Peers Help Colonial Carton and Customers Recover after Fire


Days after an August 15 fire gutted its carton manufacturing facility in Clayton, NC, Colonial Carton found help from what would typically be an unlikely source—its competition. Following a contingency plan formed about five years ago for a large pharmaceutical company, president and CEO Joe Elphick called upon Colbert Packaging (Lake Forest, IL) and other fellow members in the Independent Carton Group (ICG; Newtown, CT) to handle customer orders. (The cause of the fire, which started in the graphics department, has been undetermined.) “Within one week of the fire, we sent dies and blanking tools and any graphics we could retrieve to other carton manufacturers,” he says. “We did everything we could to keep our customers going.” Zumbiel Packaging (Cincinnati) and Curtis Packaging Corp. (Sandy Hook, CT) handled additional business.

According to ICG’s Web site, the group helps “members protect their customers from interruptions in supply due to catastrophe and paper shortages.” Elphick says that the group was formed 20 years ago just for this reason. “We’ve agreed to back each other up. It seems like every member contacted me, eager to help. I don’t know where we’d be without them.” (Today the group is a purchasing consortium as well.)

Elphick understands, though, that “the pity factor won’t last forever.” He is working to get his own plant back in full operation. He already has a new gluer and blanker in operation with about a third of his staff back at work, and he is expecting a four-color Rapida press from KBA (Würzburg, Germany) this month. “The Rapida is made for the pharmaceutical industry. It takes pictures of each sheet for full copy control, and it produces 18,000 sheets per hour.” A seven-color press is scheduled for delivery in January.


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