Meet the man whose job it is to ensure your container is perfect.

Behind great leaders, thinkers and dreamers, there is often a pragmatic player whose job it is to ask questions, catch mistakes and ensure success.

At Flexcon, Terry has played that role for over 25 years. His oversight, problem solving and quality control help ensure containers work for clients. Once projects gain a customer’s approval, he’s the last set of eyes before projects are committed to production and customers pass the point of no return on orders.

“Terry is their advocate. He is the watchdog—the firewall. He works with product teams and engineers. He’s the top guy who watches over everything and makes sure that everything we do is going to shine and that they’re going to be happy,” says Flexcon President, Ken Beckerman.

Terry’s role is unique in container manufacturing—and Flexcon is unusual in allowing its end users direct contact with the head engineer. His personal involvement in projects provides advantages to customers in an industry dominated by big manufacturers. “Terry’s access to the end user, access to understanding the project and our ability and flexibility to meet needs is unmatched in the industry,” Ken adds.

Every project that a customer approves must pass his scrutiny. According to Terry, 80% of the jobs go right through because they’re basic designs and styles Flexcon has been using for decades. The other 20% that he describes as “out of the ordinary” gets a thorough going over. In addition to spending quality screen time looking at the die drawings and photos and questioning everything, he reviews all the customer notes to make sure every request was addressed.

When Terry finds something suspicious, things get real and he’ll have a sample cut. The engineering department with its CAD table will make a sample of the material and the frame and put it all together so he can look at the same thing the customer saw when they were approving it. “Sometimes the customer will have approved from a 3D drawing—then it’s an even better idea to have one made and have it in my hands to make sure it will meet their needs,” Terry says.

Terry provides fresh eyes and indispensable insight at a critical juncture. For the team that’s been staring at the project for a while, it’s hard to see errors. Terry looks at the project with a learned eye for inconsistencies. “Sometimes he’s catching things the customer didn’t think of or things that we missed,” Ken says.

The time-consuming work he does saves time, money and headaches for clients down the road. “Preventing a problem now is a better solution than fixing a problem later,” Terry says.

In addition to problems, Terry spots opportunities to provide additional value to customers. Making suggestions that facilitate accurate and economical reorders is a prime example that customers don’t ordinarily think about.

Terry’s expertise was hard won over his 26-year tenure at Flexcon. When he started, he and other teammates were still designing, prototyping and making containers by hand. As Flexcon automated, he was instrumental in numerous automation improvements, including the creation of Flexcon’s library of standard sizes which has led to significant time savings for customers. Every project benefits from Terry’s extraordinary brain trust of container engineering knowledge.

“I have enough engineering understanding to see the way things work and be able to visualize how things will come together,” he explains. Ironically, his formal education wasn’t in engineering. He was an economics major in college, which may help explain how Terry really ticks. “The real goal is to make things that will provide value to customers, and that’s more of an economics thing than an engineering thing,” he confides.

Flexcon’s divider system is a clear case of this. The design Terry helped develop is designed to grow as manufacturers grow. “We don’t just give them dividers that only work for their current product mix. We give them dividers that can be reconfigured and added to in the future.”

As Flexcon’s “advocate for value” and “firewall for trouble” Terry represents two sides of the company. On one hand Ken says, “He takes what the sales team dreams up and translates it into reality,” And on the other hand, “He’s a sounding board for quality. He helps make sure we do it right.”

Learn more about Flexcon’s design process by meeting with a team member. Email us to set something up.

6 Ways the Wrong Containers Can Cost You

When it comes to your company’s containers, you really do get what you pay for. So while you may feel good about how much you saved going the bargain route, you may end up getting more than you bargained for—and not in a good way. Even if things go smoothly on the conveyor or they seem to work just fine on the assembly line, they could still be costing you in subtle and insidious ways. Here are our top 6:

They can hurt workers.

