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Not Going Quietly

3C Packaging uses a two-fold approach of lean manufacturing and equipment investment to continue solid growth in its folding carton business.

October 2011 By Sue Busch
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Joe Elphick, president and CEO of Clayton, N.C.-based 3C Packaging, may assume a calm, matter-of-fact manner when discussing his folding carton company's latest achievements, but make no mistake, 3C has logged a performance record worthy of the exclamation point that graces the company's logo. Specifically, the converting company, which also produces printed literature inserts and unit dose compliant packages, recently reported 20 percent growth during the 2010-2011 fiscal year and has been averaging double-digit annual growth during the last five years. What's more, in a stubborn climate of continual cost cutting for companies across all industries, 3C's "healthy balance sheet," as Elphick describes it, has allowed the company to buck the belt-tightening trend and actively invest in packaging equipment to more effectively serve customer needs. Its new installations in the past year have included a Heidelberg 102ZP 2c Perfecting 28 x 40 press, a Vijuk MV2011 outsert system, two Vijuk folders, and a Longford piggyback system.

As Elphick relates the history of 3C Packaging (formerly known as Colonial Carton Company), it's clear that for him, creating a successful converting company was not a question of "if," but rather of "when." Back in 1978 3C was formed when Elphick, who is originally from New Jersey, pooled his mechanical ability with a local partner's folding carton expertise to pursue the American dream of company ownership. The two entrepreneurs started with $600 and a 1940s hand diecutter, and expanded the company one capability at a time. "There was a lot of hand gluing in the beginning," concedes Elphick.

Operations were relocated to North Carolina's Research Triangle Park (RTP) area after Elphick and his partner saw an opportunity to provide a more nimble response to customer needs than the larger converting firms that then served the RTP marketplace. 3C's first customer was a North Carolina-based pharmaceutical company, and though the going was difficult, the fledgling company gradually gained a strong local foothold by delivering on immediate or emergency turnaround needs (particularly for short-run work) and continually leveraging customer recommendations.

Today, 3C's Clayton, N.C., facility employs nearly 200 people, uses six presses, and offers 7-color web flexo, web offset, and sheetfed offset printing. 3C's folding carton operation primarily serves pharmaceutical firms (pharma makes up 75 percent of its customer base), as well as the food and software industries, while its printed literature insert capabilities solely serve the needs of pharmaceutical firms.


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