“These industries do a little better in
This nonunion plant is running less
white board now than it did five years
ago (thanks to the Great Recession),
but when it does run multicolor boxes
they’re more likely than not to have custom colors; customers want to establish
their own identities.
“We have the same equipment out
there as most plants,” Hall says. “But the
difference is the people. They are con-
cerned about the well being of custom-
ers. It’s a feeling throughout the plant.
When these customers place an order,
they need it right now. It’s not just [the]
customer service [department] but also everyone along the
way who knows this. If we make mistakes we admit to them.
But we will get them fixed and get them fixed right now.”
No one epitomizes this sentiment more than Paul Cente-
nari. His current concern is eliminating board warp on the
plant’s 87-inch Fosber/Marquip corrugator. He approaches
the problem with an intensity and focus rarely seen in a box
making environment, pacing the plant floor and engaging in
intense conversations with the corrugator operator, Ralph Lay-
man, and his colleagues. Impromptu meetings are held on the
plant floor. Paul has plenty of questions
and his veteran employees give him
quick and straightforward answers.
Atlas Container’s Paul Centenari (left) and
Ralph Layman check roll temperatures on the
plant’s Fosber/Marquip corrugator. The plant
produces a huge number of short runs.
Goodbye to Manual Inventory Counting
How Are Our Inventories Looking?
It’s a simple question that most box plant executives can
answer in a matter of minutes. But at Atlas Container it took
hours to track 4. 2 million sq ft of finished goods inventory;
getting an accurate number was next to impossible.
“Spreadsheets were used by sales but they couldn’t
trust them,” says Chad Krewson, chief financial officer.
“Even then it took 10 to 12 customer service and salespeople 150 or more hours every month to count pallets
of orders. We weren’t very disciplined. It was a time
waster.” All this effort to manually tally current inventory
levels led to good on-time delivery rates; the plant did
whatever was necessary to ensure customers received
their orders. But today good isn’t good enough. Krewson
knew that 150 hours could be put to much better use.
He’s a fan of attending industry meetings and conferences and Atlas’ owners, the Centenari brothers, support
him. For years he has been attending the Harry Rohde
(now Solarsoft) user conferences. He was aware that
Solarsoft had software that could help Atlas solve the
plant’s inventory problem, but the benefits didn’t fully coalesce in his mind until he attended one of these conferences a couple of years ago and learned the specifics of
the company’s Smar Trak bar coded inventory system.
After that conference he talked to other box plants
that used it. He confirmed that this system wasn’t overly
complicated and realized that since the plant already
printed bar codes and tags, it wouldn’t be too much of
a stretch to use Smar Trak to get accurate inventories.
Atlas installed the system in early 2011.
Today the plant’s forklift drivers have terminals on their
forklifts that are used to quickly record inventory levels on
the plant floor. What kind of difference has this made?
“Getting back to the customer right now is huge,”
“The rubber meets the road when shipping goes out
states Krewson. “Also, shipping has become more effi-
cient and finished goods inventory has been reduced by
25 percent. Spreadsheets are gone.”
The plant now keeps track of 660 to 800 pallets of fin-
ished goods every week with 99 percent accuracy. Every
two weeks it cycle counts its whole inventory. It now takes
30 minutes a day (or about 10 hours a month) versus 150
hours a month doing it manually. Customer reps are thrilled
because there’s no longer a need to second guess the num-
bers; they have complete confidence that they are accurate.
to find an order, finds it, and says OK, we’re done, versus
‘You told me we had this order and it’s not there so we
have to run it,’” says Krewson.