Orbis Corp.'s entire business is based on the manufacture of reusable plastic packaging, but the company wants to take that reuse concept a step further.
The subsidiary of Menasha Corp. is working to increase the amount of recycled plastic used in its products that include pallets, containers, totes, trays and cases.
It's all part of a larger sustainability push at both Orbis and Menasha, according to Norm Kukuk, vice president of marketing at Orbis, based in Oconomowoc, Wis.
“There is a big part of Orbis and our parent company Menasha that sustainability is important for us as a private, family-owned company,” he said.
That includes the use of recycled plastics in its new products when appropriate.
It's an approach that can help out with raw material supply as well as customer costs, Kukuk said.
Plus, he said, the idea of reusing plastic to make new reusable plastic products just works.
“When you look at material, where there's times throughout the year or in past years where material supply has been an issue,” Kukuk said, “ ... having this off prime [recycled plastic] allows us opportunities to help balance what we can get in virgin vs. having an alternative material with the off prime, the regrind.”
Buying back used plastic pallets and containers from customers also helps when determining the true cost of reusable products.
“It is a benefit that a lot of times customers won't include into their payback model, their benefit model, that should be, and is a good opportunity for them to get some money back towards a new product or just some cash back in general for that material,” Kukuk said.
While Orbis works to recapture plastic used in products that the company makes, the firm also buys recycled plastics from other sources.
Orbis has established a laboratory at its location in Menasha, Wis., that can test recycled plastic to determine its properties and best reuse.
The company also tests finished goods with recycled content.
“What we do is we will test all of our products. If we have 25 percent regrind in a product, it has to perform at the same level as a product made out of virgin material. So we always make sure that we have that right equation,” Kukuk said.
Educating customers about end-of-life recycling options is a process. “If you are done with it and need to find a home for it, we'll take it back and make new products out of it for you,” he said. “We want customers to be more aware. We need to figure out how to build that awareness around to get that material, that end-of-life usable product.”
Orbis, meanwhile, also is placing an emphasis on creating new products to help smaller format stores that are becoming more and more popular around the country.
These dollar, convenience and drug store-type operations, for example, typically have more limited areas to receive shipments when compared to their big box competitors.
“There's enough of those kinds of outfits that they have critical mass,” Kukuk said.
“A lot of those outfits, they don't have the back dock doors and the large entryways that the bigger boxes will. And they will often use the same doors as the consumers will use, the front doors, to get product in and out. To do that, historically, it's been a longer unload cycle,” he said.
So Orbis is out with smaller size pallets and pallet-dolly combinations aimed specifically at helping employees more easily get merchandise from delivery trucks to store floors.
Orbis has created what it calls a “pally” — a pallet-dolly hybrid — that allows merchandise to be moved directly from the truck and into the store floor for immediate display. That cuts down on unloading time.
The company also created smaller pallets, compared with the typical 40-inch-by-48-inch unit, which will more easily fit through smaller doors at these smaller stores, Kukuk said. These 42-inch-by-30-inch units will fit through standard front doors and can help cut time by eliminating the need to unload trucks by hand.
Such an approach not only cuts down on employee time, but also the amount of time a delivery truck driver spends at each stop. Less time at each store means more stops for a driver on the route, Kukuk said.
“How can we best use their time and the amount of time they are at one store?” he said. “How do we get them to a store, unload, and on to the next store as quickly and safely as possible?”