Packing it Up

Some experts say it takes three years for a new business to gain the momentum needed just to get to the starting line on the road toward success. Major awards and accolades typically come after those first few years.

No so for SquarePac, an Atlanta-based provider of reusable packaging for shipping, storage and distribution needs for the automotive industry as well as the utility and food sectors. 

In a mere three years, the company has won several industry awards and is a finalist for National Supplier of the Year from the National Minority Supplier Development Council, an advocacy agency that provides opportunities for minority businesses. The winner will be picked at the council’s national conference in Chicago this month. 

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Walter Griggs started SquarePac in 2013 to custom design material handling solutions to help companies keep their products safe and undamaged in transport.  The company offers returnable plastic containers, plastic pallets, bulk boxes and hand-held totes that are ergonomically engineered and designed for continual use. 

In 2013, Griggs attended a packaging expo in Atlanta sponsored by MHI, a leading material handling, logistics and supply chain association. There he met packaging engineers who told him about problems they were having in finding reliable local suppliers and the slow lead time for getting their products from one point to another.

“We felt that we could provide these services that appeared to be lacking, ” Griggs recalls. 

“So, we created SquarePac as a direct response to solve the problems that the packaging engineers and our local manufacturing plants were having in satisfying their material handling and packaging needs.”

SquarePac currently has nine employees, including Griggs’ wife, Jeanille, who joined the company six months after it started. Her responsibilities include overseeing the back office and the certification process. 

Many industries and businesses rely on reusable packaging, including automotive original manufacturers (OEMs) and tier parts suppliers — as do businesses in retail and consumer product distribution including auto parts retailers. 

Nine out of 10 companies that manufacture, ship or store any type of product have problems with a lack of space or internal damage issues, Griggs says. To meet these problems, SquarePac custom designs material handling solutions to help companies go vertical and keep their products safe in transport. 

“Manufacturing is the backbone of this country and we make certain that the products consumers love, their parts, arrive at the assembly line so that the car, truck or appliance can be assembled properly from undamaged parts, ” Griggs says.

SquarePac designs, creates concepts, performs first article inspections and mass produces protective packaging for automotive manufacturers including Yamaha Motor Corporation in Newnan, Georgia. “We focus on increasing density in your supply chain. The by-product of our solutions are freight saving, a reduction in expendable packaging cost and reclaiming of lost real estate because we have taken you vertical.”

“When most people see a car or SUV on the road, they see one machine, however, every vehicle that is manufactured is made of thousands of smaller parts that work together to make the vehicle function as it is intended to, ” Griggs notes. 

“These individual parts may be manufactured at different locations, but they must come to a central location to be assembled. Many of the parts must be handled and packaged in special protective packaging to prevent them from being damaged during the shipping process.

“We can custom design metal protective racks on both ends with internal dunnage for every single part of the vehicle that is being produced in any factory anywhere in the world, ” Griggs says. “However, we can design high quality customized packaging for specialty products in any industry.”

The company is currently negotiating service agreements with Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen, who Griggs says have all expressed a need for his company’s packaging expertise. 

Torri Logan, senior packaging engineer at Yamaha Motor Corporation in Newnan, has been working with SquarePac for several years and relies on SquarePac for custom-designed packaging, hand-held totes and returnable bulk bins. 

Logan says a couple of the company’s best attributes are its response time and making cost savings a priority.  SquarePac continually looks for ways that Yamaha can save money in weight, labor and materials, he adds.  He also appreciates SquarePac’s going the extra mile, for example when Griggs brought his team of designers to Yamaha to conduct a three-day class in designing returnable containers.

The automotive industry is a good match for reusables, according to Packaging Revolution, an online source that provides information on best practices in the packaging industry.  Due to the wide range of part sizes, finishes and geometrics, the custom sizing of packaging is often necessary in the automotive industry. 

The automotive industry has many of the elements favorable for using returnable packaging systems, such as short delivery distances between the subassembly supplier and assembly plant, as well as regular, predictable delivery schedules and dedicated transportation providers serving the supply chain.  

“SquarePac designs packaging that can be used over and over and over again, ” notes Griggs. “This reduces cost associated with expendable packaging and virtually eliminates waste. Labor costs are also reduced due to less double touching.”

Besides winning industry awards, also on the horizon is expanding SquarePac’s sales force and office team.  And several new projects are under way, such as a patent-pending transformer transport rack that Georgia Power is currently testing for the utility sector. 

Says Griggs: “Our short-term goal is to be the regional leader in returnable packaging solutions, but our ultimate goal is to become the national leader in this industry and one day be a global player.”

An Environmental Slant

In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency analyzed the environmental impacts of reusable containers versus the expendable system. Results showed that reusable packaging on average required 39 percent less total energy, produced 95 percent less solid waste and generated 29 percent less total greenhouse gas emissions.

SquarePac’s products are not only eco-friendly but also easy to use and designed to ensure that the products reach their destination in mint condition. Packaging fits snugly so there is no space to create breakage. 

The use of returnable packaging dates back to 1930 at Ford Motor Co.’s returnable container department. Parts were delivered in crates sized so that the wood could be reused to make running boards and bumpers. In the 1960s and 1970s, reusable plastic bulk bins and pallets gained acceptance.

By 1985, many companies were regularly reusing plastic containers and pallets. In the following years, reusable packaging began to dominate, with many plants refusing to accept expendable packaging into facilities. 

Jessica Armstrong is a freelance writer for Southern Automotive Alliance.

Text by Jessica Armstrong

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