Flexcon creates total container solution for leading cosmetics retailer’s latest DC.

Coming into a company and designing a complete container system gives us our greatest thrill at Flexcon.

So when consulting and engineering firm, Fortna, asked us to do a total container makeover for a world-leading cosmetic retailer’s new distribution center, we jumped at the chance.

The customer was an iconoclastic beauty brand known for doing things their own way. Head to toe perfection and coordination is an ethic they espouse in their products and services—as well as in their supply chain.

In creating their latest distribution center, they embraced the leading edge of automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) as well as worker-friendly processes. The result was a distribution center supply chain with uncommon attention to detail right down to the containers they chose.

Challenge: A company committed to flawless beauty demands a perfect container system.

Central to this cosmetic retailer’s brand is a fanatical commitment to its customers and employees. Containers play such a big role in so many processes and jobs employees do, that the company wanted containers that worked well in every function they performed: supporting efficiency, leveraging ergonomics and protecting products.

To achieve that, they needed a supplier who could understand and respond to their needs—and, as is always the case, they needed to contain costs. Challenge number one was creating a system of containers that maximized performance while minimizing the overall number of container types. By reducing the number of container types in a facility, an organization can control costs—not an easy feat when purchasing from multiple vendors.

Another challenge was creating a system that used standard sizes whenever possible. In doing so, the company could limit the expense of creating custom containers.

Solution: Perfection is the culmination of all the right features in just the right combination.

Bringing Flexcon in early in the planning process helped this company to design a system of containers and accessories that was meant for each other.

Flexcon met with Fortna and the customer to understand every container use and the unique function in each case. Working closely with the client enabled Flexcon’s team to provide containers that met individual needs and worked well together. “It’s really a way to make a positive impact on every person, process and product in a company,” explains Ken Beckerman, President and CMO of Flexcon. “Because containers are literally part of every aspect of business.”

The close collaboration also enabled the team to identify cases where one container model could do the work of multiple containers. By looking for efficiencies in this way, Flexcon was able to reduce the number of container-types the customer thought they needed, saving them money without sacrificing performance.

The work was complex, but the solution Flexcon’s team provided was vastly simplified. Flexcon’s systemwide view and understanding of the company’s operations mitigated the risk of miscommunication and mistakes. Teaming up with Flexcon came with the added benefit of working with one point of contact and source of accountability. Flexcon was part of the process and a partner in ensuring the company received their deliverables in time to meet their deadline.

Deliverables: Flexcon provided the total package in-house.

  • 7,000 attached-lid containers used throughout the factory when picking orders and also when shipping to and from retail stores
  • 90,000 molded shelf bins specially selected to fit the customers’ products perfectly while also maximizing the cube utilization of their shelving
  • 5,000 stackable, nestable containers used for order picking, conveying and as a buffer
  • 20,000 custom nestable, hopper-front reinforced corrugated plastic containers designed specifically to fit carts and shelving

Benefits: When containers integrate and anticipate, it’s a beautiful thing.

Flexcon’s consultative approach and full service capabilities enabled the team to see the customer’s big picture and design a solution of containers for them that excels in every instance: on dollies, in the pick line, while storing, over conveyors, during sortation and with ASRS.

“Flexcon is one of the only, if not the only, container manufacturer that can provide a comprehensive, integrated solution under one roof that includes standard models, custom designs and all the complementary tools that optimize a container chain like pallets, dividers, lids and carts,” Beckerman explains.

Experienced project management enabled Flexcon to hit a hard deadline that will have the facility online in time for its peak season. Flexcon’s established process of listening for details, guiding through expertise and responding throughout the approval phase kept the process rolling like an assembly line. “Our job really is to make containers the easiest part of the job. It’s what we’re there for,” Beckerman says.

By bringing Flexcon in early, the team was able to spec the best solutions in the most economical way. “By having us involved throughout, we could address challenges on the fly. For example, when a mysterious odor caused concern, we were there to explain where it came from and how it would fade in time,” Beckerman recounts. “And when the fire marshal had questions about flammability and footprints, we were there to provide answers.”

Conclusion: Perfection comes from attending to every little detail.

