Knowing The Score

Read so far

Knowing The Score

May 31, 2004 - 21:00

The year was 1923 and new discoveries, ideas and inventions were the rage. Decaffeinated coffee hit the stores, the world was captivated with the discovery of King Tut's tomb, the history of aviation changed with the first, 25-hour transcontinental flight from New York to San Diego, and Sheboygan Paper Box Co. opened its doors in Sheboygan, Wis.

True, the beginning of this Midwest folding carton company lacked a certain drama found in mummies and flying machines. But it did share the fundamental philosophy of the most memorable pioneers - that new ideas and originality are foundations on which to build the future.

Since then, and for the past 80 years, Sheboygan Paper Box has stayed ahead of its competitors by continuing to experiment with cutting edge technology and marketing innovations, a business strategy that has kept it strong and healthy when so many other companies of its kind are already part of the past. The Liebl family, owners and operators of this 184,000-square-foot, full service folding carton facility since 1950, are quick to point out a big reason for such long-term success.

 Family-owned and operated by the Liebl family since 1950, the 184,000-square-foot folding carton facility has enjoyed long-term success.
Family-owned and operated by the Liebl family since 1950, the 184,000-square-foot folding carton facility has enjoyed long-term success.

"We've always pushed hard for new technology," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jack Liebl says. "We were the first independent folding carton company to purchase a laser die system, and the first to have a diecutter with a high-speed cam drive. In 1999, when we purchased a large format seven-color perfecting printing press it was the first of its kind in North America. And we were aggressively researching CTP (computer-to-plate) technology long before it became the common format that it is today."

Open to New Ideas

Not being afraid to be the first is a popular way of thinking for Sheboygan Paper Box, and has been since the company began. Even in a time of economic uncertainty that has left the manufacturing sector particularly hard-hit, the company remains vital and open to new ideas. From CAD/CAM advancements to year-round warehousing and complete turnkey services that take the guesswork out of package design, the company is constantly adapting and adding to its product and service offerings.

Sheboygan Paper Box Managers (from left) Jack and Tom Liebl and Todd Wolf.
Sheboygan Paper Box Managers (from left) Jack and Tom Liebl and Todd Wolf.

Successful execution of this progressive mindset has provided the company and its employees with a healthy, stable and resilient work environment. In addition, continuous dedication to research and investment in technological advancements has strengthened the company's competitive edge, Sheboygan can provide new products and services to its customers that other carton companies cannot. In doing so, its customers, in turn, can come out ahead of their competitors. This idea of helping other companies build their businesses is the philosophy behind Sheboygan Paper Box's most recent capital equipment investment. And it's an idea that is uncovering new markets and winning new customers.

Currently, the hottest prospects for this carton company can be found in the new trend of scored windowing. Earlier this year, Sheboygan purchased its first state of the art Heiber+Schr� window machine, fitted with a scored window applicator. This equipment provides the greatest flexibility for producing either traditional or scored windowing on one machine. More importantly, it marks Sheboygan Paper Box as a forerunner in new windowing technology, allowing it tremendous potential early on.

While traditional window packaging has been around for quite some time, scored window technology is a relatively new process. Scored windowing differs from traditional window patching by applying heavier film patches that typically follow the carton's score lines without wrinkling. This gives the package added strength and structure. In addition, scored windows can be foil stamped or embedded with holograms for visual interest. Package designers like its fresh, finished look.

Although Sheboygan Paper Box won't talk about the specifics of the jobs it does, both for direct and contract work, most current scored window packaging is for cosmetics, beauty products, perfume, and other high-end products. The aesthetic appeal and clean score lines gives the packaging an upscale look.

For Sheboygan Paper Box, this new technology has also unearthed a successful, secondary niche market. The company is aligning itself with its friendly competitors and taking on jobs given to it by other box makers - companies that don't have adequate windowing capabilities in-house, but still want to meet its customers' diverse demands.

The decision to form strategic alliances with other folding carton companies is a move that's turning out to be successful and profitable for everyone involved.

"We're creating mutually beneficial relationships with other companies," President Tom Liebl says. "We're allowing them to take on higher volumes of business because now they can outsource their overages to us. Plus, by using us as a resource, they can really expand their existing markets by offering scored windowing to their customers."

As a result, Sheboygan Paper Box has scored big by embracing risk and setting its sights on niche potential. This year scored windowing is outperforming traditional windowing.

What's next for these packaging pioneers? Sheboygan Paper Box is preparing for the future now, as plans for regional and national expansion are in the works, along with the development of new "competitor" alliances. It will be interesting to see what the company comes up with next, maybe something for the history books.