Volume 7 | Issue 6 | Year 2004

A box is a box is a box, right? Well, sometimes a box is just a box. But for the many companies that require a container that is lightweight, durable and graphically interesting, the only product out there is the Norampac box.

Norampac was started in 1997 and has grown to become the largest containerboard producer in Canada and the seventh largest in North America. A joint-venture company, owned by Cascades, Inc. and Domtar, Inc., Norampac operates eight linerboard and corrugating medium mills and 26 box plants in Canada, the United States, and France. These state-of-the-art facilities supply products that help to hold and transport paper, food, wine and spirits, and numerous other consumer products. Norampac also offers graphic-design services and a full range of papers in different basis weights and colors, specialty printing and high-definition.

Explains Norampac President and CEO Marc-André Dépin, it is not just the range of options and ability to deliver a superior product that sets the company apart from its competitors. Norampac’s operating structure and overall philosophy, which allows each plant to run in a decentralized format, has allowed the company to grow as well. “Every unit runs on its own, as if it’s an independent business and that makes a big difference,” he says. “Our mills supply our converter plants as if they were customers. It keeps them on their toes and empowers them.”

Growth by numbers
The company’s high growth rate is attributed to the numerous mergers and acquisitions within the industry as a whole, which has meant fewer players, but Norampac has been active itself in building up a portfolio of assets that complement each other and contribute directly to the company’s productivity.

An important part of this strategy has been to expand its presence within the United States. Most recently the company completed the acquisition of AIM Corrugated Container Corp., a corrugated products converting plant in Lancaster, N.Y. The 95,000-square-foot plant employs 128 people and specializes in the manufacture of every type of corrugated box.

Explains Dépin, Norampac has also grown because of its ability to meet the needs of customers that require a lighter-weight box enhanced with color graphics for eye appeal, particularly important to big box retailers such as Wal Mart and Home Depot. To facilitate these and other value added measures, Norampac has employed a wide array of capabilities, including a full range of flute constructions, board combinations and coatings, in any dimension, style and graphics presentation needed. To enhance its manufacturing operation the company two years ago built a new converter plant, which Dépin describes as the “the best converting plant in North America – it’s conveyorized, computerized, and utilizes the latest in robotics technology.” A (U.S.) $40 million investment, the facility is located in Vaughan, Ontario.

Norampac is also environmentally conscious; the company recycles all of its boxes, which, by the way, are constructed with a high percentage of recycled fibers and waste cuttings. Adding to its uniqueness is the employment of a closed loop system, whereby the company collects used boxes flattened and piled into bails from retail centers or from municipalities, then sends these to be processed at its paper mills and converted into corrugated containers. To handle this complex operation, the company works with MetroWaste, a leading recycler of waste paper in Canada, of which Norampac owns 46 percent.

Valued containment
Altogether, Norampac makes1.6 million tons of paper a year that, in turn, produces boxes, and processes one million tons of recycled fiber a year in both its European and North American mills.

The breadth of its product offering includes:
• Containerboard: linerboard (white, coated-white, colored or brown); corrugating medium (wet-strength paper, rolls up to 110 inches); Kraft paper (used for applications such as paper bags, i.e., grocery, shopping and fast food, envelopes, wrapping paper, etc.); Gypsum paper (used in gypsum board manufacturing, this product can withstand the rigorous requirements of the construction and renovation industries;
• Corrugated products: flutes A, B, C; single, double or triple-wall, microflutes E and F; wax-corrugated containers and moisture barrier boards (for fruits & vegetables, meats, poultry and fish); large size boxes for furniture and specialty products (home appliances, electronic components, bulk transport and comestible items);
Specialty Corrugated Products: Norampac excels in the production of packaging that requires special treatment. Areas of expertise include litho design and printing up to six colors for any type of packaging (wines & spirits, tools, electronic products, computer software, etc.); design and manufacture of point-of-purchase displays, including complete turn-key services; EDS protection and non-cross linked-foam interior packaging (for fragile and electronic products) and liquid and sheet photopolymer flexographic printing plates and plate-mounting services.

Working in the box
To ensure that its technology is on par or exceeds the industry’s, Norampac operates a Technical and Development Center, a highly sophisticated facility that conducts corrugated packaging performance, containerboard testing and development, corrugator operations optimization, field service capabilities for corrugated and non-corrugated products, process trouble shooting, converting and manufacturing. It is this center that has enabled Norampac to advance the industry in several ways.

For one, says Dépin, the company has been working on a material that will replace wax in the transportation of fruits and vegetables, which require a water-repellent shipping environment. Because wax is not recyclable, Norampac’s researchers have been investigating alternative substances; Dépin predicts that within a year the company’s solution should be developed and on the market.

Norampac has also developed what Dépin describes as a recyclable “chilltainer,” for products that need to be kept hot or cold. “Instead of using Styrofoam we apply a metalized polyester coating to the paper,” he explains.

Further, Norampac is the only producer of recycled coated white top in North America, a product that can be used for the shiny visual enhancements that have become popular in conveying brand logos or advertising messages on containers.

It is through these advances that the company has been able to achieve its stream of successes, growing from a business comprised of 17 box plants to 26 and from seven mills to eight in a scant seven years. So it appears that thinking inside the box has not only allowed Norampac to break through technical barriers to create cutting edge products but also has allowed it to break through to new levels of service and quality. Norampac will undoubtedly reach higher planes of innovation in the knowledge that the inside of the box is as important as what it contains.

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