HOW GENERAL FILMS CREATED A CUSTOM PACKAGING SOLUTION
In the heart of North Carolina’s furniture manufacturing region is the city of Hickory, home to Century Furniture. Founded in 1947, Century is a wood and upholstery-furniture manufacturer that designs, builds and ships furniture from its base an hour outside of Charlotte to cities across the U.S. and to more than 40 countries all over the world. The company’s furniture is sold in boutiques and stores that cater to customers who appreciate finely crafted luxury furniture, impeccable design and outstanding quality.
To ensure its high-end products make it to their destinations unscathed, Keith Nichols, Century Furniture’s Plant Three operations manager, is always looking for ways to make the furniture packaging process more effective and efficient, and to minimize returns. For the longest time, Nichols said, the company would use plastic shrink bags from its local supplier to wrap its sofas, loveseats and chairs, as well as a film that wrapped around smaller pieces.
“FOR THE PACKAGING PROCESS, WE LOAD THE SOFA ON A CARDBOARD TRAY, WRAP DRAPES AROUND THE SOFA, PUT THE WHOLE THING IN A SHRINK BAG AND THEN HEAT SHRINK,” NICHOLS SAID. “BUT I WANTED TO GET AWAY FROM THE SHRINK BAG WE WERE USING BECAUSE IT TOOK SO MUCH TIME AND ENERGY TO SHRINK.”
Nichols began looking for a new solution in 2012, but all the film suppliers he contacted either didn’t have a solution, or weren’t interested in finding one. “I thought that was it,” Nichols said, and he resigned himself to sticking with the same packaging film that his competitors were using.
Two years later, Nichols got a phone call from Wes Hendley, of General Films. Hendley had recently been hired as General Films’ national accounts manager after having worked with Nichols in the past.
“He remembered that his old company hadn’t been able to help us and thought, with a little work, General Films might be able to find the answer,” said Nichols.
After a trip to Hickory to analyze Century’s packaging process, shrink bag and packaging film, the engineers at General Films believed they could develop a film that would shrink faster while delivering both superior strength and a better seal.
“THE FIRST BAG THEY CAME BACK WITH WAS LESS EXPENSIVE THAN WHAT WE WERE USING AND DID THE JOB, BUT GENERAL FILMS WASN’T SATISFIED,” NICHOLS SAID. “THEY KEPT TWEAKING IT AND GOT US A BAG THAT WAS EVEN LESS EXPENSIVE, GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND TO FIND THE BEST POSSIBLE PRODUCT FOR US.”
The final bag and film General Films created for Century Furniture is designed to shrink more in length when heated, rather than width. This resulted in both a stronger and thinner film that shrunk tighter and faster. For Century Furniture, the operational and financial results of switching to General Films’ products was immediate and beyond expectations.
In product costs alone, Century Furniture saved about 43 percent on bags and film by switching to General Films, Nichols said. But, there were operational efficiencies too.
“Using the new bags and film, our packaging process sped up, which meant we were able to reduce the head count on that team,” said Nichols. “That’s saved us $60,000 - $70,000 a year in labor and benefits.”
Since the switch, Nichols said Plant Three now uses General Films’ bags and film exclusively.