CASE PAPER -- Thriving in PhillyMarch 2002
The question remained: How would Case employees move heavy skids of paper from floor to floor efficiently. "We have freight elevators, but they are slow and only have a capacity to handle 20 skids at a time," he notes.
The answer to the dilemma came from within Case itself. They had a one-of-a-kind vertical lift designed and built. The lift enables employees to load skids via forklifts onto an in-feed conveyor. The skids are then moved to the second floor by a lift and then onto an out-feed conveyor.
"If we didn't have this lift, we wouldn't be here," admits Peter Schaffer. The lift can handle 240 skids per hour. "We only need to run it about four hours a day; it can do more than we ever need to do," he adds.
With the lift in place, the company was able to effectively take over and utilize the second floor of the building, in addition to the ground floor that they already occupied. Case Paper also took over two-thirds of the adjacent building, as well as the option to lease the remaining third of the building next door.
Today, Case Paper Philadelphia houses 50,000 tons of paper and board, and has a 20-car railroad siding and 21 truck bays to service the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Canadian markets. "We have enough space now to take us through the foreseeable future," remarks Robin Schaffer.
The decision to remain in the inner city has benefitted the company in other ways, as well. "We were able to keep our workers at this facility, plus expand and hire an additional 60 workers," says Peter Schaffer.
Sticking by Its Employees
By staying in Philadelphia, the company was able to stay close and convenient to its work force. "We've found that by staying here, we have access to a highly skilled, blue-color labor pool. Part of the problem with moving out into the suburbs is that you don't always have access to your workers. We've found that when companies relocate their factories to the suburbs, it's because it is convenient for executives, not for the employees," he contends. "We have a commitment to stay close to our workers—a commitment that we've made at all of our facilities. That's why we're in the heart of the city."
And the efficiencies that might be found at a single-floor suburban facility are less important than the financial benefits that Case is realizing by staying in Philadelphia. It's a cost-savings that has served the company well in an economic downturn.
"Last year was a really tough year," concludes Peter Schaffer. "Prices are depressed and business is slow. There was also a record number of bankruptcies in 2001. We are hoping that the business climate starts to improve the second half of this year. This expansion has been good for us because it has placed us in a better position to take advantage of business when the economy does turn around."