson ultrasonic welder, Weld-On 3 solvent cement from IPS Corp., Acromark Hotstamper, Service Tectonics pad printer, M & R screen printer, C.R. Onsrud inverted router, Delta drill press, Starview die cutter and Preferred Packaging System shrink wrap machine — all on one finished product.”
Schafer uses Pro/Engineer, IronCAD, AutoCAD and RouterCIM software along with a Stratasys FDM2000 rapid prototyping machine to develop its own new products and provide prototyping services to other companies.
“Starting with a 3-D solid model or CAD file, we can have a prototype part to check, form, fit and function in a matter of hours,” says Gruhn. “This process greatly improves the design cycle and increases confidence in design integrity before investing in costly tooling.”
Schafer buys its cutting tools from Great Lakes Carbide, Bosch, Onsrud Cutter and Amana Tool. Plastic material comes from Allen Extruders and Mobil.

For more information on Schafer Systems, contact Ryan Gruhn at (800) 222-4489 or go to

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