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corrugated manufacturing


From its beginnings in the mid 1800’s, the industry’s growth has been impressive - today producing over 4.5 billion square metres of board worth about £1.4 billion.Equally impressive are the technical developments in the product itself and in the manufacturing processes, the result of investments exceeding £100m.

You’ve only to examine the industry’s history to understand its resilience. Patents for corrugated paper were first issued in the USA in 1856 and for corrugated board in 1875. The first slotted cases were manufactured here in 1895.The UK industry in particular has an impressive track record. It pioneered lighter, more cost effective corrugated packaging and as a result, now produces the lightest, toughest corrugated packaging material in the world.

Between 1940 and 1980, production of corrugated packaging increased from 125,000 tonnes to over 1,500,000 tonnes. In 2001, 4.5 billion square metres were produced worth £1.4 billion. It is the most widely used form of packaging, accounting for well over 30 per cent of all packaging materials. Over 70 per cent of all retailed goods, equivalent to £420 billion, rely on it.

More than 100 years’ experience has given the corrugated packaging industry an unrivalled knowledge of its products, markets and the significance of good service.Corrugated box producers are strategically located throughout the country and therefore near to potential customers. By working closely together, corrugated case makers and customers can optimise the use of packaging lines and improve production flexibility.

Close customer liaison leads to the development of new packaging solutions to customer needs. ‘E’, ‘F’ and ‘N’ flutes are good examples of how partnership has solved complex packaging problems. These tiny flutes provide attractive, lower-cost, alternative packaging to cartonboard, for example for gift products such as chocolate boxes.

The industry could not have maintained its record of innovation without itself undergoing a major transformation. Change has come through investments in advanced, automated manufacturing processes. The latest graphic design and colour printing techniques demonstrate one area where corrugated packaging excels. Case makers have also rationalised a labour-intensive industry into one that is better able to support customers. Improved customer-service processes can now interact at any stage from pre-design through to product delivery.

Thirty years ago, more than 25,000 people produced only 1.7 billion square metres of corrugated board per annum. Today, packaging manufacturers employ less than 12,000 people across the UK. This slimmer work force using automated plant and equipment now produces record quantities of corrugated board - over 4.5 billion square metres, or 2.5 million tonnes annually. 

Simultaneous advances in technology, business processes and customer relationships mean that the packaging industry now offers UK-based organisations an unrivalled competitive advantage. With 100 years’ experience and continuous inward investment, the industry offers better protection for customers in an increasingly competitive global market.


For more than 100 years the corrugated packaging industry has kept abreast of business trends. Today, for example, the industry is helping customers to monitor stock levels and produce packaging on demand. This reduces customer stockholding costs and concentrates planning on the most logical point - the final stage of production. It demonstrates the key objective of today’s corrugated case manufacturers is listening and responding to customers' needs.

Corrugated packaging suppliers with state-of-the-art business systems help manufacturers match output to fluctuations in demand.

  • A Lancashire case-maker has built a dedicated production facility in partnership with a famous-name company for breakfast cereals. This will enable packaged products to be supplied as demand requires. It will also mean both parties benefit from more efficient manufacture, better working practices, more reliable schedules, improved long term forecasts, and continual improvement in product quality and consistency.

  • A Northamptonshire corrugated case maker has invested £11 million in plant specifically to provide even faster response times to its established JIT (Just In Time) deliveries, based on a 4-shift continuous working operation. Its supply chain management skills are supported by the most advanced real time planning systems and an annual production capacity of 120 million square metres of corrugated board.

  • McVities uses an Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) system to match stock accurately to demand. This is managed by its corrugated packaging supplier who ensures a seamless operation with its customer through the development of integrated IT systems.

  • In St Ives, Cambridgeshire, one corrugated case maker is working with a leading multinational electronics company. Orders for packaging for five different product lines are received at noon and delivered by 10am the next day.

A multinational corrugated packaging manufacturer operates both Just in Time and Stockless Supply seven days a week, throughout the year. The plants facilitate routine lead times of just 48 hours. All manufacturing information is transferred by computer and similar links are being established with the group's plants in mainland Europe. Sales and marketing operations throughout Europe are also being integrated as the company seeks to offer customers a single point of contact. This is essential for many food and drink companies with multi-site consumption and central or co-ordinated purchasing functions.

The industry has worked with the paper manufacturers to improve recycled papers and liners in terms of increased strength, lower moisture absorption and improved predictability in use. This has made possible the increased use of recycled paper. A much more systematic grading system has also been developed enabling the industry to specify different types of material for different applications more precisely, in terms of moisture absorption. This affects printing and cold storage performance. The improvement of cheaper materials has improved print performance; it allows the industry to use more efficient printing plant with lower running costs that uses more environmentally friendly inks and brings overall cost savings.



......© Confederation of Paper Industries, 1 Rivenhall Road, Swindon, Wiltshire SN5 7BD