According to an article by Oregon OSHA, containers are the third biggest source of workplace injuries. This is easily the worst outcome of a poor container decision. Cheap materials can crack leaving sharp edges that cut. Poor designs can lead to overfilling and lifting injuries.

They can waste valuable real estate.

Choose ones that are too big and you end up paying a hidden cost for extra inches of shelf space or square feet of warehouse space. Empty containers are a necessary evil, but having containers that can’t be nested together or even collapsed and stacked to save space is just plain evil. Left unchecked, you could find yourself needing a bigger building in no time.

They can increase your distribution costs.

Compromising on the dimensions of your containers can add unnecessary pounds and inches that increase shipping fees. And if your boxes don’t fold up and stack nicely, you’ll pay more on the return leg, too.

They can damage your products.

Every product has its own set of handling instructions for keeping the product safe and packaging neat. Cutting corners for the sake of economy or convenience increases the chances of breakage, spoilage and returns. Produce is a prime example: if you use a container without a stacking lip, you’ll squish your product and ruin your profit margin.

They can hamper productivity.

Running a profitable pick and pack operation is all about economy of motion. Choose a container that increases the reach or impedes speed, and it takes a toll in worker fatigue and seconds, minutes and hours wasted. Can you really afford that?

They can cause your robotics to crash.

Your robotics require precision container dimensions and complete consistency. Something to keep in mind if you have to purchase replacement totes. Pay for a perfect fit and you can avoid a crash that halts production and requires you to retool your robots to the tune of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Getting what you pay for can really get you in the end. Why risk it with one of the most important moving parts in your factory, warehouse or distribution center? The containers you choose are as important as the very processes you use—because they’re integral to them. At Flexcon, we’ve built our business on the belief that the right containers contribute to the productivity and profitability of the clients we serve. We know that finding that perfect solution requires a process of understanding the entirety of a customer’s needs and then using the depth of our expertise to solve their challenges in the best possible way. Getting you—that’s the secret to giving you the right container. Email us to arrange a short call with one of our experts to talk about your solution.

Flexcon’s precision container solutions are good medicine for pharmaceutical distributor.

Background:

Independent pharmacies across the country rely on Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) for their daily shipments of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. At times, the timely delivery of medicines is critical for patients. For RDC’s client base of independent pharmacies who are competing against giants like Walgreens and CVS, that means delivering to patients without delay—otherwise they’ll lose customers to the Rite-Aid right across the street.

To keep these clients supplied, they overnight thousands of shipments every day from a pair of highly automated facilities in NY and NJ. Totes play a critical role in the herculean feat that happens daily. Customers place their orders during the day up until 8 PM. Those orders get picked by workers and placed in totes as they are routed through the warehouses. Robotics handle the totes through a symphony of actions, navigating them up, down and around corners and then lidding, sealing, wrapping and labeling them. In operations like RDC’s, totes are often the most critical moving part: the machines are calibrated to their exact specifications and their ergonomics are directly tied to the productivity of the pickers.

For years, RDC had relied on the same supplier for their totes. The specifications were standardized, so when RDC’s tote stock dwindled or old totes needed to be replaced, they routinely reordered. The fact that the supplier also sold the same models to the industry’s largest distributors kept costs down. The routine worked well for RDC until the day the robots of Rochester revolted.

Challenge:

It happened right after a routine reorder of 1,000 totes was introduced into the production line. The destacking machines started to jam during the tense night shift. They’d work for five minutes and send out 15 or so totes, then jam. The team would clear the jam, restart the assembly line and the same thing would happen. Over and over that would happen 15, 20, 30, 50 times a night. Having reordered totes before without trouble, the team blamed the destacking machine.

After flying in a technician from the automation company and doing some detective work—including measuring the new totes—they discovered that the totes were a different size. When they approached the supplier about the size discrepancy, they learned that the supplier’s big customers had requested some changes to the container molds, which the supplier made without making fuss—or telling RDC.

