Reinventing the Box

By embracing the latest in innovation and technology, Dusobox has become world renowned for its cutting-edge packaging solutions.

Tucked away in an industrial park in south Orlando resides a third-generation family business that started manufacturing corrugated boxes in Boston in the early 1950s. Back then, it was a simple and small operation that consisted of designing stock boxes out of brown floated material and using cornstarch as adhesive. Today, thanks to the foresight of the company’s president, John Kelley, Dusobox is one of the most innovative manufacturers of effective packaging solutions in the world.

Kelley grew up around the business, and his first job as a teenager was cleaning equipment in the Boston plant. When his grandfather and company founder, John Dusseault, decided to retire, the family moved to Orlando, and his father, Richard, opened an additional manufacturing facility in Regency Industrial Park in south Orlando.

“I was 13 years old at the time, so I was upset about moving and not being able to play hockey as much,” said Kelley. “I eventually received a degree in finance and wanted to go to Wall Street, but my father needed me to automate the computer system at the Orlando plant. My focus eventually shifted down here full-time.”

Kelley remembers the moment he made a lifelong commitment to the family business. When his grandfather started the business, he hired two women straight out of high school. After Kelley graduated from college, he was at the plant one day having coffee with one of these women. She asked him what he was going to do.

“She challenged me right then and there,” said Kelley. “She asked me how I was going to grow what my grandfather and father had started, and I realized I had an obligation to continue the family legacy.”

Differentiating the Business

When Kelley made the full commitment to the business, large paper manufacturers dominated the Florida transit packaging and shipping container industry. They grew the trees and provided the enormous corrugated paper sheets Dusobox bought as raw material.

“We were at a competitive disadvantage from the start because they focused on high-volume and selling tons of paper,” explained Kelley. “There weren’t any college-level programs that focused on our industry at the time, so I had to become an inquiring mind and figure out how we were going to differentiate ourselves from the competition.”

Kelley began reaching out to industry experts and became a student of printing. Realizing a sheet plant like his could add value to shipping containers, he set out to learn how to customize and innovate. He traveled extensively to meet with printing groups and experts. Over time, he was able to build one of the most technically advanced printing operations in the industry.

We were the first company to print a real photograph onto a box; it was of a Florida orange,” he said. “We worked at developing techniques and processes of printing directly onto the boxes, and we kept it all in-house.”

The Dusobox team worked with traditional machine manufacturers, took theoretical processes and created their own next-generation machines that could dye cut and perform other cutting-edge tasks. By the late 1980s, the company had become a go-to for displays; competitors became customers, and it was doing work other companies refused to do.

“Our level of quality was very high, but it took an extensive learning process,” said Kelley. “We became the high-quality, specialty work company. Eventually, we were able to have conversations with major brands and started shipping throughout the United States. The creative aspects we brought to the table made us a solutions provider.”

Using an approach driven by both appearance and design aesthetic and rooted in functionality and sound construction, Dusobox designs displays that build brand, highlight product features and benefits, and capture customer attention. Displays are used effectively in branding, marketing and advertising capacities for companies in a variety of industries, including health and beauty, automotive, retail, entertainment and food. Clients include Publix, Prestone, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon and the Walt Disney Company, to name a few.

“Lately we’ve been making displays for a lot of craft breweries, which are trending right now,” said Kelley. “The key is catching the eye of the consumer, so our packaging solutions need to be effective from both a graphic and structural standpoint.”

“We’re a creative, technology-driven company, but if we aren’t investing in our people, the technology goes out the window.”– John Kelley

Investing In the Future

Kelley recently purchased a mammoth, next-generation printing machine that prints five colors and stamps out individual cartons at 1,000 feet per minute or 10,000 sheets an hour. This kind of capital investment has allowed Dusobox to innovate and grow. The company also employs several full-time structural and graphic designers who work on state-of-the-art computer-generated design equipment, automated cutting tables and more. With just under 100 employees and 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space, Dusobox services hundreds of customers, and 90 percent of what it does is considered “value-added.”

Kelley still travels the world to learn about the newest printing technologies and the environmental impact of what his company does. Today, 93 percent of all corrugated boxes get recycled. For every tree cut down for this purpose, three are planted. “There’s more managed forest land today than there was 75 years ago,” he said. “Advances in recycling have also been game changers, as on average 65 percent of every box we use is made of recycled content.”

Kelley is also on the lookout for building solutions that focus on speed to market. This allows marketing programs to be as creative as they can without slowing down the process. For Kelley, being an expert in proofing and digital printing is critical to what he does, and he will always be on the lookout for the newest technologies and innovations within the industry.

“The goal is to stay one step ahead and one notch above what others are doing,” he explained. “We invest in the best technology to differentiate and focus on adding value to everything we touch. The key is to keep moving forward and improving the product.”

Since 2011, Dusobox has tripled in size. In 2017, the company saw north of 20 percent growth. The forecast for 2018 is 30 percent growth. In order to accomplish this, stresses Kelley, the company must continue to invest in its people. An important focus for the company is employee growth, as many employees continue to grow their skill sets by learning new techniques and operating new machinery.

“We’ve been a committed manufacturer and major employer in Central Florida for 50 years, and we still run this like a family,” he said. “We’re close with all of our employees, and this is what truly differentiates us. We’re a creative, technology-driven company, but if we aren’t investing in our people, the technology goes out the window.”

Kelley is wholly committed to the business and the community. He considers Orlando home, and he has never been so excited about where the company is and where it is going. He is committed to grow here for years to come, which is great news for the region.

“After all these years, I still love what I do, and I still want to learn more about printing,” he said. “When you constantly innovate and grow, things never become stale. We’ve made this our mantra, but the reality is it has enabled us to accomplish great things. We’ll always be on the cutting edge of what we do.”

“I had to become an inquiring mind and figure out how we were going to differentiate ourselves from the competition.”
– John Kelley

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About the author

Jack Roth

A veteran journalist and author, Jack Roth is managing editor of i4 Business magazine. Jack has been writing about Central Florida business, technology and economic development for more than 20 years.

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