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Indiana box makers boost production as home deliveries soar

DS Smith operates a 550K square foot plant in Lebanon, IN. (photo provided)

LEBANON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Explosive growth in e-commerce has put pressure on corrugated box makers to increase output, including a new plant in Boone County.

DS Smith, based in the United Kingdom, has added a second shift of workers at its Lebanon plant to keep up with demand, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m very pleased with how we responded,” says David McCracken, regional general manager for DS Smith. “This has been a difficult time for everyone, life-altering for many.”

With many brick and mortar stores closed, many retailers have turned to e-commerce to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic

“Our e-commerce customers are ordering three times the number of boxes they used to order. With all the people at home and stores closed, e-commerce has really taken off,” says McCracken.

Most corrugated packaging companies are considered essential business as they are part of the supply chain, getting food and medical supplies from manufacturers to grocery stores and pharmacies.

DS Smith says about 80% of its North America packaging business is declared essential.

McCracken says some of the customers are companies that are rapidly changing their product mix by creating new packaging and designs that enable efficient delivery to market, especially to healthcare workers and first responders.

“We found even the mix of business we currently serve has changed substantially. Some of our customers have adjusted their production. Instead of producing normal products, they’re making hand sanitizer and products to fight COVID,” explains McCracken.

McCracken says his design team at the Lebanon plant has fast-tracked design work to develop new packaging to handle changing product lines for clients.

“And, we’re manufacturing boxes quickly to be able to supply the product for those new products,” says McCracken.

McCracken says the plant currently employs 100 workers with plans to hire an additional 70-80 people by this fall as additional manufacturing equipment gets installed in the new facility.

The global packaging company just opened the new 550,000-square-foot plant in Lebanon in January. It operates 15 other plants in the U.S., mostly along the east coast.

The Lebanon plant can produce 17 million square feet of corrugated packaging a day.

DS Smith General Manager David McCracken explains to Inside INdiana Business some of the production adjustments the company had to make.