Flexcon’s commitment helped the cosmetics retailer realize the full benefits of an optimized container solution. We also had the expansive product line to make it work. That includes dividers that enable efficient work and protect products, dollies that fit containers snugly, plastic pallets made for the containers they hold and more. Our extensive product line and expertise enabled us to provide for every need in the best possible way. It was a beautiful thing—just the way the customer wanted it.

What would the perfect container solution look like for your company? Set up a call to find out.

Meet Flexcon’s Container Avenger During COVID

At the beginning of Marvel’s, Avengers: Endgame, the Avengers are in a sorry state. Iron Man is lost in space, Hulk and Thor are planet-hopping while Hawkeye and Antman are nowhere to be found. The whole team is in in disarray with the exception of Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. Despite her lethal skills and penchant for adventure, she elects to hang back and hold things together at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.

During the early days of COVID, Flexcon had its own hero back at HQ—JZ, aka Joyce Zarro. While our entire team was locked down at home, she was our Captain Continuity, a facemasked fixture who kept coming into headquarters every day to attend to all the little things that make a big difference in running the business and serving our customers.

She was the backup to our backup plan.

In addition to her real job in customer service, JZ handled all the things often taken for granted and impossible to accomplish from home. That included measuring samples and taking pictures of prototypes for engineering. She wore the IT cape by rebooting office computers when employees’ VPN lines went down. Day after day, JZ was the one who paid the invoices, received the deliveries, listened to voicemail, checked email and opened the postal mail—all the things that enabled our people at home to fight on.

It’s easy to overlook all the things that absolutely, have to get done to run a business, but can only be accomplished in person. JZ handled them all during the difficult period when everyone was still trying to figure out basic protocols and scrambling to set up remotely.

Personal commitment makes virtual work.

Without JZ, the rest of the Flexcon team simply couldn’t have done their jobs. As many businesses have learned during the days of work from home, the 2% of things that can’t be done remotely are the ones no company can’t operate without. As a result of JZ filling that gap tirelessly, the rest of the company has been able provide for customers seamlessly. Here are a few of the things we’ve been able to accomplish that couldn’t have been done without our Container Avenger back at headquarters:

New laser makes dividers faster and better

Well-designed divider systems save workers time. But making them takes time. The new laser increases production capability 40%—so you can divide and conquer faster.

ASRS bins for a futuristic fitness and lifestyle brand

We can’t tell you the name of the client. We can tell you they’re one of the hottest names in athletic wear. Their distribution center is state-of-the-art everything. Our automatic storage and retrieval system (ASRS) bins will fit right in.

Getting the vote out with ballot gathering boxes

It may have been the most rigorous test in our container history, but our corrugated plastic ballot gathering boxes passed election scrutiny. They will soon be put to use in Florida to secure paper ballots used in their election process.

Cosmetic company gets a container makeover

It’s a rare treat to design a complete container system for a major distribution center. Soon 120,000 Flexcon containers, dividers, plastic pallets, and accessories will be on the job storing, moving and shipping products while maximizing productivity and efficiency.

Military-grade containers delivered

We were honored to help our armed forces. It was a classified project. That’s all we can say, and we promised not to say any more.

Website redesign to help customers find the most perfect container

10-times the information and a million times more searchable. We know how overwhelming finding the perfect container can be, and our soon-to-be-launched site will make it easier than ever before to find the exact details you need.

As restrictions ease up and Flexcon’s employees trickle back in to work, JZ is happy to be focusing on heroics of another kind in her old job. Perfect containers start and finish with perfect customer service, and when it comes to that, JZ will always be a super hero. See for yourself on your next project.

How the perfect container can help optimize your supply chain.

The COVID-19 crisis is making everyone think differently about supply chains these days. From the C suite to main street, people have been reminded of the importance of a robust and secure flow of goods. As the immediate considerations get worked out and the toilet paper returns to our shelves, companies are moving from recovery mode to planning for the long term.

In the past week the Wall Street Journal stated that the upheaval from the pandemic is pushing businesses to retool their supply chains.

And the World Economic Forum wrote this month, “Future supply chains will need to begin factoring resilience and adaptability into their calculations.”

These developments have the team at Flexcon thinking about the role of containers in creating resilient, adaptable, safe, sustainable—and always efficient and cost effective—supply chains.

If you’re in the process of retooling your systems and processes, consider these ways that the perfect container can support your success.

Nestable or collapsible containers can lower transportation costs.

