Cowlitz Offers Specialty Die Cutting to Manufacturers

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Not all firms are created equal when providing die cutting equipment unique for your products.

When developing containers essential to the delivery of sensitive products, packaging firms nationwide are discovering the importance of hiring professionals whose expertise in die cutting puts them a cut above all competitors.

And some of the largest integrated packaging firms are now out-sourcing unique projects to specialty firms whose plant flexibility, engineering savvy, and unique packaging equipment make them a sure bet for getting the job done right.

Some firms with packaging needs may be unwitting victims of the general perception that the role of the die cutter is an easy and generic one. The reality is tool making is a challenging profession, a mixture of art and engineering, which belies such simplistic comparisons. And some firms have been hurt in the past by price wars that pitted knowledge against the unrealistic expectations of the buyer.

But all that may be changing as suppliers like Cowlitz Container & Die Cutting make inroads with special-needs companies, and even large integrated packaging firms that may be wise to out-source unique projects that their high-volume set-ups can't accommodate. Although it may appear that the larger firm is giving away business, in fact the opposite is true.    

Ralph Clark, vice president of Cowlitz Container & Die Cutting Inc., said integrated packaging outfits come to him to solve problems they don't have time to address. For example, a huge plant that pumps out tons of brown boxes for the moving industry isn't going to shut down its operation to run a 500-piece test for a client. Nor would it necessarily be nimble enough to process short, small volume, and quick runs. But Cowlitz is engineered to be flexible. So Cowlitz runs the quirky project, and the larger firm takes credit for makings its client happy. A happy client is a loyal client.

"It keeps their client in a single-source mindset: they'll keep coming back," Clark said. "We're seeing a lot more requests for quotations from larger firms."

Another key to success, Clark said, is material utilization. A veteran die cutter may save its client large sums of money by delivering an order using less material than expected. For example, Clark said his company cuts a lot of chipboard, often utilizing T-shaped blanks. By drawing on a combination of expert tool design and experience setting up the packaging equipment, Cowlitz recently cut material usage by 28 percent.

"It gets their attention when we get in there and care about the end result," he said.

Cowlitz has been providing services since 1971. Through the years, Cowlitz has diversified to offer a broad spectrum of capabilities customized to serve a multitude of industries. Services include but are not limited to laminating and sheeting, and cutting presentation folders that can be folded and glued at their 22,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. They also cut high impact plastics used in the graphic signage, medical OEM and auto industries.

Clark said he relishes the role of problem solver. And, even after decades of experience in die cutting, he believes each "crisis" is an opportunity to learn more about his profession. "I especially enjoy looking back over a project and analyzing what went well and what things should be looked at for next time," he said. "Of course it's nice to get paid for your efforts. But our focus is more on customer satisfaction. That's the real reward."

For more information, contact Cowlitz Container & Die Cutting Inc., 2228 Tally Way Kelso, WA 98626; 800-318-8748; or call Ralph Clark at 360-577-8748


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