Even though RDC was able to make some adjustments and make the totes work, the whole incident cost the company thousands of dollars in idle time, tech fees and nuisance costs while the unstandard totes gummed up the works and prevented orders from getting out.

RDC was in a bind with no control over the mold or standard totes that their system was calibrated for. They’d been able to dodge the bullet this time—but what would happen the next time the supplier changed the mold to satisfy their bigger customers?

That moment came sooner than they expected. On their very next order, RDC received a batch of totes that were too big to accommodate. The dimensions had changed too much and the destackers couldn’t be adjusted to work correctly. This second gaffe cost RDC $20,000 in worthless totes and wasted countless hours of labor and production time. Plus it left them dangerously short on containers, so sales had to scramble to collect empties from their clients and pay to have them couriered back.  

The tote fiasco put RDC’s client relationships and very business at risk. Pharmacies and patients were counting on shipments, and delays on the assembly line were threatening their ability to deliver on time. Strike two made it clear to the team that without creating their own standard container and controlling the mold so no one would ever change it, their business would never be safe—and neither would the pharmacies and patients who rely on them be.

Solution:

That was the point that RDC reached out to Flexcon. RDC was opening their second warehouse in Northern New Jersey and they decided to do their totes right from the get-go.

We helped RDC design their own tote and create a mold that they owned so there would never be a change without them knowing. No longer would they be at the mercy of bigger distributors who could dictate the standard tote dimensions with their supplier—and change them without notifying RDC! By controlling the precise dimensions of their containers, RDC would be able to maintain the necessary surplus of totes so they never ran out and they could ensure their totes worked with their sensitive robotics no matter how many times they reordered. They’d be set well into the future if they expanded or added a facility because the totes would be the same.

Flexcon designed the perfect container for RDC by taking the best features of their existing totes and looking at their needs anew. The end result was an efficient design with enhanced performance features that was perfectly calibrated to their robotics.

“Flexcon’s ability to provide the perfect container continues to ring true. From design to manufacturing to delivery, every part of the process was handled professionally and with the perfect solution for the customer always in mind.”

— Gary Ritzmann, Director of Operations, Rochester Drug Cooperative

Results:

CONTROL OF THEIR OWN MOLD. This has led to several successful reorders with no size discrepancies, saving RDC tens of thousands of dollars in hard costs, soft costs and nuisance costs.

MAXIMUM VALUE FOR THEIR INVESTMENT. By adding a few modifications for strength whether they were shipping or nesting, their totes will stay in service longer.

REDUCED TOTE NOISE BY 50-60%. By cambering off the sides a little bit more, we were able to prevent the totes from bouncing. When applied to the hundreds of totes in motion at once—the difference was significant.

OPTIMUM WEIGHT: achieved a balance of strength and economical weight to control shipping costs.

SYSTEMWIDE CALIBRATION: Totes designed to perform through all machinery from destackers and labelers to lidders and strappers.

WORKER SATISFACTION. Ergonomic design makes it easy to lift one tote or a stack of them. Little finger grips on the side make it easy to pick up properly without the danger of encountering a sharp edge. 

What’s next:

RDC is so pleased with the system of totes Flexcon developed for picking and shipping dry goods, that they engaged Flexcon to develop a system of refrigerated totes for shipping products that have to be kept at a constant temperature. These drugs are sensitive and can be expensive—up to $70,000-worth can be contained in a single tote. RDC stocks close to 500 refrigerated SKUs that can be in transit for up to 12-14 hours. The months-long design and testing project will produce totes that work efficiently alongside dry totes on conveyors and pallets while reducing the risk of spoilage.

How bending to one customer’s needs led to a breakthrough in stackable, collapsible totes.

Not long ago a customer came to us with a common space problem. Their stackable totes were taking over. Like most manufacturers, they need a ready supply of them, but the massive amount of them was crowding their workspace and taking up valuable real estate.

