A Nifty Niche

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A Nifty Niche

August 31, 2001 - 21:00


Most corrugated converters would not consider its main competition to be folding carton companies, but that is just what New Oxford, Pa.-based CorrLam Packaging views to be a threat. That is because CorrLam, a division of the Tim-Bar Corp., has pioneered the use of N-flute. The company can produce high-quality corrugated containers with the look of a folding carton, but the feel of durable corrugated.

In 1997, Tim-Bar Corp. bought a TemCorr laminator from a Washington company and stored the machine for future use, planning to break into the miniflute arena once it opened CorrLam Packaging.
In 1997, Tim-Bar Corp. bought a TemCorr laminator from a Washington company and stored the machine for future use, planning to break into the miniflute arena once it opened CorrLam Packaging.

"We think of ourselves as a folding carton converter, not as a corrugated converter," says Mike Salloom, vice president and general manager. "There isn't anything that a folding carton converter can do that we can't. Whether it's stamping, embossing, coating, windows �� any of it can be done."

Planning Ahead

In 1998, Hanover, Pa.-based Tim-Bar was rapidly expanding with a series of acquisitions and start-ups. Its Oxford Innovations division, which focuses on specialty packaging, point-of-purchases and display, grew out of Oxford Container, the company's brown box producers. Oxford Innovations advanced in the display business and at that time, former Tim-Bar President John Swope split Oxford Innovations again and created the company's

CorrLam division. The two divisions then opened a new facility in New Oxford, which is shared by a total of four Tim-Bar divisions.

Even though CorrLam did not exist until 1999, Tim-Bar was considering the initiative several years earlier. In 1997, the company bought a TemCorr laminator from a Washington company, which used the machine for only four years and stored it for two years before selling it. Tim-Bar stored the machine for future use, planning to break into the miniflute arena.

"It was an excellent opportunity for us," says Bernie Baszak, CorrLam's vice president of sales. "Tim-Bar saw the growth in this start-up venture. They had tremendous confidence and made a huge commitment to CorrLam."

CorrLam promotes its N-flute packaging with several sample boxes showing the flute's varied uses.
CorrLam promotes its N-flute packaging with several sample boxes showing the flute's varied uses.

The TemCorr inline singlefacer and laminator hybrid was built in 1991 by TemCorr Co., one of two producers of this machinery. The other, Switzerland-based Asitrade AG, purchased the rights to TemCorr in 1996. While the corrugator/laminator hybrid is one of about 50 in the United States right now, Salloom says CorrLam's machine offers the widest range in laminating, covering B-, D-, E-, F-, and N-flute.

The TemCorr produces singleface corrugated and combines it with offset printed sheets, which gives the structural integrity of a corrugated box combined with the image quality of a litho-printed sheet. The laminator also is used to combine flexo preprinted rolls to singleface corrugated.

Since Oxford Innovations and CorrLam were sharing a building, it made sense for the divisions to share machinery too. Oxford already had diecutting, folding and gluing capabilities, so CorrLam purchased three printing presses: a 44- by 64-inch Planeta six-color offset, a 44- by 64-inch Planeta seven-color with an eighth station used for aqueous coating and a 44- by 64-inch Planeta two-color with ultraviolet coating capabilities.

CorrLam and Oxford also have an Automat���jogger aerator and two Ward VeriGraphix three-color and six-color flexo rotary diecutters, a Bobst SPO 1600 platen diecutter, a Bobst SPO 160-S diecutter, a Bobst SPO 1575 diecutter, a Jagenberg straight-line gluer, and a J&L straight-line gluer. The companies have just installed a second Jagenberg folder-gluer, the Diana 165-4. The Bobst SPO 160 was bought primarily for N-flute, Salloom says.

The company also does its own in-house ink management program, which Production Manager Matt Wells says benefits the company immensely. "It's good to be self-sufficient," he says. "Our ink suppliers have worked to educate us on doing it right too."

Leveling The Playing Field

There are only five or six companies in the United States that currently convert N-flute. Within the last six months, CorrLam has been running more N-flute than F-flute, primarily because the flute offers more value, Baszak says.

While the TemCorr corrugator/laminator hybrid is one of about 50 in the United States right now, CorrLam's machine offers the widest range in laminating, covering B-, D-, E-, F-, and N-flute.
While the TemCorr corrugator/laminator hybrid is one of about 50 in the United States right now, CorrLam's machine offers the widest range in laminating, covering B-, D-, E-, F-, and N-flute.

"Our customers are looking for a sturdier, more durable box," Wells says. The board is not going to change the look of a traditional folding carton but offers more strength and support. CorrLam also markets the flute as a packaging solution which offers better selling benefits. "We investigate situations where we can reduce or eliminate some of the other packaging needed to get the product to the ultimate retail point," Baszak says. "When we can reduce those things, it levels the playing field in terms of cost with folding cartons."

