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BCI Cedar Falls Division thinks outside -- and inside -- the box with new facility

BCI Cedar Falls Division thinks outside -- and inside -- the box with new facility

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CEDAR FALLS – BCI Cedar Falls Division relocated its operations last summer into a new 177,000-square-foot facility at 2900 Capital Way, located in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park.

The move expands the company’s footprint as the Midwest’s premier packaging provider, adding new state-of-the-art machinery to increase and refine production capabilities, as well as boosting morale and pride for a highly skilled staff in sales, design and production, said Matt Highland, division president.

“We have exciting potential, and we are well-positioned for future expansion. BCI has invested in new technology and machinery that we couldn’t accommodate in our old building. Now we have the space to invest in equipment and more people,” Highland explained.

Two years ago, the company had 40 employees; now there are 67. “We have 42 people on the main production floor; over half of them are new hires. It’s an employee-owned business, so we have a culture of ownership, profit sharing and pride. Employees can truly improve their standard of living with what they do every day,” Highland explained.

Buckeye Corrugated Inc. Cedar Falls Division, formerly BCI Hawkeye Division, was founded in Cedar Falls in 1967 as Hawkeye Corrugated Box. The company was purchased in 2009 by Buckeye Corrugated Inc., of Akron, Ohio. The new facility replaces a 62,000-square-foot site on Ida Street that was about 50 years old.

“We were landlocked, and there was no space for expansion,” said Highland, who has been with the company for about 30 years. BCI decided to build its new modern building on a 16-acre tract of land in the Industrial Park. The project took 15 months.

BCI designs, prints and manufactures boxes from sheets of corrugated cardboard. But that doesn’t begin to describe the company’s expertise in tailoring unique, attractive and safe shipping solutions for its customers. Those customers range from one-person operations to Fortune 500 companies in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“There has been so much consolidation in the corrugated box business but we still serve the small and medium customers, as well as large clients. If you start a product in your basement and need 10 boxes, we can do that, as well as work with clients who need hundreds and hundreds of boxes,” said Highland. Additionally, the new building offers space to store volume orders for customers.

Business has more than doubled in the last 10 years in what BCI sells and the volume manufactured, he noted. Five years ago, BCI made a “strategic move to secure opportunities in point-of-purchase displays,” particularly in the food and beverage industry. “We went out and landed Hormel Foods and Omaha Steaks. Putting pizzazz on boxes with graphics represents 20% of our growth, and it continues to increase.”

BCI works with clients to design, produce, pack and manage point-of-purchase displays for grocery and convenience stores and other retailers where the displays are used as merchandising tools for products.

Online shopping represents the biggest area for potential growth, Highland said. “E-commerce means many brands don’t have traditional brick-and-mortar stores. The shipping box that arrives at someone’s front door is the company’s storefront. The box is the first impression of the company’s brand, and BCI can design unique boxes with cool graphics to show that brand.”

Graphics designers at BCI think outside the box — and inside the box — to create unique designs within specifications that command attention in shipping and displaying products using CAD, or computer-aided design, and Photoshop. Prototypes also are made to test and perfect designs.

Beyond aesthetics, the boxes must have structural integrity to maintain shape and function. BCI can print graphics directly on corrugated sheets or apply label graphics.

The company’s older machines were installed on the production floor, along with five new state-of-the-art machines. The new equipment includes two new computerized, precision die-cutting machines — one is a high-speed rotary die-cutter, and the second is a flat-bed die-cutter for smaller, unique box designs. Both machines automatically feed cardboard sheets, ending the need for a person to physically heft stacks of cardboard onto a conveyor.

“We moved those people to more valuable positions in the company,” Highland said. “It’s technology and computers vs. physical labor. When we’re hiring, it’s easier to attract people if they know they’re going to be using a computer.”

The die-cutters automatically collect and bale scrap cardboard for recycling. “One trailer-load of scraps leaves here every day for a Cedar Rapids mill where it is recycled, re-pulped and milled into sheets. We also use water-based inks for printing graphics,” Highland explained.

BCI can print up to seven colors and coating in one pass directly onto corrugated sheets, as well as provide litho-laminated packaging and expertise at folding and gluing complex boxes and point-of-purchase displays.

Sustainability has been part of the corrugated box manufacturing business for more than 100 years, including reforestation. “We haven’t just jumped on the sustainability bandwagon. Our business makes sustainable boxes that contain 50% recycled content. Virgin fiber is added for strength.”

Five in-bound trucks arrive daily with raw materials. An automated rail system loads and transports finished box stacks to appropriate areas for storage or shipping in the production facility. Highland said 10 to 11 trucks are outbound with finished products each day.

“When we’re courting new business, we can bring people into this new facility to show prospective customers what we do. This facility makes us more competitive in the marketplace, and we have the huge advantage of a new facility with wow factor.”

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