Monday, May 03, 2010

Things That Bother Me

Beef. It's what's for dinner. Last night, anyways, ground round was the featured meat in this generic skillet meal from el Marto de Wal. Convenience and speed figure into my menu choices in a big way. I usually stay away from this sort of stuff, but I've always been a fan of stroganoff, particularly if it was prepared by my mother ( Sis does a fine job these days, too).

Anyhoo, something about the box bothered me for a while. Even when I opened the box, something just didn't seem right.

Then it hit me. This is a one time use box. All of the contents are used, and disposing the box is the next logical step. So, why is it necessary to have the closure tab and slot cut into the lid? It's not like this is a box of Super Sugar Frosted Bombs that is getting put back into the cabinet for the next time I desire a bowl.

At first I thought it was an unnecessary step in the manufacturing process - if they'd (whoever actually made this for WalMart) have eliminated that step, the cost would be reduced. After some reflection, perhaps not.

I have no idea for sure, but I'd bet this is some sort of standard size box that can be adapted to many different uses. "Yeah, Bill, let's use the 14c dash eleven to hold the strogonoff mix." "OK, but we're gonna have to make up some more - the granola bar contract used up most of our supply." The box would be standardized and the only difference would be the printing. It would probably cost more to eliminate the fastening tab/slot.

Anybody know for sure?


drjim said...

You are correct. The boxes are printed by the zillion, usually 50 or so to a precut sheet, and then run through the cutter to produce the individual boxes. For a given size box, the blank sheets, and post-printing steps are the same. They only thing that changes are the litho plates in the printing press. One of my past jobs was as an Industrial Controls Engineer. Besides manufacturing our own line of products, we also had a repair service that would work on anything electrical. I had a call one day to a large printing operation, and they were running Kraft Macaroni and Cheese boxes. Since I had to observe the operation of the press for several hours to confirm the problem, and being a naturally curious type, I talked to the pressman and his crew, and they explained the whole process to me. The next press run was going to be for cereal boxes. It used the same size sheet, but didn't have as many boxes per sheet. The final printed sheets are shipped on pallets to the food processing plant where they get cut, folded, glued, and then put onto the line that would insert the contents.

Jeffro said...

Thanks, drjim - I grok much better now!

drjim said...

You're welcome. Always glad to share what (little!) I've learned.
The printing press story has an unusual twist. I was sent there because the manager had said "The press is running slow", and he suspected the motor controller. After it checked out 100%, and I was talking to the pressman, he stated that it *always* ran slow on Monday mornings because the building was left unheated over the weekend, and it took several hours for all the lubricants and the machinery to warm up. This was in February, and it can get pretty cold in Northern Illinois in February! Sure enough, after about three hours, it was back to making the correct number of impressions per hour, just like the guy that ran it every single day had said it would. As I was having The Big Boss sign my invoice, he asked me what I had found. I told him that sitting turned off for 48 hours had caused the lube to thicken up, and it just took a while for the press to warm up and "Get back to work after a long weekend". He laughed, thanked me, and said he'd listen to the pressman the next time he thought something was wrong.

Lisa Paul said...

Hmmm. i just can't get past the whole "beef stroganoff in a box" thing. That's just wrong.

Unknown said...

They make it that way because they know that approximately 0.001% of the people that purchase this product will notice this little caveat thus they can drive a very small percentage of the general population batty, get their jollies, & still not have any effect on their overall net profit.

Just think, you just made some weird, demented engineers day!