Pro-Pak Fills Special
Market Niche In Design & Manufacture of Corrugated Packaging Products
On June 21, 2000, as the morning shift at Professional
began arriving, they were shocked to find their place of employment engulfed in flames.
The work of an arsonist, the fire consumed 27,000 square-feet of office and manufacturing space,
every bit of manufacturing equipment and left over forty employees wondering if they had jobs.
The company lost in excess 0f $2
million in assets including all phones, computer systems, office furniture, converting equipment,
raw materials, operating supplies and finished goods. Fire fighters were able to save all the
two forklifts and a pallet jack.
When Pro-Pak's owner, Ron Dooley, saw the looks on his employees' faces
as they watched the manufacturing plant burn, he completely forgot
any concern he may have had for his own loss. "When I saw the tears rolling down their faces, I
immediately decided to rebuild," says Dooley. "Twenty-eight employees never lost an hour's work."
Ron and Lorrain Dooley were raised in the immediate area and felt an
allegiance to the community, and, specifically,
to thir employees. The couple had been proud that their company was one of the areas largest
had always strived to portray a positive image within the community. Rather than choosing to
rebuild a more lucrative location, the Dooleys decided to stay.
Amazingly, Pro-Pak was not closed for a single day after the fire
raveged their equipment and their facilities. "We made deliveries
on the day of the fire with help from our suppliers and even some of our competitors,"
says Frank Bowles, Vice President of Operations.
"We do a lt of hand assembly," Dooley added. "Therefore, we were able
to get right back into assembly work, and within two to three weeks after the fire, we already
had some machines back in place."
The plant's warehouse was saved due to a firewall that the local
building inspector required Dooley to install when he added the warehouse in 1998.
As the business struggled to recover, the surviving warehouse became the manufacturing area,
warehouse space was rented elsewhere and, until the new administrative building opened in
April 2001, the support staff worked out of trailers.
The adaptable Dooley began his career in 1967 with St. Regis Paper Company in
Scotia and, while on the road as part of the community's sales department, discovered the niche
his corrugated sheet plant now services. As he worked his territory, Dooley realized that trends
within the industry
were pushing the larger corrugated manufactures towards producing corrugated cardboard and boxes in
which required longer lead times. Consequenly, many of these firms abandoned their short production
run, low volume clientele.
This left an attractive market opportunity for Dooley, who had tried unsuccessfully while employed by
other corrugated companies to convince them to service this market.
"People who needed small quantities were being neglected," he explains. "It's
not just small craft companies or people with home business that need our services; even large
companies manufacture special products and only require a run of a couple hundred or so. The big paper
companies back in the sixties were neglecting those who needed smaller quantities and forcing
them to buy a two or three year supply when they only wanted a two or three month supply."
The Dooleys founded the Professional Packaging Corporation in 1985, and their
first manufacturing facility was located in downtown Cambridge. The two funded the venture with a $15,000
loan and a credit card. Partners in life and partners in business, the couple shares ownership of the
company 50/50. Lorraine Dooley actsas the company's secretary and treasurer.
They stayed in a 3,000-square-foot facility with only three full-time employees.
Two years later, as sales continued to grow, they moved back into a 6,500-square foot facility, also
in Cambridge, and were employing ten full-time workers. Their annual sales had reached $750,000.
Continued steady growth led to a third move and purchase of a 10,000 square-foot building in Eagle Bridge
that they used for production and warehousing.
In 1992, the company purchased the former Owl Kill egg processing and
distribution proprty, which was adjacent to their manufacturing facility. The aquisition added an additional
27,000 square-feet of production and warehousing space and seventeen acres of land. Some of the company's
manufactring and warehousing was subsequently moved into this facility. The move enabled the company to
increase its sales to $1.75 million for the fiscal year ending in 1994. At that time, full-time employees
Wher workers from decades ago once grabed and packaged eggs, current Pro-Pak
employees are enjoying their new 25,000-square-foot manufacturing area. Although the buildingis about
8,000 square-feet smaller than the previous facility, it is now designed for manufacturing and is much
more efficient. The company's 10,000-square-foot warehose is used to store just-in-timegoods and other
finished products ready for delivery by the company's fleet of trucks.
"Most companies today don't like to cary a lot of stock," Bowles explains. "
Years agoif you called your supplier up and told him that you wanted ten thousand nuts and bolts, he'd
have them in stock. Today it might be a week before they come in. Some of our customers don't want to
cary a lot of stock. We can warehose it fore them, or we can also manufacture the product on the day
they need it."
