RPA Packaging Supplies Diverse Shipping Solutions and Services
Ohio company helps meet the challenge of transporting loads worldwide.
By Staff Writer
Date Posted: 7/1/2000
DAYTON, Ohio ó Add two or more national boundaries together and getting a package from point A to point B suddenly becomes a daunting prospect. International shipping typically means a mind-numbing combination of customs forms, agricultural inspections, bills of lading, and weight checks. The country of origin and the destination dictate the specific requirements for documentation.
RPA Packaging Inc. takes on and meets the challenge of worldwide shipping. It smooths the way for shippers in addition to making containers to protect the products they want to move. The company makes about 100,000 wooden boxes and crates and a few hundred thousand pallets annually, according to RPA owner Jon Bucher. Virtually all of the companyís products are specialty items.
As for the distinction between a box and a crate, it hinges largely on the type and number of closures, explained Jon. A box is closed on all six sides. A crate has an open side, a must for international cargo.
RPA thrives by constructing custom containers that meet the exacting requirements of its customers. "We build specialized pallets and crates that have a twist to them," said Jon. RPA supplies containers for both very heavy shipments and extremely fragile contents. For example, the company has made containers to ship a 65,000-pound press and a weightless diode.
Fragile products are welcome at RPA. "We package marble table tops for the furniture industry," said Jon. "We are below two percent in breakage," he said, a dramatic improvement over a previous container supplier; the customer had been accustomed to transporting its products in containers that resulted in more than 20% of its shipments being damaged.
The success in dealing with breakable objects has "generated a lot of interest from other furniture companies," said Jon. In fact, RPAís confidence in its package design extends to complete crating of antiques and art works.
The success of RPA Packaging in packaging and shipping services begins with its approach. RPA can design a complete shipping solution, making the container, planning the shipment
Problem solving, design and execution have long been part of Jonís field of interest. He earned a bachelorís degree in industrial engineering at Kent State University after switching from an architectural major. He worked for several years as an industrial packaging engineer before he became the owner of his own business 15 years ago.
When Jon first took on RPA Packaging, the business included a sawmill that was dedicated to hardwood production. When the hardwood industry became "too competitive," however, he got out.
Good references from customers, such as the pleased furniture clients, keep business coming, but advertising also is part of Jonís strategy to market his business. "You have to do something," he said.
He has kept abreast of changes and opportunities, positioning the company as one that can compete for a variety of contracts ó military, government, and commercial.
Seven years ago RPA initiated its competitive foray into specialty packaging. It began designing packages and aggressively marketing its services. "We started by advertising [the service] in trade magazines," said Jon.
RPA also does contract packaging. It is a manufacturer of short-run corrugated cartons. RPA is a stocking distributor for MIL-SPEC bags, static shielding bags, transparent shielding bags, static shielding zipper bags, drypack barrier bags (TYVEK and nylon), static dissipative bags, and other container products. The company also is equipped to bar code containers.
RPA manufactures most boxes and crates out of plywood and pine. It buys finished lumber from the Southern U.S. and Canada. Some boxes and crates are made with cushioning in the form of polyethylene foam that is glued to the wood.
Nearly 50 employees keep the business humming. Although each person typically has specific duties, most workers are cross-over capable; if someone is out for a day or the workload changes, others can step in and take over other tasks or assignments. Despite the flexibility and skills required to do the work, RPA will hire employees with no experience who are willing to learn.
Jon described his equipment line as "varied" in terms of suppliers and types of machines. RPA is equipped with Whirlwind chop saws, an SCMI panel saw, PowerMatic table saws, Delta radial arm saws, Brewer notchers and chamfers, and Senco nail tools and nails. (Senco, which has been making pneumatic fasteners since 1948, is based in nearby Cincinnati.) Conveyors are used to cut material to the construction area.
One piece of equipment that Jon singled out for particular mention was the SCMI. "It cuts 400 sheets of plywood per hour," he said. SCMI panel saws are computerized. Cut lists can be prepared in advance and downloaded to the saws, speeding production.
RPA has an 80,000-square-foot building on one acre that serves primarily as a warehouse. A 50,000-square-foot building situated in the middle of five acres functions as the production area.
RPA occupies over six acres just east of Interstate 75, the highway that bisects Dayton. Home to about 180,000 people, Dayton claims Jon as a native. Dayton was named for General Jonathan Dayton, who led troops in the Revolutionary War and became the youngest signer of the Constitution. Perhaps the best-known residents of the city were bicycle shop owners Wilbur and Orville Wright, who traded wheels for wings in 1903 and account for the "First in Flight" state motto.
Ever since the Cincinnati extension to the Erie Canal was completed in 1829, Dayton has been a hub of heavy industry. Almost 50% of the economic activity of Dayton is accounted for by manufacturing. Some of the best-known names at the heart of Daytonís past and present are Frigidaire, General Motors and Dayton Computing Scale, a company that merged with other components to become International Business Machine (IBM) Company. Today, high-tech enterprises mingle with the traditional core of the city.
During World War II, Daytonís manufacturers supplied goods for the Defense Department, and nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base grew; Wright-Patterson is still an important employer in the region. Emery Freight has a hub at the Cox/Dayton International Airport.
The combination of industry, military and transport nexus is an advantage for RPA Packaging. Much of RPAís customer base derives from high-tech industry and the military. RPA is equipped to handle special labeling requirements of the government and to meet federal specifications for packaging. The company also serves a significant segment of heavy industry. For example, it has made crates for steel presses weighing 30 to 40 tons that were destined for automotive assembly lines.
Customers often come to RPA and describe what they need to transport. "They have no idea how to pack it," explained Jon. "We design [what they need] and ensure it will get there."
Jon enjoys the opportunity to see a job through from beginning to end and the freedom the packaging business gives him. When he is not working in the business, he is busy coaching childrenís football, basketball and soccer.
As for owning his own business, Jon said, "I never thought Iíd do this." But now that he is engaged, he knows he has found a good match for his talent.
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