Taylor Box Co. finally does not feel like Alice in Wonderland anymore. Last summer, President Dan Shedd compared the company's physical situation to Alice eating the magical cakes and suddenly her arms and legs were popping out the house's windows - she was growing too big for the house.
"We were bursting at the seams," Shedd says. "We were feeling so much stress, similar to what Alice might have felt."
Taylor Box Co., a third generation owned and operated, Warren, R.I.-based rigid box manufacturer, has been in business since 1885, but the company has been growing at an incredible rate - about 75 percent in the last five years. The company's annual sales are more than $4 million.
Taylor Box specializes in turned edge paperboard packaging. The backbone of that style is chipboard that can be covered with a number of materials for striking effects. From seven-color offset film laminated litho labels to linen cloth coverings embossed and foil stamped to recycled kraft, the company has expertise in all types of set-up boxes.
"While we've grown enormously, our footprint hadn't grown along with us," Shedd says. "We were moving things twice that should have really only been touched once. It was a nightmare."
But with the company's recent 10,000-square-foot warehouse addition, a lot of Shedd's logistical headaches have gone away. Since the warehouse addition was completed a few months ago, the company, which spans 50,000 square feet on 4.5 acres, finally has a little room to breathe, get organized and streamline operations.
Eyeing Its Fit
Clarence Taylor founded Taylor Box in Providence, R.I. as a manufacturer of jewelry cards and boxes. The company moved several times within metropolitan Providence and expanded its customer base in the small machine tool and silverware industries. The company's final move came in 1952 as it settled into the current facility in Warren, a small town at the head of Narragansett Bay.
The current ownership began with Howard Scholes who bought the company in the 1930s. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Martin Shedd, who moved it to its present location in Warren. In 1980, Martin's sons Dan and Dave took over management and in 1994, Dan bought out his dad and brother. The two brothers are still teamed up, with Dave handling the manufacturing engineering.
In a time of scaling back, Taylor Box is one of the few New England box makers that still do a lot of hand finishing and detail work on its products.
In the 1980s, Taylor Box was one of the primary New England box players, primarily due to its substantial share of the software packaging market. But then the software market changed and software that was once packaged in rigid boxes is now packaged in folding cartons and E-flute corrugated. The business that Taylor steadily and readily relied on had disappeared. The company's sales drastically dropped and Shedd set about re-inventing the company to capture new markets.
"We've spent the last 15 years trying to find the best possible fit for Taylor Box and its prospective customer," Shedd says. "We were constantly asking ourselves, 'Who is a good customer for Taylor Box?'"
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"We used to go out and call on customers that were within 30 to 40 miles of the plant," he says. "We'd just try and give a more aggressive price than our competitor. There was virtually no value-added." Shorter product life cycles, shorter lead times and customer demand for innovation made it plain that the old approach was no longer applicable.
But Shedd knew that with his team's creativity and a responsive manufacturing strategy, there was more out there.
About six years ago, the company began exploring a market-driven approach. A consultant was hired to help with a self-examination to pinpoint exactly what Taylor Box did best. A marketing manager was hired to spread the word. In addition, the company created a very extensive web site, www.taylorbox.com, and started expanding out of its regional markets.
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"We needed to explore our adjoining markets because we believed we had capabilities that would make us attractive in those markets," Shedd says.
Taylor was indeed attractive in those markets. While 50 percent of the company's customers are in the Northeast, 25 percent are in the southeastern United States and another 25 percent are on the West Coast and in international markets.
Where jewelry and silverware originally drove sales; the company now has focused on cosmetics, small consumer products, publishing and marketing collateral.
The company is looking at a stock box offering and has acquired the www.paperbox.com site for that effort. Taylor Box also is in the process of developing a marketing site for its marketing collateral offerings at www.3D4results.com.
While the company pushed away from being a "me too" sales-driven operation, Taylor is now focused on making high-end finished specialty boxes. While most box makers in the region have scaled back their capabilities, Taylor still does a lot of hand finishing and detail work like adding ribbons and other accents.
In addition to increasing its sales and customer base, the company also has won several awards from various associations, including the International Best of Show - Rigid Box at the National Paperbox Association (NPA)/Canadian Paper Box Manufacturers Association Millennium Congress and three NPA Best of Show awards over the past six years.
The company's award-winning products include setup boxes, binders, presentation folders, dimensional mail and product promotion packaging, gift boxes, sample cases, and clear PVC boxes.
The company recently began producing VHS, CD and small book slipcases automatically with its new "extended capability" Emmeci box machine. Taylor also recently modified its equipment to further automate the production of paper-hinged presentation boxes. Shedd says these packages are popular with customers who need to make product samplers such as rug, flooring and small components makers and also is popular in some of the smaller configurations as a direct mail marketing tool. This is a big step for Taylor because this new offering allows its customers to economically employ high impact graphics with film and UV coatings attainable only through offset printing.
In the last three to five years, the company has spent a considerable amount on new machinery, including purchasing the two Emmeci box makers, an MC94 and MC92. To complement their existing capacity the company also purchased a Simon Crosslands autoplaten diecutter, Kensol hot stamper-decal applicator and two additional Crathern transparent lid machines.
The two Emmeci machines have revolutionized the operations at Taylor Box. They produce at a rate approaching twice that of the company's older Crathern machines and the end product quality is equally superior. "For years, everyone said, 'That's as fast as it gets - it doesn't get any better than that,'" Shedd says, but that has all changed.
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While at the DRUPA show in Dussledorf, Germany a few years ago, Shedd stopped off to visit the Emmeci factory in Italy. He visited several box shops to see the machinery in use. After seeing the machines running at rates he previously had thought not possible, he was compelled to buy not one machine, but two.
Shedd admits he, like other North American box plant owners, didn't get out enough to view how operations were being run around the world. After making this monumental trip to Europe, Shedd says he now is redoubling his efforts to get out of the country every two years to see what is new. "I'm going to get out and see what's going on beyond my immediate market area," he says. "The set-up box market has a problem of being too provincial."
And Taylor Box is working to be a lot more than that.