SMC Packaging moved into its new 410,000-square-foot, $18 million headquarters last year. What has the expansion allowed the company to do?
This kind of investment is pretty significant. It got to the point where we were so strapped for space over at our Belcrest location that it made perfect sense to expand. The building that we purchased, more or less 160,000 square feet, was sitting on 22 acres and the lot to the north of it was an additional 15. That’s what allowed us to immediately put on a 250,000-square-foot expansion, get out of some off-site leased warehouse space and also allowed us to spread out and lay out the plant in the most efficient way possible. We’ve seen the ability to grow our business and this comes from that new, efficient layout, (manufacturing) is closer to our finished goods warehouse and better truck access.
With the expansion, have you brought on new machinery for making boxes?
Two new pieces of high-speed equipment that we have installed allow us to print multicolor jobs on the top and bottom of the corrugated sheet simultaneously. One is called a rotary die cutter. It allows us to run essentially a 66-by-125-inch sheet, or blank, through the machine. On the front end, instead of loading those sheets into the hopper by hand, it has a pre-feeder, so (product is loaded) automatically. It eliminates the need for manual loading, which is more efficient. (Sheets) then go into a machine that is a six-color machine. It allows us to print four colors on the bottom of the sheet, what would be the outside of the box, and then two colors on the top of the sheet, which would be the inside of the box. The inside-outside print supports that new trend in our industry toward e-commerce, retail-ready packaging and toward subscription services. The other type of machine is called a flexo-folder gluer. It actually makes a complete box. From a flat sheet, it folds it, scores it, prints it, glues it together, counts it, bundles it and then discharges a bundle of boxes ready to go.
Talk about that increased demand for shipping materials.
Virtually every brick-and-mortar retail establishment, whether it’s Walmart, Sam’s, Target, you name it, they’re all talking about their online presence and how much more pronounced it is today than it’s ever been. In most cases, those things are being shipped in corrugated packaging.
We reported your employee count was up 13% last year, and you’re looking for more hires with this expansion. How are you using employees differently than before?
Everything we do has more of a technological touch today than it did 20 or 30 years ago. The machine operator today, if they played video games growing up, they’re probably pretty adept at managing their way around the touch screens. Everything is touch screens, (programmable logic controllers) and automatic order retrieval. Most of what we do in terms of quality data that we collect is all done electronically now. When people are lifting and twisting and turning all day long, there is a possibility of fatigue. When you use some of these machines to do that heavy lifting, literally, the employee is using their brainpower more than their back power.
SBJ recently reported on the sale of Positronic Industries Inc. and the planned closure of EFCO Corp.’s Springfield plant. SMC is celebrating its 50th anniversary. What’s the temperature of the manufacturing industry?
Manufacturing is strong in the area, and will continue to strengthen. We’re in the third generation of ownership and leadership in our company since 1972. We’re looking to continue to grow. Business is strong, and our leadership team is well positioned for the long haul. The local chamber and the Missouri Association of Manufacturers are all doing things to try to promote, preserve and make people more aware of the importance of manufacturing jobs in any community.
Mark McNay can be reached at email@example.com.
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