Bringing Creative Visions to Life

Crawford Industries
Written by Ryan Cartner

Crawford Industries is a manufacturer of graphic quality polyethylene and polypropylene extruded sheets and roll stock with conversion operations that add a unique aspect to the business enabling it to extend its services beyond the manufacture of extruded plastic sheets to the conversion of those plastic sheets into various custom products.
The company was founded in Crawfordsville Indiana in 1959 by Ken Crawford as an extrusion company, turning raw plastic material into plastic sheets for assorted applications. Crawford slowly expanded to include the capability of converting the sheet stock into various products by implementing printing equipment and finishing operations. Since then, the company has grown through acquisitions to strengthen its position in the market and add new conversion capabilities. Today, after more than fifty years in business, the company has multiple facilities, 125 employees, and a sales force that reaches past Indiana into Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, New York City, and Chicago.

Plastic extrusion is a process whereby pellets of raw plastic are heated to become molten and then formed into sheets. The plastic materials with which Crawford processes are polyethylene and polypropylene. The primary difference between these two plastics is that polypropylene can be made to be transparent where polyethylene can only be produced in a translucent form, of which plastic milk jugs are a typical example. Both of these plastics are highly durable, weather resistant, and designed to prevent stress cracking. They are graphic quality, fully recyclable and available in an array of textures and colors.

Crawford produces extruded sheets of this material to either be sold to customers who will convert them for custom applications, or they will be used by the conversion arm of the company to make into custom products for clients. Promotional packaging, back-to-school products, signage and retail packaging are a few of the more common applications, but the company produces a wide variety of things.

“We really don’t lock into any particular category,” says Crawford Industries Vice President of Sales and Marketing Earl Guinter. “Just a really wide variety of products that get printed, die cut, finished, and sold either through distributors or directly to the market place.”

The Crawford Industries headquarters is located in the small town of Crawfordsville in Indiana, and the culture of the company is built on the family values that come with small town living. There is a consistency in the company’s workforce that Guinter sees as a unique strength. “People stay. They feel good about working for us and with us.” The company has a friendly atmosphere that is conducive to productivity and success.

There is a second facility in Thomasville, Georgia. The Crawfordsville facility performs both plastic extrusion and conversion, and the Thomasville facility is primarily an extrusion operation producing plastic sheet and roll stock.

In the last few years, the company has made improvements to the sheet stock it makes. It has developed unique sheet products that have similarities to long-established items in the marketplace but with advances over competing substrates in quality, environmental sustainability, and cost savings.

Terracard is a product that Crawford has developed to compete with polystyrene. Polystyrene is heavily used in the signage market, but it has a devastating environmental impact. It is non-biodegradable, and so it can last for hundreds of years in landfills. Terracard prints and processes like polystyrene, but it is made of recycled and recyclable material and costs less than some other environmentally sustainable alternatives. This makes Terracard a cost-effective, environmentally sound option.

Lumisheet is another example of Crawford innovation. It is a translucent, high-temperature material developed for use in back-lit signs and is also made of fully recyclable material and costs less than prevailing materials with similar properties. 2nd Genesis is a polyethylene sheet made entirely out of post-consumer recycled milk jugs.

Primo is the company’s white durable polypropylene offering, providing more tensile strength, dimensional stability and resistance to stress cracking. Finally, Promotion was introduced in the market five years ago, developed as a non-blocking sheet which feeds at standard press rates. Now Promotion 2.0 as the same non-blocking features but with greatly improved clarity.

On the conversion side of the business, the company has recently expanded its print processing capabilities. It uses state-of-the-art equipment and can print high-end graphics on its own plastic substrates. It works with customers to design, print, cut, fold and glue custom packaging solutions into any desired shape with a graphic finish to match the customer’s brand identity.

The company uses the expanded equipment for graphic printed plastic folding cartons as outerwear for consumer goods and retail applications and media sleeves for movies, music, video games, software, and more. Packaging is the first impression a customer gets of a product, and it is responsible for factors related to that product’s success including brand recognition, differentiation on the shelf, and effectively providing necessary information about the product to the customer. For a product to be successful, it must be able to satisfy all of these criteria, while also being of high quality, structurally stable, and visually attractive. Crawford’s retail packaging division has the experience and the expertise to help its clients make that happen.

Its retail division often attends annual trade exhibitions to demonstrate the innovative products it offers to people in the packaging industry. In February of 2016, the company gave a presentation at WestPack, recognized as North America’s premier packaging technology event, where it highlighted the various innovative plastic materials it offers and talked about branding and making a positive impact on customers through the aesthetic of a product’s packaging.

In September 2016, the company gave a presentation at the annual Pack Expo in Chicago. At the expo, more than two thousand top-tier providers in the packaging industry exhibit products and innovations at the convention every year, and many more industry professionals and clients visit to learn what they can about the presenters. Last year, MXD Process, a process engineering company that works with packaging manufacturers, selected sixteen ‘companies to know from PackExpo 2016,’ and Crawford’s retail products division was among them.

High quality, aesthetically appealing packaging is key to the in-store impact of a product on potential buyers, and Crawford has a team of experts who can design a visually beautiful, robust packaging solution in the material that best suits the application.

Being a one-stop shop that produces sheet stock and converts it into custom products gives the company a unique position in the industry. Crawford stands out because of its ability to work with volumes that would not generally fit the profile of a larger producer. Its ability to handle small or medium quantity orders enables the company to deal with a subsection of the market that larger companies cannot. One of the primary challenges in the industry is managing customer expectations in lead times, and dealing with short and medium sized runs gives Crawford the flexibility to get things going quickly to meet even the most difficult demands on time without sacrificing quality.

Crawford Industries is more than a plastic sheet stock and products manufacturing company. Fifty years of experience working with and converting plastics has given the company the expertise to take an advisory role and provide quality solutions to customer problems beyond the standard vendor, buyer relationship. For customers, differentiating their product in the marketplace can be a challenge. When Crawford works with a customer in developing packaging, the customer can expect a product that stands out, giving their company a competitive advantage in the marketplace. “I spend a fair amount of my own time coaching our folks on how to help their customers,” says Guinter. “We want to help them be successful in the end.”



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