Totes and bins that can be compacted together support efficient return processes. They enable you to ship more empties in less truckloads when the empties are shipped back to you. “It’s expensive to haul air and store air,” points out Ken Beckerman, President and CMO of Flexcon.

Plastic totes and bins boost your sustainability.

Single-use cardboard crates and boxes are costly to your supply chain as well as to the environment. They’re a poor value that packs significant disposal costs. In contrast, plastic, reusable containers can be washed and reused many times.

Intelligent tote design can help contain damage costs.

Plastic containers lower supply chain costs by protecting perishables and sensitive products better than cardboard. Moisture weakens cardboard boxes and makes produce, sensitive parts and fragile products vulnerable to crushing. Flexcon plastic containers resist water damage and can provide added protection for specific products using dividers and more. For electronics, special features to prevent electrostatic damage are often employed.

Efficient totes support high performance pick and pack.

With ecommerce on the rise, the spotlight is on aiding the speed and accuracy of employees on the pick line while ensuring their safety. The right totes can support faster picking through better organization features like color coding and divider systems that decrease lead times—the time it takes to grab parts or products. Smart designs take ergonomics into account to reduce fatigue and repetitive stress.

Totes that last provide a lasting value.

It would be hard to find a link in the supply chain that didn’t rely on bins and boxes. When containers fail, they weaken the backbones of operations. This can lead to disruptions and shortages that affect production. It’s important to choose containers that won’t break or be susceptible to damage that jams Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) or causes injury. This is where Flexcon’s experience proves invaluable. Our containers ensure resilience and ROI through proven designs and a proprietary plastic resin that’s formulated to last.

Containers contribute to your supply chain’s agility.

Because of all the possible settings and uses for containers, it’s important to choose a design with cross-functionality. Will it be carried? Conveyored? Palletized? Will it be used on a pick line or end up in a retail environment? By thinking through all the possible uses, it’s possible to choose containers that excel throughout the supply chain and are adaptable to your changing needs. That can reduce your need for new containers and promote efficiency in every use case.

Make the most of automation.

The quarantine left many manufacturers shorthanded and gave ASRS the opportunity to shine. If you’re thinking about integrating ASRS into your operations, be sure and consider your containers sooner rather than later. The right container is precisely created for ASRS with a proven design that promotes continuous production by anticipating things like accumulation pressure that can cause poorly designed containers to pop up and stop production, damaging products and causing injuries in some cases.

A simplified container system helps streamline operations.

Complex manufacturing or distribution settings can require containers for dozens if not hundreds of uses. While it’s important to have the best, most efficient container for each purpose, it’s not always necessary to have a unique container for every usage. Minimizing the number of configurations reduces headaches caused by searching for the right container plus all the storing and sorting hassles. Part of Flexcon’s role is often devising standardized and simplified systems that reduce the number of containers required. In one recent case, Flexcon was able to reduce a client’s request for 200 containers down to 5 core container configurations that could be adapted for each use.   

Make your containers part of your fully optimized supply chain.

Considering that containers touch just about every link in supply chains in some way, it’s not surprising that they can play a significant role in improving them. Taking a holistic approach can help. Toward that end, getting an outside perspective can prove invaluable. In recent years, container consultation has become an unofficial niche for Flexcon. “Oftentimes in the course of a client engagement we’ll see ways to improve a customer’s system that will make material handling easier,” Beckerman explains. “As we go through the process, they often get excited when they realize the value we’re adding.”

Ready to consider the potential of your container chain?

If you’re retooling your supply chain, make sure you leverage the many benefits that the perfect container can bring. Contact us for your free container chain consultation.

Flexcon supplies medical containers to field hospital at Chicago’s McCormick Place during pandemic.

For Ken Beckerman, it all came down to one picture of McCormick Place, Chicago’s expansive convention space, wall to wall with hundreds of makeshift hospital rooms constructed to meet the expected wave of corona virus patients. With it was a thank you letter emailed from a customer he’d never met for a container delivery he’d almost forgotten.

The experience provided a nice lift during these days of social distancing and came as a complete surprise. You see, weeks earlier, the McCormick Place containers were just another order with odd specs, a pinched timeline and an unidentifiable buyer. The fact that the containers would play a part in something this significant never occurred to him. And even if it had, it might not have changed anything.

