We recently sat down with newly-appointed Spearhead Advisory Board Member Ray DeCarlo; what follows are his thoughts on the packaging industry over the last 35 years, his experience working with The Spearhead Group and several Pioneers.
Q: How has your career led you to this point?
A: I’ve been in high-end value-added packaging since 1983, beginning with the folding carton side of the business which has been my primary focus over the last 35 years. I began my career working for a company that was and still is considered one of the leading folding carton suppliers in the industry. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few different companies over that period of time, always with the same focus; high-value, innovative packaging. That is what I’ve always valued, companies who can set themselves apart from everyone else. I’ve worked primarily with folding cartons, rigid boxes and thermoforming over the course of my career.
Q: Throughout your 35-year career, are there any highlights you’d like to share?
A: Something that I was always quite proud of occurred early on in my sales career. I was selling folding cartons and was assigned to a territory with 8 million in revenue. I was able to grow the sales to 14 million by the end of my second year which accounted for nearly 60% of the sales volume for the entire company which had 5 salespeople during that time.
Another memory comes from my time handling a major rigid box account. At the time I took over, the client split business 60/40 between myself and competitor with the competitor enjoying the majority of business. This had been the split for many years and the company I was representing was never able to get more than 40% of that account. After a year the client split the business 60/40 but I was able to become the primary vendor which at the time everyone told me it ‘would never happen,’ but it did.
Q: What are some specific areas that you’re focusing on with The Spearhead Group?
A: I’m their packaging consultant and a member of the Advisory Board. I’m working with the Spearhead Team to identify and develop packaging suppliers and new innovative materials and processes. Our goal is to partner with companies that are leaders in their field bringing imagination and innovation to the market. I’ve always enjoyed ‘thinking outside of the box’ and trying to come up with alternative methods and options on how to do things with different materials and processes. Spearhead is focused on innovation and bringing Physical Brand Enhancements™ to every aspect of the program. For me, that would be packaging and materials.
Q: What was your personal experience working with Robert and Heather before joining the Spearhead Group?
A: I worked with Heather and Robert some years before they started Spearhead. For a guy like me, who has been in the industry for a long time I have always valued people who are open and innovative in their thinking. Working with Spearhead is breath of fresh air. They are very much into innovation and bringing value to their clients and not offering the same old procedures, processes, and products.
Q: How do your strengths and experience fit in with the current advisory board?
A: My background is in engineering. I always enjoy learning as much as I can about the various processes and materials. I’ve made a point to do that over my 35 years in this industry. In addition to being a sales representative, I have always considered myself a consultive salesperson. Someone that my clients can brainstorm with about what I think the best way to proceed with a project would be and what other options might be available to save money or other creative ideas. With Heather and Robert, they are allowing me to do just that. To bring my background, expertise and my contacts together. The running joke is I either know a guy or know a guy who knows a guy who can get the answer. It’s a great feeling when people look at you and say; we have a challenge or problem, let’s reach out to Ray for the answer.
Q: What interests you most about the opportunity with Spearhead?
A: The opportunity to get into a meeting and be extremely creative and innovative. To be able to bring new ideas, materials, and processes to Spearhead which they can then present to their clients. Spearhead is structured in a way that allows someone like myself to have significant input in the day to day projects being worked on. Heather and Robert truly value my input, ideas, and opinions.
Q: What has changed the most in the Packaging industry over the last 35 years?
A: From a sales perspective, so much of what was done in the ‘old days’ was on a face-to-face and relationship basis. That’s not what the industry is today. Everyone is driven by information accessed on a computer. I’ve always valued the collective brainstorming sessions and sharing ideas that you get from face-to-face meetings, but sometimes that’s not possible.
When I first started in the packaging industry it was the infancy of UV printing. The UV process has changed everything up until this point. What we’ve seen over the last 35 years in the printing world are faster presses, faster make-ready times, and superior color control systems. The process has evolved and improved dramatically from what it was. It has become a shorter-run quicker-turn market.
The digital press is in the early stages of development, but it is going to have a greater impact on the industry in the future. The advent of some of the higher-speed 28-40 format presses that are coming into the marketplace with UV coating capability will lend itself more effectively to larger-run folding carton jobs.
Q: You recently visited Curtis Packaging to see their new press, can you recall what stood out about that press to you?
A: It’s a 28-40 KBA press, 16 unit (11 printing units, 5 coating units) press. It’s incredible how quickly you could make-ready jobs. The color control is extremely impressive. In my 35 years, I’ve never seen a press with this capability. It can handle somewhere from 15-18 thousand pieces per hour.
Regarding my relationship with Curtis; I’ve worked with and competed against them for years and have always respected and valued their capabilities. Being able to now work with companies that I’m confident in and fit the culture that Spearhead is developing is important; Curtis was one of my top choices from the start.
Q: How do you think the Pioneer program is propelling Spearhead forward?
A: One of the important aspects of the Pioneer Program is identifying companies that are high-quality who will work with Spearhead and their clients to collaborate in order to give the clients what they need and expect. The companies we’ve brought in do just that. I think people will look at our Pioneer teams including companies like Curtis and Greener Planet/TPC Printing & Packaging and realize we’ve compiled the best of the best in our industry. There is no aspect of packaging that we will not look at or evaluate if we think it will bring value to our clients.
With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.
Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.