From the outside looking in, most paperboard packaging houses appear to be the same. However, while the equipment may be similar, the methods individual firms use to seize opportunities usually serve as the differentiating factor that either makes or breaks a business.
"We thrive on creativity. When we see an opportunity that fits our talents, we do not hesitate to pursue them," says Hilda Murray, vice president and co-owner of the 79-year-old Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Textile Printing Co. (TPC). "Unfortunately, some people in the industry are giving away the margin and unless you have the correct avenue, you will not succeed in this highly-competitive market."
Tapping Vertical Markets
Taking Creative New Shape
"Everyone surviving in this industry is making an effort to find the best way to get in front of the customers. Some are doing this through novel items like flashing lights included in the packaging," Director of Operations Paul Pagano says. "We are doing it through our tubes."
What is it that makes TPC's tubes different? According to Pagano, while the competition makes tubes by rolling unprinted kraft material and placing a printed label over it, TPC's product is a fully printed sheet - comparable to those used to make folding cartons - that is rolled and folded to meet the individual specifications regardless of package design.
"All of the decorations, including window insertion, foil stamping and embossing, are accomplished while the product is still in a sheet form," he says. "The overall construction, rigidity and seamlessness are all unique to this product offering. No one else in the tube market is able to create this product."
To start the process, TPC uses an Artios CAD/CAM driven system to develop mandrels, on which the paperboard is then applied by hand while the mandrels are still warm.
The liquor bottle boxes have helped solidify TPC's position in the high-end tube market.
Since the patented, sheet-fed tube is a derivative of an exclusive relationship TPC formed with UK-based Concept Packaging, the remaining machinery is primarily custom-designed proprietary equipment with generic names that describe the action performed such as tube rolling and forming machines and a tube gluing machine.
"There really are not any limitations as to what we can do in a continuous operation, whereas traditional tube manufacturers can only make round products with all of the extras being secondary operations that not only add cost but potentially reduce stability," says Pagano. "In one continuous manufacturing process, we can make an eight-sided box with multiple windows."
Adding Tubes Into The Fold
To best integrate the tubes into its existing offering, which includes creating folding cartons for Gold Bond, Icy Hot, Sunbelt Cereals, Turtle Wax, and Pamprin among others, TPC sent a number of key personnel to Europe to learn the process while its sales staff spent time showing example cartons to existing and potential clients to increase the interest.
TPC's unique ability to create various shaped tubes has worked for a variety of industries.
The biggest downside is the cost involved. According to Murray, most of the tubes range from $1 to $2 each - a considerable difference from traditional tubes that cost mere pennies to produce. Since the price is significantly higher, the market is somewhat limited.
"Anyone that has a high-end product or looks to specialty packaging as a tool is a potential candidate," she says. The high-end beverage market is a prime example including TPC clients Barton Brands and Black Velvet.
Other areas of potential growth include the cosmetic industry, the high-end candy market as well as the promotional product avenue.
"To succeed with this product you have to sell to a different level," says Pagano. "Rather than selling to the purchasing agent, this is an opportunity for a marketing manager to help create a brand image since our products favor the marketing campaign."
With its assortment of high-end presses, TPC is able to capture comfortable market share in a diverse group of industries.
Part of capturing the attention of major marketing managers is being able to offer comprehensive design services. In the typical application, the customer will provide product samples and ask the firm for design recommendations.
One success story involved designing a package that allowed a liquor producer to combine two cordial glasses with its core product.
TPC uses the same technology to create a two-piece product designed to compete in the setup box market. The industry usually uses chipboard that is diecut and then shaped with a paper wrapper placed all around. The TPC process has no chipboard. Instead, it is regular SBS and uses all of its regular equipment to create a variety of shapes and sizes.
Having an onsite art department allows TPC to be adaptive to client needs and facilitates the creation of prototype packaging designs.
Where TPC is making inroads in the setup box industry is that it does not rely on the secondary process of wrapping the box with paper. "The result is a less expensive product with similar strength capabilities," says Pagano.
Focus on Quality
Under third generation ownership, the medium-sized printer operates with approximately 180 employees in a 150,000-square-foot facility, and does approximately $20 million per annum in the paperboard packaging business.
In order to maintain and build upon this revenue stream, TPC has dedicated itself to both state of the art technology and lean manufacturing philosophies. As a result, from start to finish, all systems are totally integrated within the walls of its Chattanooga facility including prepress operations that feed presses with electronic file preparation initiated in the design department and flowing to the die shop, the plate room and eventually the packaging production.
Using waterproof ink with its 40- and 55-inch Heidelberg multi-color presses and ATS X-Rite Spectro color management equipment during preproduction has also virtually eliminated on-site press checks.
"The technology provides such consistent color matching that customers rarely see the need to conduct press checks," Murray says.
The firm also has implemented quality programs including GMP, TQM and SPC to maintain consistency in addition to adopting industry specific standards such as those required by the American Institute of Baking for manufacturing food-oriented folding cartons.
Some of the tests TPC is capable of performing include rub testing on its Sutherland rub tester, co-efficient friction on its TMI 32-06-00 monitor slip and friction tester, score bend management using a Thwing-Albert 1270 score bend and opening force tester, and blister adhesion forming tests with its Sencorp Systems 12-AS/1 lab sealer.
End of press curing equipment, infrared heated air knives, heat extraction systems, tower anilox coaters, anilox-chamber doctor blade coating system plus multiple interdeck UV drying equipment round out the capabilities.
Even though the company continues to implement the latest in technology, its management still does not take anything for granted. Nothing moves beyond the setup phase at TPC until it is signed off by the client, explains Murray. "This makes sure that everyone is in agreement and eliminates a lot of potential waste."
The firm's efforts to stand apart have not gone unnoticed. For instance, TPC President Joseph Schmissrauter, III was recently named by the Printing Industry Association of the South Inc. (PIAS) as its 2003 Person of the Year.
The company itself was honored by the Nashville, Tenn.-based trade association with 26 awards of excellence and one best in category for its innovative packaging designs.
Beyond the printing and converting aspect of TPC's operation, the firm also handles fulfillment tasks for its clients as well.
"This opens up so much variety and flexibility," Murray says. "Offering fulfillment also eliminates shipping dead space and since we ship the packaged product directly to the customer's distribution centers, it makes us a key component in the supply chain."
To facilitate the process, the company has dedicated space in its facility strictly for handling product. TPC has created its own proprietary software package that has cut lead time dramatically and allows the customer to tap into the actual order status.
TPC also has created a secure area, which includes a caged environment with security cameras and alarm systems, to protect the customer's product. "This has given us the opportunity to sell fulfillment," Pagano says. "One week it may be liquor and the next it may be lingerie. We are focused on the synergy of keeping all of our assets flowing."