Fabulous Folding Cartons
Jan Steiner was on a panel with several other business owners when the importance of delivering on the brand promise of their respective companies came up. An outspoken member of the panel, the owner of a car service firm, said, "Getting boxes shipped on time isn't important. But if our car isn't at the airport to pick up an executive, heads roll."
Steiner, who is president of Thoro Packaging, spoke up. "Well. If our boxes aren't delivered on time production doesn't happen. Shipments aren't made. Our customers and their customers aren't satisfied. Our customers can be charged for not meeting a deadline. The boxes have to be there on time."
This basic fact, that a few pallets of folding cartons are part of an extended chain of events involving multiple products, shippers and distributors, is at the forefront of Corona, California-based Thoro Packaging's foundational philosophy. It comes from the grassroots early days of the company that started in the family home of Steiner's father, Macy Dabek. His mantra was, "We deliver excellence by being flexible to our customer requirements. We can do it!"
Today, Thoro Packaging's customers span medical/pharmaceutical, health and beauty, confections, technology, and other consumer products for which packaging is a key part of customer engagement.
"It is always stimulating to see how the folding cartons we create and produce can help our customers sell their products," says Steiner. "My dad said running the company will never be boring, and with our ability to work with customers all the way from design through prototyping to final production, that's certainly true. It's exciting to see the ideas we bring to the table be accepted and used to help customers grow their businesses."
The best example of this is ThoroPrototype™, which was created in response to customers who would call on Thoro for in-depth support, seeking to optimize their folding cartons. Using, ThoroPrototype lets Steiner's company create and produce just a handful of close-to-production folding cartons for a customer on specialty materials.
"A customer will want just two, five or ten folding cartons to take to a brand owner," explains Steiner. "With ThoroPrototype we can show what the new design will look and work like."
"For example, one customer needed 20 prototype samples for distribution to partners across the U.S. and in Europe," relates Steiner. "ThoroPrototype let us produce the cartons so they could be approved."
The process provides CMYK process colors, white inks, spot and UV coatings, embossing, foils, scoring, and die-cutting. Tangible examples of "show, don't tell," prototypes from Thoro can also serve as cost-effective solutions for design comps to be used in research and development, take part in photo shoots and trade shows, and be sales tools for new product launches. Prototypes let retailers and brand owners see, touch and feel the dimensions of their folding carton, and through the use of software, show how it will look on a store shelf.
A knowledge resource
The expertise needed for prototyping is deeply embedded in Thoro's DNA, and has grown out of the company's structural design team. "We'll often go to a company to see how they are filling their packaging," explains Steiner. "We'll see how an existing carton is being used and then identify ways to produce it to work more efficiently."
Bringing an outside perspective can be a clear advantage when working with customers and prospects alike. Customers may only see a carton in terms of how an existing container is used and how it works with their product. Thoro comes in with a new view of what can be done differently, which can open up new opportunities and efficiencies for the customer.
"For example, we recently saw a way to change a customer's carton in a way that would increase speed and throughput during fulfillment," recounts Steiner. "Very often, customers don't know what they can do so we try to expand their options. But it goes beyond that. We buy our equipment with an eye to being able to do innovative and creative things for our customers." For instance, Thoro was the first folding carton converter on the West Coast to adopt CTP technology, the first to incorporate a blanker for diecutting, and the list of firsts goes on. Thoro is the only folding carton company in the U.S. that has an off-press automated vision inspection system for all jobs.
The company has also invested in automation to help reduce labor costs and increase accuracy, reliability and throughput. "We love automation and love to innovate wherever possible!" says Steiner. "Everything is geared towards quality and efficiency."
One example of this is WebCenter, a web-based packaging management platform from Esko that manages packaging pre-production specification, approvals and project life cycle. Cheri Liles, prepress manager, says customers are fans of this online process that has cut hardcopy proofing and shipping costs by 60 percent and increased approval turnaround times by 75 percent.
"We have 233 customers on WebCenter now," says Steiner. "We still do the magic, but it's all done a lot more efficiently. That lets us do more, for more customers."
Thoro also partners with Sun Chemical to offer custom inks, relying on two GFI ink mixing systems to provide accurate UV and conventional inks. SunMatch, a cloud-based color management system, is another tool in regular use, helping ensure that even special ink colors match the demands of brand owners.
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