Best Managed Companies 2021

Crawford Packaging

Providing sustainable solutions is the way forward for this company

After nearly six decades of expansion, Crawford Packaging — which started in founder Dick Crawford’s apartment in London, Ont., in 1963 — now has three warehouse facilities in Ontario, along with distribution centres in Alberta, Texas, Georgia and Mexico. The way current president John Ashby sees it, the company has just “followed our customers to help them grow.”

Crawford provides packaging-automation equipment, materials (like stretch film, packaging tape and corrugated cardboard) and training support to businesses in a variety of markets, including industrial manufacturing and food processing. The 125-strong team works with clients to assess their existing packaging practices and equipment in order to find ways to raise productivity and reduce costs.

It’s a competitive space in which most distributors have access to the same products, but Ashby says that Crawford stands out due to its customer-centric approach. “When customers buy products from a catalogue house, they buy stuff,” he says. “They don’t know if it is the right size, gauge, how to apply it, et cetera. When customers buy products from Crawford, we like to think they are buying the right solution to their challenge.”

Packaging is one of the largest sources of plastic pollution in Canada and the U.S., so the Crawford team actively works to offer energy-efficient machines and materials that reduce waste. One of the ways they do this is by sourcing products globally — such as tray-sealing equipment made in the U.K. and shrink-wrap equipment made in Germany — as the European markets tend to lead when it comes to environmentally friendly options.

Crawford sets up its team for success with internally developed skill-building programs that provide guidance on everything from daily tasks to bigger projects. “A journey needs a roadmap, an Olympic athlete needs a training plan and a world-class cellist needs sheet music,” explains executive vice-president Andy Craig. “Before every pilot takes off and before every surgeon makes an incision, they use a detailed checklist to make sure everything is in place to take them where they want to go. Our programs provide a fundamental guidance system for our employees.”

Collaboration, teamwork and mutual respect are cornerstones of the business. “Our employees are the X factor,” says Craig. “A confidence feedback loop is created and maintained, which facilitates a positive corporate culture. This drives personal and professional growth and allows everyone to be a part of building something together.”