The burgeoning company is still developing N-flute applications and Baszak says it is meant to attack more of the folding carton market, especially the heavier weights, 24 point and up. He says the company has not seen much success competing with 24 point yet, but hopes the technology will improve and eventually it will happen.

He says that as materials and technology advance, they will be able to compete with even thinner caliper boards. "There may be a slight increase in cost, but the advantages of the materials, i.e. strength and perceived value, far outweigh them," Baszak says. "Once they see the benefits, customers seem inclined to switch."

CorrLam developed a worksheet to assist its salespeople analyze its customers' complete packaging program including warehousing and transportation to the ultimate retail point. It has helped to show how little the cost increase is, and in some cases realized savings over the current packaging methods. If a customer is having a problem using folding cartons, Baszak says it then is easy to introduce N-flute. If the potential customer is happy with its folding cartons, CorrLam tries to determine if a better total packing solution exists.

"Many retailers such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart are trying to eliminate the overpacking altogether because it is difficult for them to dispose of," Baszak says. "We're actually helping our customers help their customers."

Finding The Best

Salloom started at the Tim-Bar Corp. 28 years ago at its Oxford Container division and subsequently was a corrugator planner, estimator, a customer service representative, a production manager, and a sales manager before moving to Oxford Innovations as general manager. From that experience, he was picked to start up CorrLam.

Salloom, who is called "The Kid" by his Tim-Bar co-workers, says longevity is key to a successful company. "Good people really make the company," he says. " And we need to get them the tools so they can get the job done."

Salloom says CorrLam wants to be the preferred employer in the corrugated industry. The company has a very aggressive internship program, with about 10 students going through it so far. "The intern program has been very successful and some of them have been permanently hired," Baszak says.

Clemson University, Michigan State and other packaging school students are aggressively sought out. Wells, a 1998 Clemson graduate, interned with Tim-Bar and upon his college graduation, he was asked to join the budding CorrLam.

"I was very impressed with Matt and the hands-on knowledge he had," Salloom says. "I expected him to have book-knowledge but the practical use knowledge he has is amazing."

Salloom understands the importance of having qualified employees to move up within the company, but also wants the job to be fun so the company's low turnover record will remain intact.

"I feel that when I leave, I haven't left with someone holding the bag," Salloom says. "If I don't have someone following in my footsteps, I can't go on to do other things."

A Compatible Marriage

CorrLam currently has about 35 employees while the building that houses the four divisions has about 500 people total. In addition to the CorrLam, Oxford Container, Oxford Innovations, and Corra-Board divisions, there also is a finishing center in the building. CorrLam is in the process of ISO 9001 certification and following that, the entire plant will work for certification.

The 500,000-square-foot plant runs three shifts. When CorrLam first started, it ran only one shift but now runs two. Within the year, it hopes to run three but it will depend on the business CorrLam can generate. Right now the TemCorr runs at 60 to 65 percent capacity.

CorrLam's customer base primarily covers the eastern seaboard, from upstate New York to Miami, and includes the automotive aftermarket, household, appliances, food, and beverage sectors. Major clients include Nabisco, Hershey, Motorola, Bacardi, Lennox, and Coty.

The company's sales have doubled within the last year, but Salloom doesn't want to reveal the actual numbers, citing its short existence doesn't accurately portray how well it is doing. Salloom expects sales to double again within the next year. "It's not bad for being in a down market," he says.

Salloom attributes new growth to aggressively hiring seasoned salespeople. "If you need business right away, we find the salespeople that are already established in the industry," he says.

CorrLam has three full-time salespeople, soon to be four. Tim-Bar has about 100 salespeople selling for all of the divisions, with about 30 taking advantage of selling CorrLam's N-flute.

Besides the cost benefits of physically being affiliated with Oxford Innovations, CorrLam has found sales success in its partner.

"Since we were starting from scratch, it benefited us to have a sister plant attached to us," Wells says. "Especially since Oxford Innovations is well-known and it has existing accounts and business. Right off the bat, sales were not a problem for us. Instantly there was business. Our sister plant needed an offset printer and we were right there. We had clients right away and Oxford Innovations had a printer in the same building. It created a very nice marriage for both parties."

The facility has created a one-stop shopping place for its customers, Salloom says. At one facility, a customer can get P-O-P displays, boxes to go in the display and the master packer for the display.

The symmetry between Oxford Innovations and CorrLam has spread to other parts of the companies. In addition to sharing machinery, the two companies also share some staff. Customer service, design, shipping and receiving, maintenance, and accounting staffs all split their time between the companies. "We were lucky we didn't have to duplicate the talent we both possess," Salloom says. "Many CorrLam employees used to work for Oxford Container or Oxford Innovations and that provides continuity."

Combing the benefits of experienced employees with the innovation of N-flute seems to be a winning combination, as CorrLam continues to carve its niche.