Business for Indiana Vac-Form was going well. Sales of its burial vault liners were growing as the company was tapping into new markets and customers spread across the country.
But as business grew, shipping distances increased and logistics challenges like cross docking became unavoidable. This increased mileage and product handling were putting a new stress on the corrugated paperboard packaging the company was using, and it was not holding up well. If they were to continue the momentum they were gaining, they were going to need to make some changes.
It was time to say R.I.P. to the corrugated paperboard used to package their burial vault liners. Fortunately, they were about to find a solution in Laminations’® VGuard®.
Indiana Vac-Form (IVF) is a quality supplier of thermoformed products, including burial vault liners, that is based in Warsaw, Ind. Burial vault liners protect caskets after they are placed in the grave. When caskets are lowered into the ground, they get placed inside a burial vault, typically made of concrete. A burial vault is necessary to protect the casket from being crushed from the weight of the dirt over it and the equipment used in the maintenance of the cemetery property. However, because concrete is porous, a plastic vault liner is often placed inside the burial vault to keep moisture away from the casket. The liner also helps protect the environment by containing the vault contents.
For years IVF shipped its liners in stacks of 20, each one nested inside the other. They used pieces of corrugated paperboard in the corners of the liners to keep them from settling too deep inside each other and creating a suction between them.
“As we began shipping our liners farther and farther, we became aware that our packaging was not up to the task of handling the harsh shipping environment created by the extra miles,” said Greg Wood, co-owner of the company. “That, coupled with an increase in handling, caused more stress on the corrugated and resulted in the liners settling together, making if difficult to pull them apart.”
Wood’s first thought was to copy his competitors and place injection-molded plastic spacers between the rims of the liners. While he knew this would resolve the situation, he felt the cost of the plastic spacers was too high and something he could not justify passing along to his customers if a more cost-effective solution could be found.
So he contacted Treasa Sideris, his account representative at Ship-Pac to help find a better solution. Sideris, in turn, called Laminations account manager Suzanne von Valtier, with whom she had worked in the past. Laminations is a part of Great Northern Corp. based in Appleton, Wis., and is best known for its recyclable paperboard edge protection products such as VBoard®, which provides edge protection for palletized loads, but has products to help with all kinds of protective packaging.
“Suzanne and Treasa were great to work with,” said Wood. “They came ready to assess our situation. They listened carefully. They understood our needs and our customers’ needs. And in the end, they offered several ideas. I think a few of them would have worked, but Laminations’ VGuard® was the easiest solution to implement and appeared to solve the problem the best.”
Interestingly, this was not the type of application VGuard was designed for. It was initially designed to provide targeted edge protection from the damage caused by strapping during the shipping and storage of palletized loads. Manufactured from 100 percent recycled fiber, with about 80 percent coming from post-consumer waste and 20 percent from pre-consumer waste, VGuard is a great choice for companies concerned about sustainability. The construction also makes it very light so it doesn’t add to shipping costs.
“I took the problem back to Todd Hainer, our manager of new business development, and together we realized we could use VGuard to solve their situation,” said von Valtier. “VGuard was designed to protect palletized loads from the pressure of strapping, but Todd recognized we could place it under the lip of the overturned liner. It’s strong enough to withstand the weight of the other liners, so it’s working out great.”
“One of the reasons I like working with Suzanne and Laminations is that they are really good at thinking outside of the box,” said Sideris. “They are very creative in their thinking, and their engineers do a great job of coming up with solutions, even when one’s not readily apparent. This is a great example of their ability to do this.”
Wood said he couldn’t be more pleased with the solution. Not only has it eliminated all the shipping and storing problems, it has helped IVF save on shipping and packaging expenses. Previously they could stack only 20 liners per skid. With the VGuard spacers they are safely stacking 22 liners, providing a savings of 6.25 percent.
“The VGuard is so strong and durable we’re able to put two more liners on the stack without fear of them leaning or toppling over,” said Wood. “The appearance of a fully stacked skid is vastly improved!”
Wood said another benefit is that his team previously also had to build an elaborate wood frame around each palletized stack to ensure its stability. While a frame is still being used with the VGuard spacers, it doesn’t need to be nearly as elaborate, resulting in lower material and labor costs.
“I am extremely pleased with the outcome,” said Wood. “So pleased, in fact, I’m looking to see if there are other products of theirs we can use. Since we started using Laminations’ VGuard in December we haven’t had a single issue with the liners’ packaging. They’re reaching our customers in the same quality condition they left our plant in.”