In an age of disposable everything, is there still a place for products that can last decades? Two celebrated packaging brands say “YES”. Both have focused on a tradition of excellence and longevity that has allowed them to remain relevant into the 21st century.
Better Packages, and its parent company, Intertape Polymer Group (IPG) through its Central brand of water-activated tape, share a perspective on the importance of quality that is allowing them to thrive in the 21st century of electronic fulfillment.
IPG’s Central water activated tape, also known as gum tape, is the oldest form of adhesive carton closure. Gum tape was invented and patented by Thomas Edison in 1912. Prior to his invention, package closure was done using twine bindings and wax seals for security. After Edison envisioned a closure using paper strips saturated with gum adhesive, parcel and package closure became more functional.
Over time, additional security improvements were made to the tape by laminating two of the standard paper sheets over crossing threads. This made breaking into the package more difficult while providing the benefit of tamper evidence to the recipient. 100 years later, the same tape configuration exists today in the Central water activated tape produced in IPG’s Menasha, WI facility. The formulations have changed, the fibers are stronger, but the principal remains.
Today’s packaging is more secure than ever. Electronic fulfillment has changed the way we conduct business. Security, in an increasingly complex supply-chain, requires the proven performance of Edison’s tape and the ability to apply it cleanly and efficiently.
Five years after Edison’s remarkable invention, Alfred and Theodore Kruger formed what would become Better Packages, Inc. This year the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
“We love hearing from customers about how our products last decades,” says Paul Kromberg, Director of Operations at Better Packages, Inc., in Ansonia, CT. Customers say to me: ‘Every day when I turn the machine on it just works. It does what’s expected and it’s done that for years and years, every day.’ Machines that are 30, 40 years old are still working today and I think that’s one big reason why we’re still in business, 100 years after we started.”
The quality and resulting durability of dispensers is key to the company’s longevity according to Kromberg. This offers lessons for other companies that want to succeed and endure in the marketplace. Kromberg noted that Better Packages’ strong market position has always been based on the soundness of machine design, functionality, and the company’s serious commitment to quality. “The average age of our electric models in use today is over 16 years old; it’s 20 years for the manual models. People appreciate that they can buy something like this and keep it going. There are lessons there for other companies,” said Kromberg.
Here are some lessons that Kromberg believes will be useful to any manufacturer:
Start with Processes That Work Now and Evolve Over Time
Kromberg says the biggest lesson is to start with quality processes. “A quality process is something that everyone understands and is repeatable to the people who do the manufacturing of the product,” he counsels. “Our processes evolve. We put a lot of emphasis on continuous improvement. Ideas for improvement come from anywhere inside and outside the organization. Permanent and temporary workers, customers, and distributors have made valuable suggestions for improving our processes.”
Support and Encourage Continuous Quality Improvement
Continuous quality improvement is more than a slogan. To make it work it must become a way of life in a company. “It’s got to be baked into the culture of an organization for it to be more than a catchphrase,” says Kromberg. “You’ve got to encourage it. You’ve got to reward for it. You’ve got to train for it or it won’t happen.”
Better Packages trains employees to understand their critical role in maintaining quality and encourages them to meet quality standards. Kromberg noted that, “We have our assemblers checking each other’s work. The person at the next station does a quality check on the other person’s work before them and then the product moves on. We empower everyone on the line to be an inspector as well as an assembler. If something’s wrong, we authorize them to shut down the line. Even temporary workers have the power to shut down the line if something doesn’t look right. That’s empowering your employees. And, by the way, our employees aren’t chastised for shutting down the line. We give them kudos for doing that. It means they are looking out for our customers and the company.”
Establish a culture of pride of ownership that keeps employees year after year
Employees who understand their role in producing a quality product feel a pride of ownership that makes them want to stay with the company. "I’ve been on the line and suddenly all heads turn toward something,” recalls Kromberg. “Someone will hear a motor that doesn’t sound right. You can see the head turning towards it. They can just hear it and they’ll stop the line when that happens. They have a feeling of pride and ownership in their work and the products we make.”
That sense of pride results in quality, durable products and a company’s ability to keep experienced employees. “Many of our employees have been with us well over 20 years. Keeping quality employees is one of the key reasons we’re still successful 100 years after our founding,” says Kromberg.
Keep in Mind the Four Keys to Quality Products
Kromberg summed up the big lessons for companies interested in producing quality products:
- Empower employees to spot issues and make improvements
- Listen to your customers
- Learn from mistakes
- Treat mistakes as learning opportunities; not catastrophes.
Kromberg concludes that with these lessons, a company can create a reputation that will help them thrive to 100 and beyond.
About Better Packages
Better Packages, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Intertape Polymer Group (IPG), is the leading worldwide manufacturer of tabletop water-activated tape (WAT) dispensers used in carton sealing. In 2017, both Better Packages, Inc. and IPG’s Central® brand water-activated tape will be celebrating their 100-year anniversary. Better Packages’ product line includes auto-dispensing electric machines used in high volume fulfillment centers, as well as manual dispensers. For more information, see: www.betterpackages.com and www.itape.com
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