Board Converting News, April 4, 2022

Akers Packaging (CONT’D FROM PAGE 38)

drawn up but then the pandemic hit and so did pandemic inflation, which nearly doubled the cost of the project, from $24 million to $43 million for 400,000-square-feet. Then we decided to lease. We’re getting close to a move but there are other things to consider: we don’t want to be too far from our customers and we don’t want to lose our great employees.”

Indeed, like most other independent and integrated corrugated manufacturing facilities throughout the coun- try, Akey says that hiring people is a tremendous challenge and that for every 20 people Akers Packaging interviews, they may hire only one person. The process could take up to two months. Then there’s the challenge of keeping them. He sees the current supply chain problem as a la- bor problem. “Everyone in the industry, independent or integrated, is struggling. There are virtually no people and the peo- ple you are fortunate enough to hire are new. I believe that 80 percent of the corrugated and converting plants in the country are not operating at the levels they used to. They can’t run as fast. Plants that have the technology and fast machines may not feel it as much, but in a plant like ours (in Chicago) with flexos that are 8-10 years old, real knowledge and experience is required to run them.” Akers’ Chicago operation currently runs two shifts, consolidated from three because of the pandemic and the aforementioned hiring challenges. Across its 13 facili- ties, nearly 500 employees – including 55 in sales – work for the company, which Akey claims has a 90 percent job occupancy rate. “This means we have ten percent of our jobs are available but we just can’t hire anyone. And that’s across all levels of the company. It’s a big problem for our industry and a big problem for the country.” In addition to providing a safe and working environ- ment, a competitive salary and a good benefit package, Akers Packaging Service is doing whatever it can to keep all its employees, old and new, happy and satisfied enough to stay, which includes updating or renovating Mike Akey and long-time employee Billy Mitchell on the floor.

SPECIALTY FOLDER GLUERS • OPERATOR TRAINING • REBUILDS & RELOCATIONS • RECONDITIONING in Kenosha • PARTS & MACHINE REVIEWS • GUARANTEED IMPROVEMENT TOROSIANTECH SERVICES INC. Training and Reconditioning Center 930 Tenth Street • Racine, WI 53403 (800) 555-5876 (U.S. only) Phone: (262) 633-5133 • Fax: (262) 633-5176



April 4, 2022

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