Thinking All Around the Box
Future focus, adaptability ensure Accurate Box Company success
A fundamental point of pride for the New Jersey-based Accurate Box Company – which is celebrating 70 years in business in 2014 – is its long-standing ability to look to the future and successfully chart the organizational course based on what that future is most likely to include.
It’s been a vital part of the skill set since Accurate was founded as a small folding carton operation in Newark in 1944, and it’s a tenet the company’s incumbent executive vice president and chief operating officer, Mark Schlossman, is still counting on as challenging conditions approach today.
Schlossman’s father in law, Charles Hirsh, assumed control of the business from his father, Henry Hirsh, in the 1960s and orchestrated the marriage of graphics to corrugated material – known as litho-lamination – in the 1970s. Accurate became one of the first U.S. companies to use an Asitrade for inline lamination of printed sheets to corrugated, and soon exited Newark for a sprawling nine-acre location in nearby Paterson.
Plant facilities were updated in the 1990s under the leadership of Lisa Hirsh, the granddaughter of the company’s founder and now its president and chief executive officer. During that time, capacity drastically increased thanks to a $20 million expansion that included state-of-the-art machinery such as a version 4 Asitrade, a seven-color KBA litho press and a Bobst SPO high-speed die cutter.
“These additions to our equipment list enabled us to become a company who can ship throughout the entire United States competitively. Once we realized this, the sky became the limit and our volumes grew year after year,” Schlossman said. The company’s cartons run extremely well on automated equipment and Accurate became the go-to supplier for many Fortune 100 CPG companies.
Lisa Hirsh is also the driving force behind the mandate to constantly keep a close eye on what the future could bring.
Hirsh created a business plan committee to produce an evolving five-year plan and maintain a clear future focus. Outside facilitators are hired and the heads of the various internal corporate departments meet offsite several times per year, to, as Schlossman described it, “keep the focus on what the company is doing today and to continue to look towards tomorrow.”
For example, maintaining a significant stake in the market that supplies packaging to domestic food and beverage customers is a vital aim for the company. However, creating new markets is of equal importance to diversify risk in case changing economic conditions prompt dramatic changes in today’s landscape.
“There are two new markets that we’re becoming very focused on,” Schlossman said.
The first area of focus would be the quick-serve restaurant industry. Accurate Box has helped create a tailgating market to introduce a large high-graphic corrugated box that could carry family size portions. This new concept increases sales in local restaurants across the United States by making everything easier to carry out.
“The second area we have been focused on is the emerging e-commerce market, which is growing beyond belief in both volume and revenues,” Schlossman said.
The U.S. Department of Commerce said nationwide e-commerce sales in 2013 were $263.3 billion, a rise of 16.9 percent from 2012. E-commerce sales accounted for 5.8 percent of total retail sales in 2013, up from a 5.2-percent share of total retail sales a year earlier.
Schlossman believes a transformation is coming in e-commerce packaging that’s similar to what began occurring in club stores, like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s, in the mid-1990s. There, steel shelves crammed with pallets full of plain brown product packages were gradually replaced by colorful and graphic-laden boxes, as companies began focusing attention on brand impact.
The more that online shopping swells, he said, the more focus will shift to creative and eye-catching packaging. “As the market started, the shipper was nothing more than a vehicle to get what you bought on the computer to your house,” he said. “There was no need for graphics. Today, we are starting to see more of a shift as companies try to differentiate themselves from their competitors. They are more focused on their brand and their image and your feeling as a consumer once you open that package.”
These boxes are produced in the same manner as the club store boxes, with the only difference being that graphics are on the inside instead of outside the box. This feature also helps to reduce theft through the mail because the outside of the box is nondescript. “We believe in the next three to five years this category will be more than 10 percent of our business,” Schlossman said.
Another key to Accurate’s success is its well-trained and dedicated workforce. “We have a very skilled and cooperative team that understands that we need to remain competitive to succeed in the marketplace,” Schlossman said. “As big as we get, we still want to maintain the feel of a family owned business.”
At 70 years old, the company has no plans to retire. In fact, the fourth generation, in the form of Mark and Lisa’s daughter, Samara Schlossman, joined the family business earlier this year. “Her presence has excited our workforce because it guarantees their future,” Mark Schlossman said.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Accurate Box Company
WHAT: Independent manufacturer of litho-laminated packaging
WHERE: Paterson, N.J.