Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Deliver the Bumpiest Mini Drawer Gift Boxes Project

Simple does not mean easy! Recently we’ve worked on a project where entails a two-part drawer gift box as an accessory to the larger complex box. This tiny box involves no odd shapes, nor complex structure or design! Just so normal except for its delicate size. But just as being so small in size, it had once been quite challenging – unlike round mini tubes(eg. lip balm tubes) which can run on machines. Here’s the story on how we struggled (if not got stuck) in such a ‘simple’ box, and finally were determined to deliver, but at the expense of profits!


This tiny drawer gift box, as shown above, would probably be figured as something not worth the candle by most suppliers, which could be told from the dimensions (as in the following dieline).
dieline

Failed Outsourcing Attempts
Frankly, the reason that we’d accept such an order in the busy season is partly because it’s an accessory, and partly because we thought we could outsource this part. Some peer vendors may specialize in such hand-made boxes.
The first few we contacted all declined flatly at the sight of the drawing. Then we tried to contact some factories who keep good relationship with us and asked for their favor. All of them agreed to try but gave up within one or two days. We were somewhat prepared for such reaction. With its delicate size, it can’t fit on the automatic box folding machines. And as it measures hardly the width of an index finger, it’s tricky for manual handling. Thus even the workers are not willing to work on this project because the slow progress affected their piece wages.
The time lapsed fast – two weeks had passed, and we had approached no less than 10 peer cardboard gift boxes factories. The main/larger gift box sets were already done and the agreed delivery time is almost due. However, the little box project was literally going nowhere!

Taking it on In-house
After unsuccessful attempting of outsourcing, we decided to face up to the difficulties. We were actually cornered. All we could do at that point is, to spare no effort, at any cost,  to get these little boxes delivered on time and without compromising the quality!
First of all, we shipped the main boxes out first as planned.

We then soon assigned a group to make these tiny gift boxes in-house. 

(This is what they look like before they are boxes)

But the difficulties are daunting! Such tiny gift boxes are by no means simple in making. Compared to bigger ones, these boxes just didn’t save you any  procedure. And you have to do the job by hand, while they are too small to fit in a finger to pinch the glued joints. The workers fumbled their way at the boxes...
(Small makeup brushes are specially used for applying glue.)

High defect rate:
Despite the annoyingly slow progress, the defect rate remained formidably high, glue stain, broken joint, adhesive failure... (1) As it’s too small, workers can’t wear gloves while handling. Thus, glue stains occurred at a high percentage. (2) The folds (especially the small joints at ends) of the white inner boxes – not reinforced by lamination, were fragile and apt to break during forming the shape.  (3) The methods and glues that work on regular gift boxes stumbled on these tiny boxes,  for example, after gluing and forming, the sticking area would simply break apart – some instantly while some after one or two days. When the boxes are so small that the folds are much more resilient than expected. That makes the job even trickier, so we had to try other glues and by extending the time of air-drying before pinching together.


Braving the Challenge/Solution:
The defect rate stayed high, and meanwhile as it was the busy season, there were many other orders in queue to be delivered shortly. Yet hard work didn’t lead to good outcome. Anxiety and frustration stole in. Over 3 weeks had passed so far, but merely 20% of the required quantity  was ready. Everyone was so anxious but seemed little could be done, the boxes would only be made one by one, manually.
 

Finally the seasoned factory manager decided to leave three deft workers to FOCUS on this project alone.  Another point was to Learn by Doing. And he himself joined the efforts in keeping improving, bit by bit, every step of the whole procedure. For example, the way of folding, time of air drying after applying the glue, and especially, practice sort of Work specialization among them, etc. Much credit should be given to the three women, for their nimble hands, patience, and industry. The efficiency are largely promoted, nearly up to that of ordinary gift boxes.

Express delivery.
All the tiny drawer gift boxes were finally finished, altogether! We dispatched these left-behind little boxes through express delivery service, at our cost, to make sure they reached the customer almost the same time with the mass cargo around the Christmas.

At last, this bumpiest project came to an good end! We lost profits in this order but delivered and saved the integrity! Besides, as a windfall gain, it extends our business a little, and we can accept orders of such hand-made tiny drawer gift boxes in future.
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Basically, it’s not so much about technology as about skills and attitude. When I look back to the anxiety and hard time going through then, it’s no more nerve-racking now,  just a part of routine work and worthy no fuss. But  these moments might as well be shared and kept for future reference as well. 

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