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Custom Packaging Excellence: Valley Box Offers Almost Limitless Packaging Options
Custom Packaging Excellence: Valley Box demonstrates what is possible beyond just the typical wooden box. This specialty packaging manufacturer works with a wide variety of materials from wood to plastic, corrugate, metals and more. Discover how to take specialty packaging to the next level.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 6/1/2015
Custom Packaging Excellence:
Valley Box demonstrates what is possible beyond just the typical wooden box.
While there are a lot of companies out there that can produce a wooden box, very few can match the wide array of containers and custom material handling equipment as Valley Box Company Inc.
Headquartered in San Diego, California, Valley Box specializes in custom boxes and crating for the high-end manufacturing market in Southern California. Valley Box can design customized solutions manufactured to meet almost any design requirement and can be constructed from wood, steel, corrugated, and plastic materials.
Valley Box began in 1965 when James and Margaret Eschwege started the company after success in real estate. Their son, Robert Eschwege, bought the company in 1986 and grew it from making wood boxes to a complete line of transport packaging. Robert’s daughter, Alicia Guillette, is now the third generation of family involved. Starting in 2006, she has taken Valley Box into the digital age by developing a new web presence, implementing enterprise resource management tools and expanding the product line to include material handling equipment.
Robert Eschwege, president of Valley Box, pointed out that, “The box business isn’t real tricky. There’s always competition coming up. So we decided to diversify into some other areas that are closely related to the box business.”
The custom packaging process starts with Valley Box consultants who talk with a customer to identify needs. Packaging consultants will go to the customer’s location and take measurements and pictures of the products that require packaging. Then Valley Box engineers will work with AutoCAD® and SolidWorks® to develop a design that best fits each unique product being shipped. Alicia Guillette, vice president of Valley Box, explained, “The 3D software can perform stress tests on designs to see what will work. This avoids having to do expensive drop tests. It also provides a visually appealing 3D drawing that helps us communicate with our long distance customers.”
By specializing in custom jobs, Valley Box has differentiated itself from the market. Eschwege said “Custom packaging means each job is sort of like making a prototype, so you need to do what you can to eliminate waste. Every packaging scenario has its own criterion that determines what method is best. Custom designs start with analyzing each customer request and asking the right questions. We typically start with the smallest common denominator which is size and weight. If the product being packaged is large or weighs a lot the container may require wood paired with steel construction.”
“The method of transport is a major consideration as well,” Guillette noted that, “If the item is going to be shipped via air freight, we try to build a lightweight package using lighter weight materials, such as triple fluted corrugated, in order to drive down air freight costs.”
Guillette continued, “Life expectancy of the container also plays a role in the type of materials that are used, as well a role in the design and construction. Is this a one-way shipper? If so, the packaging focuses on cost, one-way performance and disposability.” Eschwege added, “For example, more of our customers are opting for reusable containers and they need them to be collapsible. This makes them easier to return to their plant in terms of lowering return-freight cost.”
All of these factors and more are considered by Valley Box packaging consultants and engineers in order to design the packaging that best meets all the needs of the customer.
Architecture of a Box
The base of any container is the most critical component because it will impact the stability of the load. Valley Box manufactures bases from wood and/or steel. Using the right fasteners, plates, and brackets adds to the structural integrity of the design. Additionally, custom-made saddle components connect directly to the container’s base to better support product payload during shipment.
To increase the lifespan of a container, Valley Box offers painted wood boxes, which are popular because paint adds ultra-violet protection to any wood box. Paint also aids in color-coding identification, looks professional and increases the visual appeal of the delivered product.
Packages destined for overseas are creatively engineered with additions such as inspection doors, lifting points, and reinforced steel bases. These components assure shipments are easy-to-access for inspection officials, clearly marked for handling personnel and durable.
Inside the package itself Valley Box supplies a variety of tie downs, dividers and foams to ensure the product makes it to the destination in one piece without any damage. In some cases less is more. Eschwege recalled a design where another box provider had too much foam cushioning that didn’t diffuse the momentum correctly. Valley Box actually reduced the amount of foam and improved the package’s performance. He said, “People tend to either over pack or under pack a product. They don’t understand that when it comes to cushioning and isolators you’re trying to decelerate the product at a longer rate of time to reduce the impact. People will over pack and put too much foam around the product. They might as well have just packed their product with bricks because they are not going to get the cushioning they need. Conversely, one of the problems with under packing a product is that everything works fine at the start, but not everybody who handles a product will treat it as gently as the manufacturer. When an incompetent forklift driver gets a hold of it, the lack of packing material leads to damage to the product.” While Valley Box wants to design the package to protect the load it also knows that overbuilding the packaging adds unnecessary cost and potential damage.