Pro-Pak provides their special niche of customers with corrugated boxes,
partitions in corrugated and solidmaterial, package design services, warehousing for customers with
special needs, foam products, polyethylene bags and insertsin polyurethane, polyethylene and
polystyrene. The company services customerswithin a one hundred mile radius of Cambridge and offers
just-in-time service, same-day and over night delivery and over one hundred years of total
experience to help their customers solve their packaging problems. Their customers include Namic,
Standard Register, Boston Scientific, decora Manufacturing, Angio Dynemics, General Electric, Quad Graphics
and Mack Molding.
Along with high quality products, Pro-Pak offers quick delivery, responsive
customer service and exceptional design
capabilities. Throughout the years the companyhas established a reputation as premier supplier
and has forged
outstanding relationships with all of its vendors and banks. The company's commitment to
and service has allowed it to maintain a competitive advantage, which has resulted in a cosistent
history of steady sales growth, increased imployment and favorable returns on investments through
increased efficiencies and re-investment of capital.
The two full-time designers at Pro-Pak, Joseph Murphy and Ken Nerkowski,
design efficient containers with protective inner packaging to prevent damage to the customer's
product during shipping. One of the company's biggest accounts is Manchester Wood in Granville.
"They have a need for a lot of structural design work for inner packaging," says Dooley. "I don't think
a week goes by that we are not working on something for Manchester Wood. They're constantly coming up
with new products."
As soon as a customer calls, the designers immediately meet with the customer or
send a truck to pick up a product in need of a package design. The designers use a digital camera to
photograph the product from various angles showing the method of package that details the packaging process
for the customer. Daybeds and jelly cabinets are just two examples of the many items for which the design
team has created packaging.
"When you only make twenty-five of something, you don't want a whole bunch of damage
and no returns. That's where all this inner packaging comes into place."
Murphy, the design department's senior staff member, has twenty years of experience
in the packaging industry, and has been with Pro-Pak since 1987. Murphy has developed excellent working relationship
with the company's customers and is continuously working to develop cost effective packaging with
maximum protection. His creativity responsiveness and attention to detail are true assets to the company and its customers.
Once the design is complete, the work moves to the manufacturing phase. Employees slit the
corrugated material to size, and the company's four box-making machines performe the necessary functions to make the
container foldable. Several other machines are available for making the partitions and other packaging items.
"We have a great group of employees here," says Bowles, who was born in Cambridge
and raised in Greenwich. The new Vice-president of Operations was hired as the controller of the corporation
in April 2000 and was made Vice President of Operations in February 2001. Bowles has spent twenty years in the paper
industry and has worked for companies like the Steves & Thompson Paper Company and the BenMont Corporation. He has
also spent fifteen years in manufacturing operations holding top management positions such as General manager,
Vice-president of Operations and Chief Finencial Officer.
Although the corrugated industry is currently experiencing a downswing, Bowles
feels the company's special niche of customers and just-in-time service will contribute to their sucsess.
"We'll run as little as one carton and as many as five thousand," he says, "and some customers might order
seventy five cartons with two of one size, ten of another, twenty-five of still another size and so on.
That gives us a real niche in a market place, but customer service is our number one priority."
Donald Pacher, Sr., Vice-president of sales and Marketing, has been with
Pro-Pak for fourteen years as an outside independent sales person. It wasn't until January of this
year that he was asked to come on full-time and take charge of sales and marketing efforts. Pacher
owns two businesses of his own, packaging Associates and Val-gard Industries.
"I've been in the packaging business for thirty years," says Pacher. "I started
with vermont Container Corporation and worked for PCA and A & M Packaging." Of the changes that he's
seen in the industry, Pacher says, "There's a tremendous amount of consolidation that's going on
within the corrugated industry - within the packaging industry. Everybody's buying up everybody. Here,
as an independent, we are able to offer quick turnaround on small and large quantities in a shorter period of time.
By being independent, I think we maintain a lot of flexability that larger companies don't have."
Other key personel at Pro-Pak include Cheryl Harrington, the Office and Superintendent Manager,
Eric Sberga, Production Superviser, and Edd Wooddell, Warehouse Superintendent and Traffic Superviser. Michael L.
Lewsey handles sales in New York and massachusetts, and Donald pacher, Jr. handles sales in Vermont and new Hampshire.
Currently Pro-Pak is working to expand their customer base into Burlington, Vermont, and,
with the seventeen acres on which the manufacturing plant is located, they have plenty of room to grow.
For more information on Professional Packaging services, Inc., readers can call 677-5100.
By Paula Brehm for Glens Falls Business Journal