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Express Packing & Forwarding Known for On-Site Crating Services
Express Packing: Indiana firm creates niche in crates and wood containers. It has developed a solid reputation for on-site crating services.

By Staff
Date Posted: 12/3/2018

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — Mike Athey and John Owens started Express Packing & Forwarding in 1987, and their approach to business since then has remained the same: always exceed the expectations of the customer.

Their philosophy is reflected in the company’s mission statement, which reads in part: “Express will offer complete customer satisfaction.” Those expectations apply to its products and services in regards to quality, cost and on-time delivery.

Located in the southwest corner of Indianapolis and almost adjacent to Indianapolis International Airport, Express Packing is very close to Route 465, the beltway encircling the city. This location gives the company convenient access to the major interstate highways entering and exiting the city in 360 degrees.


Skilled at Meeting Custom Packaging Needs

“Everything we do is custom,” said April Francis, general manager of the company. “We are a custom crate and pallet manufacturer.”

Express Packing does much more than manufacture custom crates and pallets, however. The company can supply custom dunnage. It builds specialized crates and containers for industrial equipment and machinery, and for government, military and dangerous or hazardous cargo. It provides containers for restricted cargo that meet United Nations regulations. It offers specialized packaging and services for shipping automotive parts. And it can send employees to customer locations to provide on-site services to pack items into crates and containers for shipment.

 “We have built crates that will hold 30 lbs. up to 120,000 lbs.,” said Francis.

Serving customers largely in the greater metropolitan Indianapolis area, Express Packing has accounts with businesses in such industries as automotive, aerospace, medical and the military. Express Packing has done business with customers as diverse as Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

 “Everything we do is made from new softwood lumber,” said Francis. All material is purchased certified heat-treated to comply with ISPM-15. Express is “HT” certified by adhering to the guidelines and having monthly audits.

Express Packing sources all its lumber and panels from brokers representing mills in the Midwest, and some plywood is sourced from mills in Canada. The company buys 1x4, 2x4, 2x6, 2x8, 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, 10x10, 12x12, and plywood and oriented strand board panels.

All of the company’s work is done by hand using pneumatic nailing tools. Buying standard lengths, the company only has a few saws to cut lumber to length and some panel saws for cutting plywood or oriented strand board. Express credits its team of skilled professionals for maintaining the quality of the products they manufacture.

The company uses Senco and Max nailers and Fuzion fasteners. It also uses different types of brackets, hinges, locks and other hardware to assemble crates and containers. Some customers have specifications that require certain hinges, ramps, foam or wood blocking or dunnage.

Express Packing offers just-in-time service. For customers that agree to a ‘blanket’ purchase order, it will stock materials and keep them in inventory to service their account.

The company is equipped with a forklift that has the capacity to lift up to 30,000 pounds. “That allows us to handle heavy equipment on our own,” noted Francis. For objects or shipments over 30,000 pounds, Express Packing works with a local rigging company.


On-site Services Makes Express Packing Unique

Services to build a crate or container around an object can be performed at Express Packing or the customer location.

The company is known for its on-site services, which represent about 35% of its business. “Our on-site packing is definitely our niche,” said Francis. For on-site packing, whenever possible wood boxes and skids are built at Express Packing and then shipped in knock-down form to the job site. Express Packing personnel can then complete the work more efficiently with less disruption at the customer location and clean up after the job.

 “We run a pretty short lead time,” Francis added, “and are normally able to work in customer emergencies.”

Express Packing can build wood crates and containers specific to a customer’s need based on the object(s) to be shipped, mode of transportation, and destination. It can supply heavy-duty wood boxes for ocean-going freight, light-duty boxes for air freight, slat crates, skids, reusable wood boxes, and knock-down wood boxes.


No Size or Project Is Too Big

At the time the company was interviewed for this article, it was working on four crates with a footprint of 236x142 and capable of transporting 50,000 pounds. It also was working on crates only 3.5x3.5 and 18 inches long.

The company also offers a range of packing materials and products to preserve and protect shipments. They include vacuum sealed bags, desiccants to maintain dryness, vapor corrosion inhibitor wraps, and cushioning and dunnage.

Cushioning and dunnage includes bubble wrap and foam wrap, foam-in-place, high density foam, die cut foam, corrugated build-ups, and paper and plastic wraps.

Express Packing provides comprehensive services for packing automotive parts. For example, plastic parts are packed using specific dunnage to protect the part while in transit. All class ‘A’ surfaces are protected from marring, scratching or denting. Metal parts are preserved by using either vapor corrosion inhibitor, vacuum sealed bags, or application of a spray-on product that can be removed at the destination.

The company can supply containers for automotive parts customers or complete packing services. Other services include pick-up and delivery, loading and unloading at the customer dock, onsite packing, shipping container pickup or delivery. Materials or components from customers are tracked from receiving until it leaves the dock. Express Packing documents processes for customers by taking photographs.

Scrap wood does not go to waste. The company tries to use as much scrap as possible to minimize waste. It donates scrap material to a local pastor that makes projects for the community and also to a local high school wood shop class. Some material is hauled away and supplied to a company that recycles the wood.


Strong Personnel Bring Years of Experience

Francis is a key employee who oversees the company and has over 20 years of experience in industry and construction. She and her family run a girls developmental and competitive basketball program year-round. They also direct the children’s department at Living Faith Baptist Church.

Another key employee is Zac Stewart who is the operations manager. He supervises all projects at Express as well as coordinates with his onsite teams to ensure the customer needs are being met. Zac has been with the company since 2006. He has a passion for sports and this shows as he coaches travel baseball as well as being a volunteer basketball coach at Hawthorne Community Center where he is also a board member.

Teresa Blakey, the office manager, is a critical asset to Express Packing. She handles customer inquiries as well as ensuring all daily needs of the facility and staff are met. She has been with Express Packing since December of 1998 (with a brief retirement from November 2014 to December 2016). She became the office manager in 2010. When Teresa is not assisting customers with their needs, she spends time with her husband at drag races or reading. She also likes to travel to Colorado to enjoy the mountains. 

Amanda McKinney is the office manager in training for Express Packing. She joined the team in 2018 and has proven to be a great addition. She assists with making sure all day-to-day processes run smoothly and that customer needs are being met. She is new to the industry but brought a strong customer service background to the job. She and her family are heavily involved with a local girls’ basketball program that focuses on developmental and competitive groups. 

Express Packing has a comprehensive employee benefits plan. Employees have eight paid holidays plus three personal days off per year. Vacation time is accrued based on years of service. The company offers several types of insurance, including dental, life, disability, and accident coverage. Safety training is conducted monthly to refresh employees and teach them new techniques. The company sponsors a monthly lunch for employees and also holds an annual employee cornhole tournament.

Express Packing had five employees when Mike and John founded the company in 1987. Today, the company has 20 employees with over 50 years of industry experience. Under their leadership, Express Packing has continued its focus on customer service and quality workmanship. The company has become an innovator of dependable and practical packaging for domestic and international transit using the most effective packing materials available.

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