Made In Chicago: Forest Packaging

CHICAGO (CBS) — Inside a 48,000 square foot facility in Elk Grove Village, giant machines split out thousands of boxes and custom packaging each day.

“Ten to 15 million square feet a month we produce from the corrugated paper side. Everything from custom-made corrugated boxes to floor displays and shelf displays for retail environments,” said Greg Kula, owner of Forest Packaging.  

“We are a custom house. We do printing, dye-cutting, we have a design department that does all the structural work.”

From Wal-Mart to Home Depot to Kroger, you’ve probably seen their displays.

“Every order is different. We literally have thousands of specifications from various companies. We’re producing this stuff, every order on a press, on a machine is completely different than the previous.

And the custom packaging business is a very detailed one.

“People think a box is a just a box, it’s so simple but an eighth of an inch could just kill us. We could run 10,000 boxes off just a hair, nothing fits, customer’s upset, you have to be so exact in our business.”

Forest Packaging is celebrating 50 years this year.

Kula says designing, producing and manufacturing technology has revolutionized the industry.

Long ago, designing and producing boxes was done with X-ACTO knives and pizza rollers. But now, designers use computers to create a custom order. Automatic cutting tables and sorters cut production time by days and weeks. | Lisa Fielding

Long ago, designing and producing boxes was done with X-ACTO knives and pizza rollers. But now, designers use computers to create a custom order. Automatic cutting tables and sorters cut production time by days and weeks. | Lisa Fielding

“When I first started, everything had to be cut by hand. We had X-ACTO knives and pizza rollers, that’s how you made samples. If you were off an eighth of an inch, you had to start over. It could take hours.”

Now, designers use computers to create a custom order, automatic cutting tables and sorters cut production time by days and weeks.

“We can now do 10 times the work. I don’t know how we even survived as a business before that because everything has been computerized,’ said Kula.

Elk Grove Village-based Forest Packaging is celebrating 50 years this year. Over time, it’s become a family business. | Lisa Fielding

Elk Grove Village-based Forest Packaging is celebrating 50 years this year. Over time, it’s become a family business. | Lisa Fielding

Forest Packaging has also become a family business.

Greg’s sons John and Jeff handle sales and will carry on the family name and personal service.

“It’s in the blood. When I was 15, I started working part time. When I was 17 I worked full time here and went to college. I learned how to run forklifts, 18 wheelers and then got into the production side,” said John Kula.

“Our customers realize we can turn things a lot quicker since we’re local and a family business,” he added.

Forest Packaging is based in Elk Grove Village, Ill. | Lisa Fielding

Forest Packaging is based in Elk Grove Village, Ill. | Lisa Fielding

“From a legacy standpoint, maintaining this business and growing it and leaving our little mark on the world as well,” said John.

In the end, everybody needs boxes. For Kula, that’s a good thing for his business and his legacy.

“How would anyone move anything from point A to B without boxes? Think of a world without boxes? What would the world look like? It’s really a necessary business.”

For more information, log onto the company website.

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