Over the past weeks of the pandemic, Flexcon has responded to corona virus-related requests and regular ongoing requests with commitment. Team members are focused on getting the job done, and in many ways the current environment is giving the company a chance to do what they do best. “We get excited about a challenge, and we love to come through for people,” says Ken Beckerman, President and CMO of Flexcon. “A lot of times we don’t even know if our orders are corona virus-related. A lot of it is indirect. We’re just focused on keeping customers going efficiently and safely and keeping supply chains moving.”

How we’re contributing

Some of the projects that are known to be supporting COVID-19 prevention and response efforts include providing hundreds of bins in varying sizes to the field hospital that was set up in Chicago’s McCormick Place. The color-coded containers were created on a rush basis and delivered to Becton, Dickinson and Company—the end-client on the project.

Flexcon also provided containers for vials and laboratory equipment used in support of Medtronic’s work making critical, lifesaving products to treat COVID-19 conditions.

Abbott Labs, a company on the leading edge of creating rapid tests for the corona virus, ordered specialized containers related to their operations during the pandemic. On an accelerated timeline, Flexcon designed and prototyped models to meet the customer’s specific requirements.

Flexcon is also doing a project for an automation company that works with Amazon in Europe. As an example of the times, it is not known what the containers will be used for, but it is COVID-19 related and the need is urgent.

Providing stress-relief is a key service attribute in these days of pandemic, and Flexcon is stepping up. “Medical companies have a lot of things to think about. We’re relieving them of one major part of their jobs that they’d have to manage, monitor and stress about. We’re taking that off their plate so they can focus on other things,” Beckerman explains.

Continuity during crisis

Maintaining continuity during crisis is a hard-won trait for Flexcon. Their experience during Superstorm Sandy made the company conscious of the need to be prepared to serve customers continuously in the event of any natural disaster or economic disruption. During that event, Flexcon went without services for two weeks.

In the time since, the company has installed Virtual Private Networks (VPN) for all of its employees, which has enabled them to work from home without interruption. Additionally, they have dispersed container production among a dozen facilities. As a result, the company has remained fully operational during the current crisis.

Keeping things moving

That continuity has benefitted Flexcon’s non-medical customers as well during the pandemic. The need for help finding the right container or right solution for transportation has not slowed down. Customers building distribution centers have schedules that rely on the totes, bins and plastic pallets Flexcon provides. So far during the current crisis, Flexcon has been able to continue supporting them. “No one wants to be held up,” Beckerman says. “We’re a small piece of a big puzzle and if we don’t do our part, the puzzle can’t be completed.”

Business as usual has been business as unusual of late. Flexcon has had to institute all of the protective protocols to continue work in onsite locations. In order to meet spacing requirements, the company has adapted by adding shifts rather than crowding team members together.

No matter what the coming weeks of the COVID-19 crisis look like, Flexcon is committed to providing customers with the containers, and continuity, they need. “We just continue to do what we do to help make today’s medical and economic challenges a non-issue for our customers so they can get what they need when they need it,” Beckerman says.

Top Takeaways from Modex 2020

Talk of the Floor: How to Help in Times of Crisis

The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 occupied the thoughts of show-goers. Many we met agreed that material handling will be key to distribution centers and warehouses during possible shutdowns and national emergency situations. Material handling can play an important role in helping relieve supply chain issues and by making the convenience services they provide businesses easier to obtain.

Rapid Prototype Is a Fast Favorite

Flexcon debuted its rapid prototype system at Modex—the first of its kind at the show. It was no puppy (see below) but many visitors to the Flexcon booth said that seeing the system in action was a highlight of the show. In addition to being fascinating to watch, the technology allows all the parties involved in production—customers, integrators, automation suppliers and Flexcon team members—a precision prototype to test and review prior to production. Since its introduction, Flexcon’s rework-reissue rate has dropped from 2% to 0%.

Forklifts and Pallets for the Future

Even standards like these are open to improvement. Automated and hand-controlled unmanned forklifts present new options for easier and more efficient pallet movements. Even pallets are receiving a modernizing makeover; APR unveiled these metal pallets available in custom sizes.

Count on Material Handlers to Make the Best of Any Situation

Mysterious container pyramids appeared in vacant exhibitor booths around the show, courtesy of Flexcon’s merry pranksters. Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost was also on hand to preside over the MHI industry night. He quipped that he had no idea what Modex was, and only showed up because he thought it was the name of a vaccine.

