History of Cal Box Group
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We will constantly meet and exceed our customer's expectations with the products and services we provide.
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1970 — John Widera began his career in the corrugated industry after working for such companies as Fairbanks Morse, Beluit Wi. Caterpillar in Peoria, and Belgium, and Bemis Co. His new employer was General Corrugated Machinery Co., in New Jersey.
1976 — John and two partners started Action Box Co., in Houston, Texas.
1978 — He started a custom packaging company Tucson container (TCC) and Kino Packaging in an air plane hanger.
1983 — John resigned from General Corrugated Machine Co. as western regional manager, covering 8 states, western Canada and Mexico.
1984 — California Box Co. was created in April, 1984 by Ed St. Hilaire and John Widera. The sheet plant operated out of a 60,000 sq. ft. facility in Pico Rivera in Southern California. It sold primarily to brokers and distributors.
1990 — Cal Box II was started in Rancho Cucamonga (located near Ontario international airport) in San Bernardino County.
1993 — After buying out his partner, John purchased and relocated Cal Box to its present 200,000 sq. ft. facility in Santa Fe Springs near Los Angeles.
1995 — CB Group designed, built, and moved into an 110,000 sq. ft. facility on 7 acres next to a Rancho Cucamonga golf course. It is one of the finest automated sheet plants in Los Angeles area and the Inland Empire.
1997 — West Texas Container (WTC) started operating in 35,000 sq. ft. building leased near Mexico's border in El Paso, Texas. Why? There was a need for quality printing and J.I.T. (just in time).
1999— John Widera chosen by Boxboard Containers-International, a one of fifty 20th century leaders in the box industry.
2000 — Tucson Container moved into it's new modern 150,000 sq. ft. building on 18 acres near the Tucson airport. It manufactures corrugated boxes & displays, foam, and wood crating. It is also a distrubutor for packaging supplies. It also leases 2 warehouses in Mexico.
2001 — Our sheet feeder, CB Sheets, was in operation with the purchase of a new 98” computerized corrugator. A 25,000 sq. ft. addition was built for conveyers moving sheets from the corrugator to converting machinery and shipping.
2003 — West Texas Container moved into its own 85,000 sq. ft. facility on 8 acres about 5 minutes from the border crossing from El Paso to Juarez, Mexico.
2003 — 2007 Replaced old machinery at all four plants with state-of-the-art converting machinery. Financing came from CB Group. Result: quality products, with minimal debt.
2006— Action Box, Houston, built a new building and installed a corrugator. (Cal Box Group is an minority owner)
2011 — CB Group purchased a 150,000 sq. ft. building on 8 acres in Mesa (Phoenix) Arizona, and installed a new $9,000,000 corrugator.
2012 — John resigned as president, but remained as chairman of the board of CB Group. Mackey Davis became president of CB Sheets, Arizona Corrugated Container, Tucson Container Group, and West Texas Container. His son Chris Widera, was appointed president of Cal Box Co. and Cal Box II.
2013 — Purchased $3.5 million of new converting equipment.
For contact information for all our facilities in the Southwest click here.
Top 10 Questions
- John Widera who are you?
I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. My father was a very gifted engineer and the Vice President of Ladish Co., Cudahy (Milwaukee), WI. Ladish is a forging manufacturer, who in the 1950's and 60's employed over 5,000 people in the United States. In 1963 I graduated with a business degree from Ferris State University, Michigan. A few years later I attended Bradley University in the evenings, and worked in the purchasing department for Caterpillar in Peoria, Illinois. Next, I enrolled in the University of Munich, Germany, to do research for my master's degree, where I accepted a job with Caterpillar in Belgium.
- Please briefly describe your family, wife’s name, number of kids, ect.
Married in 1969, my wife Leslie and I have 3 children. My son Christian works in the business (president of Cal Box Co. & Cal Box II), and has yet to marry. My son Eric is a doctor, and is married to a lawyer. They have 1 child together. My daughter Renee is also a medical doctor and is married to Joe Yocam, our Quality Assurance Manager.
