A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit BRP Box Shop – it was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget.
I’ve been a big fan of BRP ever since discovring their boxes through their participation of my OCCPMU meet-up. Not only are the boxes incredible, but the people behind the scenes are some of the nicest, funniest, most genuine people. You’ll meet them, too, throughout this post.
I flew out to Chicago, met up with my friend Bob of Takes The Cake, and we drove a few hours to Clinton, Iowa – it was my first time seeing the Mississippi River in person! Sing it with me… M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i!
I was so excited to see how their amazing boxes are made, so we jumped right into a behind-the-scenes tour.
When there’s an idea for a new box design, the concept goes through quite a few phases before it can go into production. First, Kip showed us how they design items on the computer. He made a swirly design – much harder to create than you’d think, actually.
The design is then sent to this sample plotter, which has unique way of cutting out the pattern that was just mocked up in the computer. The picture is a little blurry because it moves so fast as it works! Do you see the swirls?
Here’s Bob showing off our newly-cut swirly design.
This process allows BRP to take ideas, design and cut them, then be able to hold the actual item and determine if it’s something that can go into production and become part of their product line. Such a neat process!
Next, we went out into the factory…
Connie showed us how the whole process starts. The box material comes in these huge, HUGE rolls – so big, they’re delivered by train.
As you may know, BRP offers quite a variety of box colors – red, blue, pink, yellow, green, black, etc. Ready for this fun fact? BRP dyes the box material themselves!
Using the machine below, they place a large roll of white paper on the right and its looped through different feeders to go through the ink process. This job was making black paper – see the vertical strip on the left next to Box Maker Brad? Pretty cool, right?
After the paper is dyed, it needs to be cut into the various box designs. For this job, they had loaded in a large roll of kraft paper (on right).
As it runs through the center of the machine, it cuts out the individual box layouts at high-speed.
In addition to making a sample on their prototype machine, a big step in the new-design process is to consult with the engineers out in the plant who run the machines, to see if its something they are equipped to produce.
Remember that swirly we made? Kip showed our new ‘design’ to Gary to see what he thought. He wasn’t so sure at first, but I think we won him over.
As the boxes are cut out, the remaining scraps are sucked up into a tube that goes to the adjacent room. The scraps travel up a conveyer belt and are baled into these huge bundles. I saw nothing but craft-project potential, but they are busy bees at BRP – so off to recycling it goes.
If you get any BRP Boxes that have windows on them, like these cool cupcake boxes, they go through this machine – don’t stand on it. The boxes zoom through and get little strips of glue applied to the edges of the window area.
Then they come out this end with the window attached. Can you see that purple glow around the edges? They use UV light to make sure it was glued just right. Pretty fancy!
Some of BRP boxes are shipped to you flat. But some of them, like the pie boxes below, arrive already folded. Box Maker Dave showed us some pretty cool machines that do all of the folding – it was so interesting to watch. They go in as flat boxes as he’s showing below, then come out on the other end as complete boxes!
Once all of the dying, cutting, gluing and folding is complete, there are huge stacks of final products ready to be packaged up.
Afterwards, they are boxed and stored in their assigned areas in the warehouse. Can you hear the choir of angels singing? Ahhhh Look at all of those boxes, stacked quite literally from floor to ceiling!
Beep beep! Eddi showed us how she maneuvers the forklifts to retrieve boxes from up on the high shelves. The dexterity she had with that big machine was incredibly impressive.
Now, have you ever shopped online for something new, but the item only came in high quantities – so you have to debate whether or not you want to risk buying a lot of something, that you’re not sure if it will work right for your project? BRP solves that problem by allowing customers to Order Samples! For just $10, you can select up to 5 different box samples.
Here in the Sample Room, Jane & Madonna put all of the sample orders together and send them out to you bakers, while listening to their favorite tunes (slow country) on their radio. They surprised Bob & I with a Welcome sign, decorated with cupcake and cake pop stickers. We were so touched!
Back in the offices, we got to meet Sue – if you call BRP, chances are you’re talking to her!
We also met Linda, who processes all of your orders. She was showing me all of the pins on the world map where they’ve shipped orders.
Then we spotted Ann up on the ladder in their photography room, where they take all of the amazing website pictures. Ann also runs BRP’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Be sure to tag @brpboxshop or use their hashtag #brpboxshop when sharing on social media, she loves reposting customers’ photos!
And there you have it!
Did you have any idea just how much work goes into making a box? I certainly didn’t. I was honestly so impressed by the incredible box-making process, as well as the fantastic box makers themselves. It’s such a special place – you can actually feel the love they put in those boxes!
All good tours have a prize at the end, and this one is no exception…