Berenz relies on quick turnaround

If a company needs boxes for shipping products, and they order them from Berenz Packaging Corp. in Menomonee Falls, they will be available the same day.

That same day promise and dedication to customer service is the foundation for the company’s success, said president and CEO Tom Berenz.

Berenz makes corrugated cardboard packaging and inserts, such as partitions and pads for filler or product separation.

“We’re just constantly designing corrugated boxes based on (customers’) packaging,” Berenz said.

Speed is important, since the majority of Berenz’ customers are in the printing industry in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. About 80 percent of the company’s orders are for same day or next day service.

“We deliver with our own trucks,” Berenz said. “That’s the only way we can control the delivery.”

During the economic downturn, the same day guarantee has helped the company to grow. While sales dropped about 20 percent in 2008, they were up 21 percent in 2009 and have steadily grown since then. Berenz expects 5 percent growth for 2013.

“I think that the way companies are purchasing changed,” he said. “Prior to the economic tank, people would order a month or two months or three months of corrugated.”

But as companies worried about whether customers would stick around, they started cutting back on inventory.

“Purchasing changed to a couple weeks’ of days’ supply,” Berenz said. “Well, that’s what we do. We did pick up some new clients, but the clients we already had, we made sure that we filled their needs also.”

Berenz devotes a large portion of its plant to inventory, to keep up with short turnaround time. It has 30 different sizes and eight board grades in stock, sourced from Green Bay and Milwaukee paper mills.

The first step in creating boxes for a customer is determining which board grade they need for the use. If the box is being shipped by U.S. mail, it can be a lighter board grade than if it is stacked four high on a pallet in a truck, Berenz said.

About 25,000 square feet of its facility are devoted to inventory for regular customers, so orders can be sent out instantly when needed, Berenz said.

The company has 27 employees at its 40,000-square-foot facility. They take raw cardboard sheets and feed them through slitters to cut the sheets to size and score them for folding. Then, the sheet is fed through an eccentric slotter for putting slots in at the corners so the sheet can be folded into a box.

An automatic die cutter is used to make specially shaped pieces and cutouts. Inserts can be multi-scored for rolling to create an air cell in a box.

Berenz prints to companies’ specifications in multi-color on boxes, but doesn’t use adhesive labels.

The company also has an automated flexo press, into which employees feed a flat cardboard sheet and a fully completed box comes out the other end. The machine prints, scores and glues the box.

In the last four years, Berenz has started to make plastic corrugated products. But the added difficulty of recycling it means cardboard will continue to be more popular, Berenz said.

“I actually had a customer that needed a product that they could have outside,” he said. “With the plastic corrugated, they can use that outside and even if it rains, it won’t wilt.”

Berenz was incorporated in 1988 by Tom’s father, James Berenz, after he purchased Diel Container. Tom purchased the company in 2004.

The company does about $5 million per year in sales. It’s a competitive industry – there are about eight other corrugated manufacturers in a 30 mile radius.

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