To make things worse, their business was at a tipping point where they needed every square foot they could get. If they continued to grow, they’d soon be out of space and need another building.

That was an expensive proposition, and one that drove our team to collaborate with them on a tote design that could satisfy their unique production needs while reducing the footprint of their staggering tote supply.

Moving to space-saving totes beats moving.

“The square-foot cost to construct new space ranges from about $80 for storage applications to $150 for a typical business operation.”
Industrial Safety & Hygiene News

They’d been considering molded collapsible totes but weren’t able to get the dimensions they wanted. Their optimal size of 22″ × 16″ × 13″ worked with their shelves, and it was their sweet spot ergonomically and in the way it held an efficient amount of their aluminum castings without getting too heavy.

The non-standard size wasn’t a problem for us. Our solution started with lightweight, durable and flexible corrugated plastic that provided the “bend” that enabled a unique hinged design. These features were topped off by patent-pending corner stacking lugs that are load-bearing. The special corners enable the totes to be stacked without damaging the contents—an important feature whether you’re shipping produce or storing computer chips.

The resulting design provided our client with the sturdy, stackable totes they needed. And it gave them the ability to collapse the containers down to 38″ × 13″ × 2″ when they weren’t needed.

The 29% reduction in footprint had an immediate impact on easing our client’s crowding problem and need for additional space, according to Senior Key Account Manager at Flexcon, Jason Grasso. The area saved can be used for assembly or other profit-generating activities.

In solving this client’s problem, Flexcon ended up resolving a universal one. “Stackable containers are notorious for wasting space when not in use. If they’re empty, they take up just as much room as when they’re full,” Flexcon’s President and CMO, Ken Beckerman explains. “Space is always a premium in any warehouse, in any facility. So, if you have some totes that will stack for you that you can break down and collapse to a quarter of the space, that’s a huge savings.”

Considering that commercial real estate rates continue to skyrocket, paying $5 per square foot in Chicago or $20 in NYC just to store totes makes less sense than ever. Every inch you save with a collapsible tote can help improve your return on real estate investment.

Flexcon’s Stackable Collapsible Totes have huge potential for reducing fleet costs, too. In areas like agriculture, the stackable totes could be used to protect the product during shipment and then compactly folded up to save space in trailers, thus reducing the number of return trips required.

As the goal of a closed loop becomes more and more widespread, a tote that saves in the warehouse as well as on the road provides opportunities for infinite industries and uses out there.

Talk to a Flexcon design specialist about how the benefits of stackable, collapsible totes could be bent and folded to fit the needs of your operation. Arrange a call to discuss your custom solution by emailing Jason Grasso at jasong@flexcontainer.com.

Influencer, inventor, innovator: Meet Flexcon’s Justin Beckerman

The future of materials handling is in good hands with the introduction of young, tech-savvy professionals like Justin Beckerman. This week, Flexcon Container of Berkley Heights, New Jersey officially tapped the 3rd generation Flexcon’er for a design and marketing role with the family-owned creator of plastic containers, pallets, bins and boxes.

No stranger to the family business, Justin has been a fixture around Flexcon since his toddling days. For over 20 years he’s sat at the knee of his product designer grandfather, Stephen Beckerman, and sales-leader father, Ken Beckerman. Over the years, Justin has had the opportunity to contribute to everything from design projects to Flexcon’s IT systems—he even single-handedly re-upped company communications following Superstorm Sandy.

Beckerman has been drawn toward invention and innovation from an early age. He once built his own blender and he created a functioning submarine at the age of 18—a feat that led to 27 dives and countless news features.

Most recently, he graduated from the renowned Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey where he studied business science. His move to full time role was a natural, according to Flexcon President and CMO, Ken Beckerman. “He brings with him an extensive knowledge of engineering and marketing and will add his innovation, outreach and design talents to our organization,” he says.

On Flexcon’s business side, Justin will initially focus on improving Flexcon’s marketing capabilities and speeding up quoting for clients.

