Innovative Packaging Solutions

Labelad, located in Toronto, Ontario, is a manufacturer of value-added pressure sensitive labels, flexible packaging and related products for global markets. The company is a privately-held family operation, and has been in business since 1976.

The Labelad family business owns and operates Sandylion Sticker Designs – famous for its children’s stickers. Lionel and Sandy Waldman started making labels in the mid 70s, and eventually Sandylion spawned from the couple’s imagination. Today, Sandylion is the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of children’s stickers.

Labelad’s business stems primarily from the North American market. The company has an extensive array of presses and pre-press equipment and provides Pressure Sensitive Labels, Promotional / Informational Labels and Booklets, and Flexible Packaging and Pallet Base Wrap.

Labelad’s General Manager is Bob Hicks, who has been with the company since 2003. Hicks has seen the ups and downs of the business, and has helped Labelad adjust to changes in the packaging industry. One such change has been to movement toward ‘greener’ packaging, which, Hicks explains, has always been inherent for Labelad.

“We’ve broken our environmental focus into three areas. Number one is product. We are always working with customers and suppliers to dial in to the most cost-effective, green product. For instance, if we are manufacturing a label that is 3mm thick, we work with our customers to bring that size down to 2mm, so that we can reduce the amount of film used to label our customers product.. It’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for business. We also make sure we use recycled content in our products. There are products that claim to be sustainable, and we are working with many of these suppliers, but if you’re using a tremendous amount of energy to transform the product into a sustainable one, then sometimes that effort has less meaning. The second area we’re always working on is the design of the package, and how it relates to transportation, shipping, and packing. For example: let’s say a customer goes from using a round bottle to an oblong bottle, they then can pack more into their trucks and ship less. Shape, size, and material – we consider all of these aspects in order to get more product moved with less energy spent. The third way we evaluate our environmental impact is daily operations. We’re big into lean manufacturing. We look into the value stream and see how many by-products we create, how much waste we produce, and what is going outside our four walls. We call this our “Green Stream”, and are always concerned with how we can reduce the energy it takes to run our presses.”

Staying progressive

Hicks maintains that it is important for Labelad to stay current, stay progressive during uncertain times in the North American market.

“Quite frankly, the really strong companies, the aggressive companies, can make it through economic downturns. On a macro-level, the packaging and to a lesser extent, the printing industry, is less affected by unstable markets because we’re providing a necessary service – packaging is so integral to society. However at the individual company level – maybe a business might change or feel the pains of the downturn because clients move their businesses around. However, as long as you stay close to your customers, and listen to and help them, you’ll be okay. A big part of our business has been the ability to satisfy and provide value-adds to long standing customers. Some of those customers might scale down their orders, to manage their costs, but we’ll stick close to them and make sure we meet their needs. It can also be an opportunistic time as well for smaller business that can move quickly, because during downturns often potential clients will become customers, wanting to bid their business out to suppliers that can offer better prices and improved service.”

The upcoming year

In 2009, the company plans to broaden their product offering, catering to the demands of their clients who want to be greener and more efficient. “When a customer wants to make a change, we want to be able to accommodate them. We can add value by helping them make the best packaging decision for their needs.”

Labelad has a history of product donation to many local charities and community organizations including Sick Kids.

Hicks says Labelad is one of the luckier Canadian enterprises, with a strong staff commitment and engagement from the company’s owners.

“We’re in a competitive environment. There are things we can control and things we can’t. But one thing that is in our control is how we treat our people, and how they feel about working with us. Your senior people need to be tied into the marketplace, and be outside your business to know what’s going on – so they can steer the ship. That means the people working within your four walls have to have an incredible foundation, and they have to take ownership of the day-to-day. The 140 people at Labelad today all take ownership of the business. They are empowered and have the authority to make the right decisions. And that is something we can all be proud of.”

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