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ABOX Packaging

By AICC Staff

July 30, 2018


ABOX President and CEO Keith Thompson isn’t kidding when he says the company’s culture sets them apart from others.

They are a company, Thompson promises, that is committed to not only doing the right things, but to doing them the right way. They’re a company that is creative in its commitment to its employees and active in giving back to its community.

They express this in monthly programs, in taking care of their employees, and in philanthropic projects at every level.

Pylar Pinkston, director of sales and marketing, explains how some of ABOX’s many programs work.

The Texas company has a fish program, inspired by an East Coast fishing company that wanted to motivate workers who had less-than-glamorous jobs. It is a program that puts fish boxes around the plant, and when anyone sees someone do something extraordinary or above and beyond normal expectations, they are rewarded with a fish card, which is a way of thanking or recognizing them.

“We try to encourage employees to rise to their potential and basically be better than what they think they are,” Pinkston says. “Once a month, we have a drawing from the fish card program, and that employee is awarded with a prize and employee-of-the-month recognition. At the end of the year, all those employees that were employee of the month are thrown into a drawing for employee of the year.”

They also have a RISE program that is different each month. The human resources (HR) department consults with management about what skills or areas need focus, and they work toward improvement in those areas. It might be something like recognizing those who have perfect attendance for a month, or it might be a monthlong training on something like food-safe box handling with weekly tests, study sessions, and a final recognition of those who score high on the exam.

“Our HR department gets credit for organizing it and for the facilitation to make it work,” Pinkston says. “Each month is a different focus on something that will impact the company, but impact the people as well. In rewarding the employees for doing something like that, it helps them.”

The rewards each month can vary from prizes to lunches where management serves the winning employees. One program gave the winner a manager’s parking spot for a week, and that manager used the employee’s parking spot.

“The culture from top to bottom is that we all may have different positions, but we are all the same, and every one of us is important,” Pinkston says. “We try to make sure that even though this person may have this position, that doesn’t mean you are less important or even more important. Keith himself has been out on the floor and operating machinery if there is a need. We all do that.”

ABOX is also committed to philanthropy and practices it at every level, from donating services and money to encouraging employees to donate their time. When they purchased their new building in 2016, it had been a sports complex. Before they refurbished it for their use as a manufacturing plant, they had the basketball floor lifted out and installed in another location for a local youth organization.

Their website tells visitors that they are a team and a family that believes in excellence, supporting their community and having some fun.

“That is why we support our local hospital, school district, and chamber of commerce, along with just about every kid-based activity that can be found in the area,” Pinkston says.

She adds that philanthropy from the top didn’t used to affect the employees as much as they wanted. They might share thank-you notes or have thank-you lunches for the employees, but she says ABOX wanted to encourage them to give as well.

“There is no greater joy than the satisfaction of giving yourself,” Pinkston says.

So, they set up a program in which an employee can choose to volunteer at a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and for every hour that they donate their time or service, ABOX will match that hour, up to eight hours a quarter, in paid time off.

“So, they are getting the reward of going and volunteering on their time off, after hours, and on weekends, but they get eight hours’ worth of a reward from ABOX for being able to do that,” Pinkston says. “What we have found is that some employees don’t even turn in their hours because they are so involved in whatever their charity is. It has touched their lives.”

In addition to the structured programs, ABOX lets employees know they care about them on a personal level. If they have an issue, they can come to management for help.

“We have helped with utility bills, with getting tires for a vehicle, helping an employee whose house burned down,” Pinkston says. “The employees know that we care. If they fall on a hardship and are in need of something, they know we are there for them.”

ABOX was founded in 1975, and the current family purchased it in 2004. Since then, Pinkston says, they have grown more than 600 percent and have gone from 40 employees to 125. Until recently, they had operated out of five different buildings, most of them leased. They then had the opportunity to purchase a large sports complex, something that was kept quiet for a while because the seller didn’t want the community to know until the deal was final.

It was to be a big move for ABOX, not just because they were consolidating their operations so people would be working in the same building, but there were also a lot of nice upgrades—including air conditioning, which was something the Texas company didn’t have before—that would benefit the employees.

The company planned a special event to unveil the news. They told all employees to meet at one building at 8 a.m. and to dress casually for a day of corporate training. They all piled onto buses with assigned seats so they could get to know people they didn’t usually work with. When they arrived, the building read “sports complex” on the outside, and they all gathered on the basketball court, where tables were set up representing different areas of the company.

“You may have the press area at one table and the folder-gluers at another,” says Pinkston. “They threw basketballs to each other. Then we unveiled the new logo and made the announcement that we weren’t doing corporate training, but this was their new home. They all got T-shirts with the new logos. When everyone was on the court, we talked about efficiencies of all being under one roof.”

They started moving people in April 2017, and by May, they were all in their new building. They try to own all their equipment and have everything they do be controlled in-house and not jobbed out to others, so they can control client expectations and their own timelines. They make their own production dies and purchase equipment that will keep ABOX on the cutting edge.

“Whatever is needed,” Pinkston says, “ABOX can provide that for its customer.”

Texas-Sized Capabilities

width=300A family-owned Texas business, ABOX works hard to be on the cutting edge with machinery that lets them meet all of their customers’ needs.

Part of achieving this goal was the purchase of an HP Indigo 30000, a digital folding carton press that provides high-margin opportunities for such things as metalized, board, and synthetic media; security applications; and embellishment capabilities.

ABOX was the seventh company in North America to buy one, and they did so after a lot of research and a fair amount of traveling. They saw the equipment in action in Georgia at the HP demonstration center, and then they went to Israel and visited plants and their R&D departments.

“They were one of the few that made such inroads with that particular technology,” says Pylar Pinkston, director of sales and marketing. “We knew that the digital technology is the revolution for the industry—that is where printing is going.”

It arrived in 2016, set up in its own building that had proper climate and humidity control. It is about five minutes from where their new building is that they moved into in 2017.

“It has let all of our existing customers and prospects know what the new technology and new capability is able to do for them,” Pinkston says. “We have been able to secure business that we would not have gotten before because of the capabilities of digital.”

What are some of its capabilities? It uses liquid electrophotography (LEP) technology with minute ink particles. The color gamut allows for white, CMYK, or an HP IndiChrome’s six- or seven-color process. All color separations are transferred in a single pass, including on heat-sensitive materials. It is compliant with food packaging printing regulations and meets both FDA and EU regulations for food contact materials, allowing for safe and compliant printing of primary food packaging. It is possible to print up to 60 different jobs per shift with automatic and immediate switching from one job to another. It can reach a speed of up to 4,600 full-color sheets per hour. It has a 29-inch by 20-inch format.

Pinkston says the technology also lets them reach out to brands that want to set themselves apart. One example she gives is that of embedded link technology in which an invisible QR code is put on a box that allows people to scan it and pull up a video or help protect against counterfeiting, which is especially useful in the cosmetics industry.

It also, she says, has mosaic and variable data that lets you personalize printing. She gives the example of the “Share a Coke” program that put different names on the Coke bottle labels. It is the mosaic capabilities that allow you to do that.

“You can have different names and run it at the same time,” says Pinkston. “The computer does all the variable data and variety of colors. You can do printing where, for holiday specials, each box can have a different look.”

width=150Virginia Humphrey is director of membership and marketing at AICC. She can be reached at 703-535-1383 or