Stemcor Special Steels has solved its shipping and product protection challenges by teaming up with its packaging materials distributor and switching to new protective packaging.
Stemcor Special Steels, based in Magnolia, Texas, supplies original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with alloys used to fabricate machinery for the global oil industry.
In most cases, the supplying steel mills send the alloys in the form of round bar, which Stemcor Special Steels cuts to order for its customers. Those orders can include pieces that range from 1 inch to 10 feet, according to John Munger, Stemcor Special Steels operations manager.
In its four years of existence, Stemcor Special Steels has doubled it shipments every year. That kind of super-charged growth has been accompanied by some growing pains, including some pieces being lost or damaged in transit.
“We recognized that we had a problem in packaging the material and delivering it safely to our customers around the globe,” Munger says. “With small parts, we had occasional problems with customers saying they didn’t get all the pieces. Sometimes shipments were damaged or bent.
“We recognized the issues and found a successful alternative,” adds Munger. Stemcor Special Steels switched to UCrate protective packaging from Laminations. “With UCrate, we can cut to any length, package all the material together and ship with confidence by truck or plane,” Munger says.
The UCrate solution came through Mark Mueller of Boomerang Packaging, who made a sales call on Stemcor Special Steels in the spring of 2013. Gary Anderson, Laminations account manager, had shown UCrate during a presentation to Boomerang Packaging and the product came to mind when Mueller called on Stemcor Special Steels.
“I noticed they were packaging some heavy bars in corrugated boxes, and then packing the box with a lot of cushioning materials. Then they would close the box and use what seemed like an excessive amount of tape,” Mueller says.
When he asked why so much tape was used, Mueller was told it was because the filled boxes were so heavy that the a great deal of tape was needed to keep the corrugate intact during shipping to cut down on lost or damaged product.
“At that point, I remembered the presentation on UCrate from Laminations,” Mueller continues. “I showed them a sample and how easy it was to use. It kind of took off from there. John (Munger) saw the potential for significant savings in packing materials, time and labor.”
Laminations, a part of Great Northern Corp. based in Appleton, WI, is best known for its recyclable paperboard edge protection products such as VBoard, which provides edge protection for palletized loads. In 2008, the company leveraged its VBoard expertise to create a new, engineered solution.
UCrate consists of seamless U–shaped paperboard channels that fit snugly together to create a sturdy, environmentally friendly way to ship long, narrow products such as rods, tubing, window blinds and other products that are fragile or have sensitive finishes.
Compared to other packaging options such as wooden crates and corrugate, UCrate offers a variety of advantages, including savings in time and materials, safety and superior protection. When shipping long, narrow tube or rod-shaped materials, UCrate:
• is lighter than wood, with no bug stamping export issues and no slivers;
• offers better impact resistance and scuff protection than corrugated;
• delivers labor savings with quick and easy top loading of product; and
• provides substantial beam strength without sacrificing shock absorption.
UCrate is made using recyclable laminated paperboard up to 18 inches wide (with symmetrical or asymmetrical legs), caliper options ranging from 0.0800 to 0.6000 inches and standard lengths up to 300 inches with longer lengths also available.
“We never know what we’re going to pack into the UCrates until we receive the material from the mill,’” Munger says. The company also ships some of its long bars directly on pallets with stretch wrapping.
Stemcor Specialty Steels orders UCrate material in a 120-inch length, which it cuts to fit for the shipments. Pre-cut wooden blocks are stapled inside the ends.
“I had about 2,000 pieces of 2x4s cut at 5-1/2 inches that fit inside the UCrates,” says Munger. “We use a pneumatic stapler to staple those ends in. They are rugged and work great.”
Laminations offers customized printing of logos on its UCrate—an option that Stemcor Special Steels uses.
Solving problems together
This Stemcor Special Steels example illustrates how the consultative approach between Laminations and its distributor solved a problem for the end-customer.
“When we educate our distributor partners about our products, it helps them bring solutions to their customers,” Anderson says. This strategy leads to lasting relationships and trust.
“We have a long-standing relationship with Laminations. I would say 20 percent of our customers use a Laminations product,” says Mueller. “We are 100-percent satisfied with Laminations, its products and customer service. And, they are always on time, every time, with our orders.”
As for results, UCrate has eliminated the problems with lost or damaged product. “In the more than a year that we have been using UCrate, I have not had a single customer complaint,” says Munger.
Tom Lyons is a senior public relations manager at Directions Marketing, a full-service marketing and packaging agency based in Neenah, WI.