Robots Part I: Amazon’s Monopoly on Robotics Gets Modex’d

While Amazon has been the front-runner in this field, they have kept most of their advances to themselves. Thankfully, numerous companies have stepped in to fill the void. Many of their autonomous robots and other automated systems were on display at Modex this year.

Robots Part II: Robots Stepping Up

Exhibitors powered up the case for the advantages of automation at Modex 2020. Robotics continues to be the trend for an increasing variety of uses from moving product alone to moving complete shelves loaded with products. The show featured reactive robots that receive orders from a WMS and instantly dispatch to carry them out. We also manufacturers juicing the speed of the latest evolutions of AS/RS and automatic picking systems.

Robots Part III: Relief for Today’s Labor Shortage and more

Robots are doing more—but they’re also doing more for their human coworkers. Models at Modex demonstrated safety benefits, as they can support heavy loads and pose no risk of injury to human operators. Many have advanced sensors to prevent them from colliding with people. Their suitability for menial, repetitive work also reduces the physical and mental load on human operators, who can be moved to other tasks.

Award for Best Tradeshow Giveaway: Puppy Love

The floor-weary and sleep-deprived had a chance to escape and unwind at Bastian Solutions’ Puppy Lounge. Funny how therapeutic petting a dog can be. (Maybe that’s why they call it puppy power.)

Introducing the first fully-integrated ASRS tote solution

Totes are the backbone of your automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). If you stop and think about it, everything in your production and your supply chain is riding on them.

That understanding led Flexcon to take a holistic approach in developing the first fully-integrated ASRS tote system.

Now you can get a system of totes, plastic pallets, dividers, dollies, placards, barcoding solutions and pallet caps designed to work together, with your technology and your entire operation—precisely and efficiently.

When your totes and your ASRS aren’t in sync, it’s a disaster. Small design mistakes can lead to system crashes, lengthy downtime, production delays and all the related labor expenses. If you have to call a technician to straighten things out, you’re in for another round of costs. And if you end up having to replace your totes, it’s sure to cost you a bundle.

When your totes don’t function well in other settings, you’re in for another set of downsides altogether. If your totes aren’t ergonomic, they can cause repetitive stress injuries. If they stack poorly, they will waste valuable storage space. If they are the wrong size or dimension, they might not palletize perfectly or stack right on dollies.

Totes often have to perform many functions in many different settings. When they perform poorly, they can harm efficiency, expose products to damage, create unsafe conditions and annoy employees.

Flexcon helps you nip these negatives in before they can hurt you. We tailor a complete tote solution to your ASRS, your business and your supply chain. We consider every touchpoint from end-to-end and create an integrated system of products just for your unique set-up. We design your totes and dividers at the same time as your plastic pallets, dollies and pallet caps. That way they fit together and work well together. We anticipate your barcodes and placards—so you don’t have to go back and do it later.

The result is a tote system that is fully optimized for all uses. You get totes that are right for your ASRS system and that leverage opportunities to improve efficiency and quality throughout your supply chain. It leads to totes that perform as well on your conveyors as they do on pallets, in pick and pack stations, while being dollied, throughout shipping and while they’re being stored.

Flexcon’s family of ASRS products was inspired by our experience designing totes for some of the world’s leading brands and most advanced ASRS. We’ve learned the importance of understanding each client’s operations and business, as well as its technology. We’ve also developed an eye for insights that informs our designs and leads to perfect tote solutions for our clients’ needs.

By taking a holistic approach to tote solutions, you can avoid a potentially frustrating and expensive learning curve during implementation. Addressing pallets, dollies, dividers and all the other details at the same time as your totes saves time, delivers ideal solutions and helps you avoid making compromises after the fact. By developing a tote solution designed for your specific technology and end-to-end efficiency, you can uncover the true potential of your ASRS.

Request a call with one of our container experts about your ASRS implementation or optimization—and learn all the ways that your totes can integrate with your operations better.

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

Behind many innovative and successful companies, you’ll often find that one pragmatic player or employee whose role it is to ask questions, catch mistakes and push for excellence.

Flexcon’s Director of Engineering, Terry Madsen, 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 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 meant 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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.