- Of what association and industry groups were you a member?
Past member of TAPPI, Society of Packaging & Handling Engineers, AICC, and various Chambers of commerce. (I consider myself a true entrepreneur and not a follower, joiner or politician.)
- Can you briefly explain your entry into the business?
My introduction into the business started at Bemis (Hayssen) in Wisconsin, as a supervisor for Horizontal Form Fill and Seal Packaging Machinery. In 1970, I became a Western Region Sales Manager for General Corrugated Machinery Co. during this time (1970-1983). Some of my greatest accomplishments are (but not limited to) being among the first to promote J.I.T. (Just-in-time), Fast-Setups (less down time), and selling the first complete BHS corrugator in the United States As one of the original owners of Action Box Co., Houston, Texas, I helped to start the company in 1976. Another proud accomplishment for me, was joining Rich De La Cerva (in 1978) to start Tucson Container Co., a custom box manufacturer. We started this sheet plant in a Tucson airplane hanger.
- What Kind of challenges did you have to overcome in your early years? And, similarly, what challenges do you see ahead of you now?
We had no sales, little equipment, but a lot of experience. I had to learn the broker/distributor business, and earn the trust of our suppliers and customers. The future is “digital”. It will provide us with an automated box plant run by skilled people, that produces high quality end product with few mistakes. Cal Box is ready to meet the challenges of change. It requires vision, total commitment, and caring loyal employees with reliable suppliers.
- Name a few things that motivate you to do your best.
To help those that really need help: — employees (every one of our 300 plus talented employees is eligible for an interest free loan per year paid immediately). I also assist and consult customers in making their companies healthy again. People need us when they are down, not when credit is good. I am also motivated by competition. It is like a well played chess game. Also, I like to see employees succeed. I like to think of it this way: “Polish the rough diamonds and make them sparkle.”
- Looking into your past, what times were the most rewarding, both professionally and personally?
#1 to me was raising a happy, healthy engineering family with few obstacles. On a professional level, I wrote over two dozen professional essays/reviews, 5 books, and more. Their research helped me and my companies to become better at satisfying customers. It helped raise the productivity and quality standards of dozens of sheet plants. For example, very few people talked about set-ups or quality in our industry in the 1970’s, we wrote about it. Also, it is extremely rewarding to know that we own over 600,000 sq. ft. of modern buildings, with state-of-the-art equipment.
- Of what accomplishments are you most proud?
Hiring and training the right workforce to take over from the first generation, makes me proud. Secondly, I helped over 2 dozen sheet plants get started in business, as well as even more brokers. However, the best accomplishment is that we were the first sheet plant in over 20 years in So. California and in 2012 another in Arizona, to install a new state-of-the-art corrugator, with quick order changes. Instead of tonnage, our goal is set-ups with little back-log for J.I.T. This was revolutionary for our market.
- If you were to start over again, would you choose to become a box maker?
I spent over 10 years working in other industries, working for very large and medium size manufacturers. They prepared me with the basics for the corrugated industry. I knew how to qualify, prospect, offer value, and who to trust and respect. For many relationships, selling is now old school. Now salespeople are lucky if they get to see a buyer face to face. All of my experiences have given me the drive, and an advantage as a box maker and entrepreneur to open doors. If there were anything I'd do differently, it would be to smile and laugh more often.
- What is the secret of an entrepreneur’s success in coaching (leadership)?
Hire slow and smart. Then coaching works, but you can’t get the most from the quality of your leader, unless there is involvement and empathy of your colleagues. Their proper preparation prevents poor performance. For example, we have found that you can't just tell the operator to run faster with no rejections, or the driver to make more deliveries. Today they have to understand why and what we are doing, then give them a purpose to improve. Yes, even the woodpecker has discovered that the only way to succeed is to use your head. (one day at a time)