Relationships with quality suppliers have helped Valley Box offer superior products. For example, Guillette mentioned Simpson Strong-Tie® which supplies hardware for the company. She explained, “A Simpson rep had an idea for Valley Box to try their self-tapping hardware. This hardware met a need we had for a specific customer product and eliminated the labor that used to be required to pre-drill, offsetting the increased cost for the hardware.” She remarked, “We definitely try to lean on our suppliers and let them know our pain points to see if they have any solutions that we haven’t thought of yet.”
Valley Box has set up just-in-time (JIT) relationships with both their lumber and steel supplier. With a JIT program sudden changes in demand can be responded to quickly and a build-up of inventory can be avoided. Eschwege commented that, “BlueLinx Corporation is our lumber supplier and they’re amazing. They carry a back-up inventory for us which is a big deal because lumber is bulky and it ages out.” He added “We buy our steel from a local company, Competitive Metals, they’re fantastic.”
With many customers requesting containers for export situations, Valley Box participates in the ISPM-15 heat treatment program for certified wood packaging and works with Package Research Laboratory (PRL) to regularly inspect the facility to ensure compliance. Eschwege stated, “An inspector is here every month. They inspect the plant, materials and products. They’re very strict and we like that because they hold us to the standard. We have a good relationship with PRL but we do go to great lengths to be compliant.” He observed, “One of the best things that has changed the box business is the USDA requirement for heat treated materials.
Other Areas of Expertise
According to Valley Box, wooden containers are the number one packaging choice when durability, flexibility and performance are critical. But beyond wood, Valley Box offers containers built with thermo-formed, nylon and plastic material. These non-wood containers can have complex interior designs that allow for multiple configurations. Many features can be added such as breather valves, handles, locking latches and gasket reinforced watertight lids.
Due to the efficiency of an expert like Valley Box, many customers prefer to outsource the hassle of packaging their products. Valley Box offers on-site packaging, wherein pre-made kitted components are brought to the customer’s location and the packaging is assembled quickly with minimal impact on the customer. Pack crews do not tie up personnel or impact production and there is no mess or debris; Valley Box handles it all.
Valley Box has environmentally friendly solutions for customers. Guillette explained, “One of our eco-friendly options is refurbishing reusable wood containers.” Refurbishing entails inspecting containers in disrepair and replacing broken panels, hardware and internal components. The entire container is repainted and delivered back to the customer to function like new. Guillette explained that prior to repair an analysis is done. She said, “If repairing is less than 50% of the cost of a new container, Valley Box will refurbish it.”
Eschwege continued, “Expanding into anti-corrosion packaging solutions made sense for our growing customer base.” Air evacuated barrier bags are meant to preserve the contents of a package against damage from elements such as dirt, dust, salt spray, moisture, and other airborne contaminants. Valley Box manufactures styles ranging from envelope to gusseted and has custom fabrication capabilities to produce bags to almost any size.
However, a barrier bag isn’t complete without desiccants, which absorb water vapor from the air. These products are used to eliminate the harmful humidity that could potentially degrade or even destroy products that are sensitive to moisture. The industrial strength bags are strong, durable and have an extremely high adsorption rate.
Humidity indicator cards alert customers to the presence of moisture. Indicators can be placed inside the preservation packaging directly onto the product. Valley Box can even include custom observation ports, which keep the moisture indicator visible without having to open the package and rupture the air-tight seal.
One of the biggest growth areas for Valley Box has been material handling equipment used in the manufacturing and assembly process for manufacturers. Eschwege explained, “We saw that our customers needed solutions in regards to moving their materials in-plant.”
To meet these needs, Valley Box has developed a number of designs to assist in the manufacturing process. From storage carts to work stands, Valley Box has developed solutions for a wide-variety of material handling functions such as aircraft manu-facturing carts, power generation storage racks, solar panel shipping fixtures, and bio-tech material position carts.
These material handling solutions improve workflow, shorten production time, help eliminate part collection downtime, free-up skilled labor for other activities and clear factory floor space.
By visiting the Valley Box website (www.valleybox.com), you can see the company has capabilities that extend beyond the typical wooden box or crate manufacturer. This differentiates the company giving it a strategic advantage in the higher-end packaging space. For pallet companies looking to see what is possible in the world of specialty boxes and containers, Valley Box is a model for the wide variety of options that exist out there and a thought-leader in the industry. The company has a great website useful to educate customers about all the different aspects of transport packaging. Valley Box develops cost reducing custom solutions designed to do the job right, efficiently and safely. When is a box more than just a box? The answer seems to be when it’s a Valley Box.