April 2, 2009
by Andrew Joseph, Features Editor
Doing more with less to survive the slumping economy without messy downsizing can be a tricky feat for companies not used to such adversity—especially in the notoriously margin-squeezed corrugated boxmaking industry. Fortunately for the staff at Brampton, Ont.-based Royal Containers Ltd., making the best of challenging times is nothing new for the privately-owned company founded by Ross Nelson back in 1980.
“Since we opened, we have weathered through two major recessions and are now in our third major economic downturn—and not once have we had to lay off anyone,” states Ross’s daughter Kim Nelson, general manager at the company’s 100,000-square-foot production facility located a half-hour drive northwest of Toronto.
“I’d rather not use the old cliché about our employees feeling as though they are part of the family … rather that their work environment is infinitely more relaxed when they know they don’t have to worry about whether or not there’s going to be a job for them tomorrow.
“That is why our average tenure here is 18 years,” Nelson told Canadian Packaging on a recent visit to the state-of-the-art, 110-employee Brampton facility, started up in 2002, which processes between 25 and 50 million square feet of corrugated packaging per month. “For sure, the dollars and cents are nice, but there is one thing in which we take greatest pride in—our employees.”
Operating on a two-shift, five-days-a-week production schedule, the company specializes in custom production runs for a diverse range of clients—printing, die-cutting, folding and gluing huge stacks of corrugated sheets supplied by one of two nearby TenCorr Packaging Inc. corrugating plants, in which Royal has a minority ownership stake.
“While we service a wide range of markets, we are really focusing on the reseller market,” says Nelson, whereby a third-party reseller acts as a middleman between Royal and the actual end-use customer.
Nelson explains such marketing strategy has enabled Royal to maintain a diversified end-user client base with its largest end-user accounting for less that six per cent of total sales—making it less vulnerable to the sort of severe financial setbacks that losing a key account can set off.
In addition, the company has made effective use of online information technology “to make it easier for the customer to do business with us,” according to Nelson.
“Two years ago, we embarked on an online program for our customers that allows them to remotely log onto our website, where they can enter specifics and receive a quote, request samples, enter orders, get reports on order history, get real-time shipping data, GPS (global positioning system) tracking and invoicing—in the same manner as our employees,” recounts Nelson, adding that Royal sales staff actually went out in the field to train customers on how to use its internal operating system.