What Concerns Independents Today?

This is always an interesting question to consider, although I’m not sure that I have the ability to answer it fully. But when Dennis Colley, president of the Fibre Box Association asked it at the Chicago Region 6 fall meeting, I felt that I needed to respond on our behalf. Additionally, Steve Young’s State of the Association report to the membership and Chairman Mark Mathes’ presentations have since added more topics of concern along with the initiatives presently in place to address them.

So, what are independents concerned about these days?

  • Obamacare
  • Need for constant training of new employees and communicating with those where English is a second language
  • Mill ownership consolidation with reduced sheet and board supply
  • Proliferation of new flute profiles and the impact on new ultra lightweight containerboard
  • How to become more efficient, increase productivity, and benchmark equipment and sheets against the best in class

AICC Responses

Steve Young’s presentation to our members has already begun to demonstrate the ways the association has responded to some of these concerns. For instance, the development of AICC University and its first two modules on Safety Basics and Corrugated 101, for use as employee training materials. Additionally, we have already begun to incorporate the use of Spanish in some brochures and on our website. We have also introduced the sustainability brochure and a template to assist independents in reducing waste, improving economics, and tackling the three legs of sustainability—economic, social, and environmental. Young’s presentation finished by acknowledging the 19,000 hits on the Ask Ralph blog (www.askralph-aiccbox.org), which remains a valuable knowledge resource on numerous subjects. To find an answer on your specific topic, just enter one or two keywords in the search box to bring up all the related discussions.

In his presentation to the membership, Mark Mathes also referred to AICC’s Emerging Leaders initiative, addressing the need to train and mentor the next generation of industry members, aged 25 to 35. He also shared AICC’s recent proactive approach to collaboration: reaching out to our major containerboard and sheet suppliers in order to deepen relationships at the highest levels.

Technical Follow-Up

Now, for the technical update I promised in the last issue of BoxScore: Trials and extensive testing continue with the Dynamic Stiffness Tester (DST), measuring the shear stiffness of corrugated board. The ability to measure combined board strength with a more sensitive examination than recovered caliper thickness, Flat Crush Test (FCT), Edge Crush Test (ECT), and even bending stiffness is demonstrating startling results. Think of it like going to a doctor when you suspect you are seriously ill: She asks you about your eating and exercise habits and that’s like spring back caliper. Then she takes your temperature and that’s like FCT. Next, she takes your blood pressure and that’s like ECT. The next round is a blood workup and that’s the four-point bending stiffness. If, after all that prodding, the source of the ailment is still unknown, you might go to a specialist for an MRI and CAT scan to look deeper into the internal workings of your body or combined board.

This is what the DST is all about: It is an intensive look into the containerboards, the combining, and the converting processes. It looks for the nuances, which, when corrected, can lead to significant additional fibre and cost reductions.

This way of evaluating new doublewall combinations with ultra lightweight components is how we will investigate combined board going forward. As previously suggested, the conventional ECT and FCT testing methods may not be the best indicators of new world containerboards and new flute profiles and we will look toward mass, BPI, and four-point bending as our key indicators of board performance.


Ralph Young is principal of Alternative Paper Solutions and AICC’s technical advisor. Young can be reached at (404) 915-2792, askralph@aiccbox.org, or  youngralph1@bellsouth.net.


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