On the product design side, he will be working on adding the ability for Flexcon to design and make rapid prototypes in-house for a faster turnaround on samples and models. Part of that endeavor involves building Flexcon’s 3D printer. With 18 cubic feet of build space, the large format printer is custom-built to quickly and easily make conceptual container and divider models for clients.

The man who builds printers, submarines and a never-ending stream of solar-powered and remote-controlled gadgets has ambitions that extend beyond invention to innovations that build on Flexcon’s business success. His years immersed in the company culture made him keenly aware of Flexcon’s devotion to meeting clients’ needs—in particular those of facilities managers and directors of distribution and logistics. “The goal is to make the container the easiest part of their job. So when they’re running a factory, warehouse or distribution center, they don’t have to worry too much about what containers they’re going to get and how the quality may be,” Justin says.

In addition to seeing his role in Flexcon’s proud history of innovative product design and customer care, Justin is cognizant of the significant behind-the-scenes role of container manufacturers like Flexcon. “Every industry relies on containers to play some essential role. Whether the trays for bakeries, mail totes for the U.S. Postal Service or containers for automation and ASRS systems,” he explains. “They’re a necessary part of every single industry from agriculture to biomedical.”

With his new position, Justin looks forward to applying his inventiveness and insights to the challenges of modern customers. “We want to be able to help people move and store and take care of their products in the most efficient way possible,” Justin explains. ”Not only making it easier for each person who’s buying from us, but make it easy for every person that touches one of these containers—whether that means making a handle that’s ergonomic, a container that’s aesthetically-pleasing or an automated tote that’s 25% quieter.”

In doing that, he has the support of generations past. “We are excited to have Justin with us full time as our Client Design & Solutions Specialist and look forward to seeing how he can make our customer-based focus even better,” Ken says.

3 generations of family-owned business: Justin, Stephen, and Ken Beckerman

Flexcon named as a ProMat 2019 Standout Exhibitor!

ProMat 2019 partnered with a trade show consulting firm to perform a TSE Gold 100 award winning Eᶾ Exhibiting Effectiveness Evaluation for exhibiting companies. The evaluators also looked for exhibits throughout the show that displayed imaginative, creative, and effective ideas and practices.

Flexcon’s booth was one of the exhibits that caught the eyes of the Eᶾ evaluation team and we were awarded the as one of the Standout Exhibits for Effective Visual Communications!

Flexcon totes in action

Our conveyor & ASRS totes come in more than 20 sizes (and any custom size) and are designed to work with virtually any conveyor, mini-load or ASRS system! These containers and trays are made form heavy duty plastic and capacities can range from 25 to 180 lbs.

Sizes range from 15 x 15″ all the way to 48 x 30” and heights up to 25″. Features can include smooth side walls, ESD materials and recessed barcode label areas. Flexcon’s ASRS tote line works with most inserter/extractor & conveyor systems and can be designed to meet most any deflection criteria.

• Made from heavy duty plastic
• Capacities from 25–180 lbs
• Sizes up to 48 × 30 x 25” 
• Available with smooth sides
• Designed to meet deflection criteria
• Work with most inserter/extractor and conveyor systems
• Perfect for ASRS, conveyor and mini-load systems
• Available with recessed label area to protect label. No tooling necessary!

ASRS Systems and Carousels – Corrugated Plastic Containers

conveyor-totesASRS and carousels are designed for efficient use of space and increased production in moving large amounts of products in and out. The economical use of space can be maximized even more by using plastic containers and totes that are custom build for ASRS systems.

Plastic storage bins made by Flexcon Container, for instance, helped a manufacturer increase storage capacity in its automated storage and retrieval units by more than 19 percent, according to an article in Modern Materials Handling.

