Unsung heroes of the Corrugated Industry

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Unsung heroes of the Corrugated Industry

by Todd McPherson
Thu, Dec 10th 2015 02:00 pm
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Unsung Heroes of the corrugated Industry

Excerpts from original article by Lin Grensing-Pophal, posted on November 23, 2015
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It takes a lot of people working together to serve clients in the packaging industry. Some are on the front lines interacting directly with clients; others are behind the scenes, but just as critical to the effective delivery of high-quality, strategically focused packaging solutions. Whether these individuals are in maintenance, scheduling, customer service, structural or graphic design—or a range of other roles—their skills and talents are critical to serving client needs. Here we take a look at their contributions and perspectives on the roles they play in the box making process, the challenges they face, and how they have worked to overcome those challenges as part of an effective and efficient packaging team.

One Man's Story

Back in 1981, when Mike Wakefield was running a press on a production line, he never thought he'd become addicted to his work. But, as a former boss in the corrugated industry predicted, that's exactly what happened. Years later, he's still in the industry as a designer, creating container systems for new and regular customers, representing wineries, breweries, and other industries, large and small. His main focus is "coming up with designs that fit the customers' products while keeping costs down," he said during a recent interview from his Rochester, N.Y., office. And that, he says, is the best way to serve his company, Jamestown Container Companies, with designs that work for the customer and promote more business.

Even something as simple as converting a design that requires one seal instead of two can be a money saver, which is something customers won't forget, he says. Consolidation of skills is another example of a redesign that can save money through materials reduction.

Wakefield says an important first step in determining improvement areas is reviewing the customer's existing packaging. And, to alert current customers to money-saving opportunities, Wakefield works with sales managers to offer packaging audits in which the customer's entire line of packaging is assessed with an eye toward redesign and cost savings.

Customers benefit, too, from the testing lab that Wakefield can access at his employer's Jamestown, N.Y., plant.

"We can simulate how containers will travel cross country by truck and conduct drop tests," Wakefield says. That can be particularly beneficial for sensitive materials such as glass or electronics that may need corrugated and foam materials for packaging and shipping, he notes.

Another customer benefit is the software Wakefield uses to simulate box sizes and board grades. He also uses the software to determine which pallet layouts will be most efficient for shipping and handling.

When presented with a difficult or unusual packaging request, Wakefield says, he has access to six designers from Jamestown Container Companies' other facilities.

The collaboration with fellow designers, test labs, computer-aided design, and other specialized software are a far cry from the way Wakefield worked initially as an entry-level designer, when he used a pencil to sketch containers, an X-ACTO blade to make a prototype, and a pizza cutter make the scores.

Creative Retail PackagingMike Wakefield, Jamestown Container Companies

A Wide Range of Roles

Not all unsung heroes are part of the product process, of course. There are other functions critical to any business.

Margerie Ridout with Jamestown Container Companies also handles a very important financial function—ensuring that employees are paid on time! Ridout has worked for Jamestown Container Companies for 36 years, starting in the production department and now as the corporate payroll manager. "I pay about 350 employees every week. I also produce all the tax reports and payments connected with payroll. My other responsibility is to handle the day-to-day banking and report a daily cash situation to the controller," says Ridout.

"I feel that happy employees help to make a company successful," says Ridout. "Let's face it, every employee in a company is working for the paycheck. I do my best to make sure every paycheck is correct, and I go out of my way to make sure the checks are out on time. Sometimes 'out on time' involves doing two days' work in one if there is a holiday, or reprinting checks if UPS has lost the first ones in a snowstorm."

Ridout takes a very personal perspective on her role. "The people I work with on all levels are my 'family.' They, without exception, are my friends first and my co-workers second".

"Custom Cardboard and Corrugated Shipping BoxesMargerie Ridout, Jamestown Container Companies

Facing and Overcoming Challenges

Our unsung heroes have faced various challenges in their work, but they say there's much to learn from addressing these hurdles.

Says Ridout: "I have managed to meet the challenges over the years by taking each day as it came and not stressing over what was going to happen next. The day I started here, October 24, 1979, I was a bit overwhelmed. That night when I went home, I said, 'I will give it until Christmas.' Each day got better, and eventually I felt like this was where I belonged. Maybe I will retire some year at Christmas."

While sometimes those we work with every day in various capacities are overlooked, it's important to remember that a company is only as strong as its weakest link. A single grain of rice can tip the scale, and without strong people in every facet of your business, it will not be a success. Every productive team member, regardless of his or her role, is a true industry hero.

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Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. She is a frequent contributor to BoxScore.


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