DEARBORN, MICH. — Fed up with cost-cutting demands from his automaker customers, Hazen J. Carroll turned away from making car and truck trim parts six years ago to focus solely on packaging.
But that decision left him with a dilemma — how to keep his extrusion plant busy.
So Carroll, president of Dearborn-based Carroll Packaging Inc., sat down and sketched out a new product plan on a cocktail napkin. The result is a patented, extruded polyethylene tube used to protect finished car parts during shipping. The company now has a growing customer list for the product and proposals to expand into Europe and Mexico through joint ventures.
The privately held, 30-year-old business has about 60 employees and both a polystyrene vacuum forming operation and three PE extrusion lines producing dunnage for the auto industry.
The concept Carroll first roughed out is fairly simple, said sales representative Mike Miller. The extruded tubes are combined with in-house engineering to make pieces die-cut to customers' specific needs that hold finished pieces tightly in place during shipping.
A typical shipment may contain layers of three of the tubes inside a container — two pointing up and a third along the top, pointing down — to hold the parts secure, yet keep them separate and safe from scrapes and marring.
The tubes are both cheaper and easier to recycle than foam, provide additional protection from scratches and are lighter than metal, Carroll noted. PE also offers many molders the options of reusing a tube or recycling the PE in-house at the end of its travel.
"It's breathtaking in its simplicity," Miller said in a recent interview at the company.
The joint ventures Carroll Packaging is pursuing would give the company a chance to reach more customers and improve its geographic reach for existing customers, he said. Carroll expects to wrap up details of those international expansions this year.