Ask a Packaging Expert: Mark Ward

Protecting Precision Parts Comes Easy for Mark Ward

Part protection isn’t an option—it’s a must. When it comes to protecting product, companies count on Mark Ward as the SSI SCHAEFER dunnage packaging expert to design, manufacturer, and service custom dunnage for reusable packaging.

SSI SCHAEFER is a world leader in material handling, and many people know SSI SCHAEFER for large automation projects. However, it was a simple storage container with an opening on one end that put SSI SCHAEFER on the map. Spurring off from storage containers, the company has built a foothold in the reusable packaging industry. Today, SSI SCHAEFER has sustainable container systems options for companies who have closed-loop systems or who want a sustainable way to store and transport goods.  And when it comes to parts protection, they ask to speak with Mark Ward—the dunnage expert.

Q: How did you come to work at SSI SCHAEFER?

A:  I was recruited by SSI SCHAEFER in September 2001 to help the company meet its goal to start manufacturing custom dunnage solutions. SSI SCHAEFER wanted an in-house service for the automotive OEM industry and tier supplier markets. However, I had been in packaging since 1989 and reusable packaging since 1995 so it was a natural next step for me.

Q: Overall, you handle the dunnage program at SSI SCHAEFER, but what else do you manage?

A: Yes, I oversee the custom dunnage department team and custom product development, but I also do research, recommend, and negotiate the purchase of fabrication and converting equipment used in the production of manufacturing custom products. It’s important because our customers depend on us and our equipment to safeguard their products every day.

Insight on New Technologies for Reusable Packaging

Q: So, you’ve been in the industry for a while now. What are the biggest changes you have seen within the industry?

A: From a customer perspective, I would say the increase in companies wanting to implement a reusable packaging program into their operations. Many companies want to take advantage of the environmental benefits, as well as parts protection and then realizing a true ROI on their packaging investment. From the services side of the business, I would say the growth in technology such as RFID asset management. Companies are investing in reusable packaging instead of throwing away money with disposable packaging. They want to know where their assets are at any given time—and in real-time.  This is something that SSI SCHAEFER is investing in as we roll out more programs for our customers.

Q: Where does SSI SCHAEFER fit within the reusable packaging industry?

A:  SSI SCHAEFER has been a pioneer in the development within the custom dunnage market. Also, SSI SCHAEFER is the only single-source company that supplies complete systems solutions—not just one or two components. SSI SCHAEFER manufactures pallets, totes, bulk bins, and custom dunnage products as well as services like our Schaefer On-Site Solutions and Schaefer Track & Trace asset management service. We are an industry leader, and our longevity is a testament in the market that solidifies our reputation. Plus, I’ll add that our consultative approach is what customers want. We work hard to maintain a partnership with our clients—not just a vendor relationship. We help our customers achieve their goals and solve their pain points. We’re also a global corporation so we can help those customers who have locations from around the world. No matter where our clients are, we have a location nearby.

Q: What are the biggest changes you have seen within SSI SCHAEFER in your almost 20 years with the company?

A: The biggest changes are within the last several years. SSI SCHAEFER built a brand-new facility in San Luis Potosi Mexico that mirrors the facility that we have in Charlotte, NC. This capital investment was done to serve our customers who have operations in Mexico. Those investments include water jet machines, as well as sewing operations that provide custom textile dunnage in both facility locations. And as we continue to grow, we’ll be investing more in our capabilities and technologies. We have an extremely large technology team globally—so expect big things!

Q: What trends do you see coming within the reusable packaging industry?

A: We are truly on the brink of a new revolution when it comes to technology. Everything around is changing fast. The first evolution into EV electric vehicles will bring new challenges that are opportunities. SSI SCHAEFER has a great line of ESD container products and has offered them for many years. SSI SCHAEFER has been doing ESD custom dunnage too—including ESD sewn textile dunnage. I think the need will continue to grow as the world makes this transportation shift.

Next, we’re starting to see a huge step in the way everyone thinks about the environment. It’s crunch time and sustainable eco-friendly raw materials are now being required by more and more companies wanting to make a difference. SSI SCHAEFER is now offering Clear Stream, which incorporates post-consumer recyclables and helps keep our oceans and waterways clean.

Lastly, we’re seeing a more holistic approach to help reduce carbon footprints. As a reusable packaging single-source provider, SSI SCHAEFER can offer everything under one roof. From design, manufacturing, to installation, SSI SCHAEFER provides an array of services without having the customer move product from one location to another, etc. This saves on shipping, reduces waste, and even reduces timelines. Our manufacturing process is extremely efficient and takes advantage of the latest in sustainable technologies too. It’s these types of initiatives that companies are looking for in a partner as they reduce their footprint.     

Q: If you had to pick one thing that separates SSI SCHAEFER from the rest of the market, what would you say?

A: It’s our employees. We have one of the best teams at SSI SCHAEFER and I can say without hesitation that we have one of the strongest teams we’ve ever had. Seeing the group function with the same goals in their sites is great but watching them support each other to achieve our customer’s goals—it’s incredible.

Q: What does the future hold for SSI SCHAEFER?

A: The industries we support will provide a lot of direction on where we will and how we will grow. We tailor our products and services around the needs of the market and our clients. We will continue to stay focused on serving our customers, listening to their needs, and investing in our operation to ensure not only our growth—but their success too.  It’s this consistent, steady growth through continued vertical integration that has served us well and will continue to do so for decades.

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 Connect with an expert like Mark Ward to learn how SSI SCHAEFER custom packaging can benefit your organization!