The stock (or paper) that is used is as important as how a corrugated sheet is made. The amount of virgin pulp fibers and the length of those fibers in a corrugated stock add substantially to box strength. Though everyone supports recycling, in this case, more than 20 percent recycled content results in a weaker box.
Putting It All Together
Overall, box strength is determined by the combination of the flute shape, the quality of the paper used, plus the amount and type of adhesive and whether it is given time to adhere properly.
How do you know if everything has been done correctly? One way to be sure the material of the box you’re purchasing meets industry standards is to look for the Manufacturer’s Certification Stamp. Flip the box over. The stamp is usually printed on one of the bottom flaps.
Aside from giving the name of the maker, the stamp identifies the material as “single wall,” and is supposed to certify that it meets the ECT of 32 pounds per inch. Of course, the box mentioned at the beginning of this article had the stamp printed on it but clearly didn’t meet the declared standards. What then?
And this is where the games begin. To reach a 32 ECT, box makers can use many various combinations of paper and tolerances to meet or get close to the posted rating. Taking one or all of the following shortcuts usually gets a box maker to a lower selling price in the market.
Recycled paper. Remember, recycled paper is cheaper than virgin pulp but not as strong. The higher the recycled content, the weaker the corrugated. Reputable manufacturers use 80 percent or more virgin pulp fibers.
Manufacturing. Joining together the three pieces (those two linerboards and the medium) means using the best quality, mildew-resistant, starch-based hot glue applied at a high enough temperature and allowed enough time to stick. Since time is money, in order to lower their costs, some manufacturers will speed up the process, skimp on glue and play fast and loose with proper glue heat levels.
Dimensions. One new client was surprised to learn that the “small” boxes they had been sold were not the industry standard 1.5 cubic feet in size but an odd-sized 1.3 cubic feet. The slightly lower price they paid was for slightly smaller boxes. That meant that the glass and dish packing kits they were selling wouldn’t fit because the kits were designed to be set in standard-sized 1.5 cubic feet boxes.
Fudging on any one of these three, or any combination of them, is how some box suppliers can afford to sell at a lower price and still make a good profit.
Ways to Box Back
How can you protect your interests and those of your customers? First, don’t be afraid to ask for an independent test of the quality of product you’re buying. No reputable supplier would refuse.
Also, beware of small specialized vendors. Look for a supplier who sells more than just boxes. If your other business is riding on it, they would be foolish to risk it by selling you second-rate boxes. Plus, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Finally, don’t focus on price alone. You don’t compete in your market on rental price alone do you?
Keep in mind that your customers can always get used, discarded, bargain-basement or otherwise crumby boxes anywhere. When you’re telling them that your boxes are worth a few cents more because only quality corrugated boxes can adequately protect their possessions, remember this line: You get what you pay for. It’s almost always true.
Rob Kaminski is vice president and general manager of Supply Source One, a division of Schwarz Supply Source, which has been a national retail supplier for more than 100 years. With 14 warehouses across the country, the company offers the self-storage industry a complete selection of retail products as well as office, maintenance and janitorial supplies. For more information, visit www.supplysourceone.com.