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Custom Packaging

By AICC Staff

April 2, 2018


It’s a year to celebrate for Custom Packaging, and they’re going to be pulling out all the stops.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of this family-owned, two-plant independent corrugated company, founded in 1968 with a 20,000-square-foot building in Lebanon, Tenn. Since then, they’ve expanded that building seven times and, in 1971, bought a second building in Arden, N.C., which has expanded four times. Their Tennessee plant is a little more than 200,000 square feet, and their North Carolina plant is around 150,000 square feet. Total employment is approximately 180 employees in both plants.

Custom Packaging will celebrate 50 years with an open house on June 9 with food, entertainment, and speakers. They are making sure their commemorative celebrations involve looking forward as well as looking back, according to Denny Lemon, the company’s chief operating officer (COO). They are excited about their future. This year, they’ve purchased and installed the Bobst 1636NT and a digital high-speed six-color Barberán Jetmaster 1680. These machines are taking them into the next phase of their story and being designated as 50th anniversary machines. They will both display the specially designed 50th anniversary logo.

From Then to Now

Custom Packaging was founded by three gentlemen: Dick Lindsey, Bob Werckle, and Lawrence West. All had worked for Container Corp. With finance, sales, and production as each founder’s respective strong point, they were off like a tidal wave. Pinpointing an old biscuit factory in Lebanon, Tenn., they dug in and transformed it into Custom Packaging.

The two locations operate autonomously, according to Lemon. The Tennessee plant serves as the corporate headquarters with the bulk of the accounting and administration, but each plant has its own design capability, full production, and customer service.

At its founding, Custom Packaging was primarily industrial packaging—the traditional brown box. In 1988, they purchased a three-color Ward that moved Custom Packaging into the display and graphic business.

“Clearly this was a significant milestone for the company that really accelerated our growth,” Lemon says. “To this day, graphic and display products represent the largest segment of our mix.”

Custom Packaging has a wide array of equipment designed to serve whatever customer needs come their way. They’ve made large capital investments in equipment.

Custom Packaging Now

“If you’re looking at our business overall,” says Lemon, “we serve all customers from graphics, displays to brown box.”


Custom Packaging’s Lebanon, Tenn. plant employs more than 120 people.

As they’ve grown, they’ve come to serve a diverse customer base across industry segments, including manufacturing, services, and wholesale trade. Lemon says if you walk into a large national retailer and see a point-of-purchase display for DVD’s, Custom Packaging likely manufactured it.

“You’re probably looking at 60 percent of our overall footage through the plant serves a broad base of manufacturing, and then another 25 percent goes into businesses that are service-related, with the 15 percent balance in wholesale trade and other segments.”

It isn’t, however, just the machines that make Custom Packaging what it is. Lemon says it is also their people, the culture, the work ethic, and the processes that have made them successful and contribute to their uniqueness.

“We have an incredibly strong work-ethic culture,” Lemon says. “People are focused on customers. Everyone has to respond to our customer needs. We figure out ways to be flexible and responsive. It is all about putting the customers first.”


Point-of-purchase displays are one of Custom Packaging’s many offerings.

They also empower each employee to find ways to increase efficiency and lower costs. For example, production crews look at their setup times, their machine efficiencies, and their machine costs. They are then responsible for how to minimize those machine costs each day, week, and month. That’s all a part of their machine metrics.

Lemon says the family ownership also contributes to their culture.

“We’re all a part of one big family,” he says. “We have very low turnover. We have an incredible number of folks that have been with the company many, many years—five to six employees across both plants have been with us over 40 years. There is a deep level of knowledge and experience we have in the sheet plant world, and that’s an advantage in the marketplace.”

For years, Custom Packaging met ISO 9001 standards, a quality management system that was all about making sure processes were in place so that customers get a consistent product with consistent quality and service. They are now in the middle of audits for switching over to ISO 9001-2015.

Custom Packaging in the Future

“The next chapter is digital,” says Lemon.


Custom Packaging delivers quality printing both inside and outside the box.

Like many corrugated companies, the world is changing. Equipment has been created that changes the way corrugated plants are able to operate. Everything is quicker, more efficient, and can create things in more varying quantities than ever before with less waste.

For Custom Packaging, the future is coming in on the output of the Barberán Jetmaster 1680 and the Bobst 1636NT (see “Investing in the Future”).

“We have digital capability today for prototype and mockups and for flatbed printing, but we’re entering a new year and the industry is entering a new phase, and there is better capability than ever before,” says Lemon. “We purchased last year and are a month away [February] from taking possession of a six-color single-pass high-speed digital printer.”

They currently do a significant amount of litho-label work. They expect that some of those customers will convert from litho to digital. They’ll migrate those existing customers and capture new customers.

“Some of the value we can offer our customers with digital on the graphics side are: no print plate or labels, and quicker turnaround times,” Lemon says. “We have also become a G7-mastered facility with a G7 expert on site.” This thrust Custom Packaging into the forefront of the graphic and digital world. “Once you have the right artwork, you simply rip it to the digital printer, and you’re running with approved colors.”

“We’re excited about digital and what it brings to the company and to our customers,” says Lemon. “That’s part of our strategy—bring capability, people, and processes that support our current and future customer needs.”

Lemon sees the culture and the new equipment giving the company a trail to blaze into the future, as they move forward from their first half-century of accomplishments.

“Our people, knowledge, experience, culture, and equipment really set us apart,” says Lemon. “We have such an incredibly experienced team of people in all segments of the business. Combine this with our equipment capability, and we are positioned to be the most trusted partner in the industry.”

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




Investing in the Future

Two pieces of equipment are changing the future of Custom Packaging: the Barberán Jetmaster 1680 and Bobst 1636NT.

Barberán Jetmaster 1680

The Barberán is a single-pass six-color digital printer.

“We did a tremendous amount of research,” says Denny Lemon, Custom Packaging’s COO. “This technology really had the speed and print quality that we wanted. Custom Packaging is all about efficiency, speed, flexibility, and responsiveness to our customer.”

He says that while digital printing has been around for a long time, they’d waited to invest because it was only now that these machines are reaching production speeds.

“This is truly single-pass, high-speed direct printing to the corrugated sheet.”

They’ve purchased a six-color version—CMYK, plus orange and violet. This captures a wide color gamut and produces litholike quality at 360 dpi and at speeds of 180 feet per minute.

“We see it as a game changer in the industry,” Lemon says.

Internally, it will change Custom Packaging on several levels. The most significant will have to do with their graphics and prepress areas. They’ve hired new resources to supplement existing staff in the graphics area. The sales process will also change. They’ve created a dedicated director of digital sales within the company. They are adapting a production team from some existing positions in the company and will cross-train them on the new technology.

Bobst 1636NT

In November 2017, Custom Packaging wrapped up its installation of a large-format flexo folder gluer.

“Between the Bobst and the Barberán, it’s the most significant capital expenditure in the company’s history,” says Lemon. “We’re in a high-growth mode, and we’re investing for that future.”

The Bobst expands their capability to larger formats as well as continuing to support customers in certain types of boxes. They’ve migrated work from two of their older pieces of equipment to the new Bobst. They’ve consolidated the work and transitioned the crew and trained them on the new equipment.

“We’ll retain the existing machine, but it won’t see nearly as much volume, as the new machine will take over most of the volume,” Lemon says. “The Bobst will do two things from a growth standpoint. One, it will increase our capacity to handle large-format flexo folding and gluing jobs. Two, it allows us to consolidate operations.”

He says before the Bobst, they might have had to go through multiple operations such as a printing operation, then a die cutting operation, and then a stitching or a gluing operation. Now they can consolidate to one operation.