Flexcon corrugated plastic bins, totes and containers are designed to optimize use of available cube in carousel systems, reducing wasted space, common with other options, by 15 to 20 percent.

asrstotes2Size and fit aren’t the only things to consider when picking containers for ASRS systems and carousels. Other items to consider are strength, impact resistance, and deflection. For these and other reasons, corrugated plastic containers are excellent candidates for ASRS systems and carousels, both vertical and horizontal.

Why choose corrugated plastic containers for ASRS systems and carousels?

Their benefits include:

  • Because they are more durable than molded plastic containers, they maximize space usage while minimizing damage to products during storage and handling. They hold up to the constant handling by robotic ASRS equipment and corrugated plastic containers resist tears and punctures.
  • Corrugated totes for ASRS systems lower costs as they last longer.
  • For custom sized and designed containers required for specialized applications, corrugated plastic containers offer the advantage of requiring less development time than molded plastic containers–since they don’t require creation of a mold. Likewise, corrugated plastic containers require less production time than molded plastic containers. Production time for molded plastic can be nearly five times longer.
  • They’re lightweight, contributing to efficiency of ASRS systems and help maximize pick rates.

In addition, the ASRS corrugated plastic containers made by Flexcon Container feature:

  • Pitched drain holes to prevent collapse of a storage and retrieval system in the event a sprinkler is set off.
  • Ergonomic design for more efficient operation of carousel systems.
  • Design that prevents parts migration.
  • Capability of being partitioned to meet changing parts storage needs.

To learn more about the benefits of corrugated plastic containers with your ASRS or carousel systems, call Flexcon today at 908-871-7000. Our container experts are ready to help you choose the best solutions for ASRS and carousel systems.

10 Features and Benefits of Reusable Plastic ASRS Totes, Bins and Trays

asrstotes3Automation improves material handling efficiency. No question about it.

But even the most sophisticated automated storage retrieval system, carousel, conveyor system or mini-load system will fall short of your expectations without totes, bins, trays and other containers that are designed for smooth, efficient handling.

Following are features and benefits of reusable plastic containers that are designed and made for optimal performance in automated material handling systems:

    1. Heavy-duty plastic construction. This is what it takes to stand up to constant, predictable, uninterrupted performance in a wide range of automated systems. They’re engineered to meet deflection criteria for your applications. And because they’re plastic, they resist damage from water, rust and corrosion.
    2. Reusable. Because they’re durable, plastic automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) totes can be reused countless times, preventing waste and promoting responsible use of resources, including your operational dollars. Plastic containers for automated material handling systems take the place of one-time use containers, which are subject to crushing (and product damage) in automated systems.
    3. asrstotes4Protective. Their strong construction protects the parts and products you move through your automated systems.
    4. Stackable and nestable.  These totes, trays and bins are designed to economize on space, vertically and horizontally. And they maximize on cube, to increase your material handling efficiency, so you can move the most product or components possible per unit of space.
    5. Available with adjustable dividers. This maximizes these containers’ versatility, effective space utilization and organization for efficient picking and packing operations.
    6. Versatile. They’re made to work with most automated inserter/extractor and conveyor systems.
    7. Made with smooth sides. This promotes smooth, seamless movement of containers through automated storage and retrieval systems.
    8. Available with recessed label section. This prevents labels from being damaged or removed in the course of daily use.
    9. ASRS TotesESD designed totes. These reusable plastic containers are specially designed to dissipate electrostatic charges, preventing damage to sensitive electronic devices and components.
    10. Textured bottoms. This design feature prevents slippage and improves a container’s performance on conveyors.
    11.  

      Flexcon makes heavy-duty plastic ASRS totes that work in most inserter/extractor and conveyor systems, with capacities of 25 to 180 pounds and sizes up to 48 × 30. Our standard ASRS containers are available in more than 20 sizes. And Flexcon can work with you to design custom sized ASRS bins and totes for your specific automated material handling applications.

      To learn more about our standard ASRS containers or to develop a custom solution for your needs, contact a Flexcon sales representative today.