What’s New


What’s New at Independent Can 

Independent Can Looking Forward

The year 2019 was a year of learning to understand the rapidly changing world around us and how we must change the way we approach manufacturing in the United States.

In the past, nearly all nations were moving towards globalization and virtually open borders. In the past 3 years the world has moved towards nationalization and rewriting all trade relationships.

Businesses build strategy plans that look out 2-4 years based upon a crystal ball that is, at best, cloudy. The recent past and the expectations for the future are based upon modest or trending governmental change. When radical changes are imposed like the tariffs of 2018, the effects could not have been forecasted.

The biggest challenge for manufacturers is finding young people that want to develop trade skills such as: machinists, mechanics, tool and dies development, electricians, printing press operators and more. Each of these trades require 3-4-year apprenticeships and then on the job learning to be considered skilled. The pay for these jobs begins in the $18-$20 per hour range and can reach the low $30s per hours very quickly. The skills mentioned here are in such demand that once an individual achieves a strong skilled trade certification they will never want for employment as the demand will be strong for years to come.

cost of tariffsMost parents want their children to go to college believing this is the only way to achieve a respectable and well-paying career. Today, there are more college graduates that will never be able to pay back their college loans while those having developed trade skills have been paid to achieve their certifications and have ZERO education debt.

What is Independent Can Company (ICC) doing to prepare for the future economic realities?

  • Two years ago, we installed an Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP): this system touches every part of the business. Order entry drives demand from material sourcing to shipping goods on time every time.
    • This has been a huge learning process which now is beginning to pay us back for the pain that the transition has caused us and our customers.
  • We have invested more than 2 million dollars a year on process automation to lower processing costs and to increase speed to market
    • Automatic packaging systems, automatic guided vehicles (fork trucks without drivers), camera systems to inspect finished product quality, etc.
  • We have reduced overhead, flattening the leadership and reducing complexity.

ICC has just finished our 90th year in business and now look forward to the next milestone of 100 years as a family owned business. The changes and the learning we have experienced over the past 3 years have been very painful but have also positioned ICC to be the leader in specialty can making in North America.

We want to thank all of our very dedicated and skilled employees and all of our customers that have supported our business over the years. We ask all employees and customers to continue to challenge us to provide the highest quality work environment and the highest quality metal packaging.

Thank you

Rick Huether 

President and CEO

2019 – A Year of Challenges and Progress

When you watch the news today, you might think the world is going in strange directions. This is challenging for all of us.

Over the years, business has learned to deal with globalization and open markets around the world and have designed their strategies around the current demands and challenges. As of 1 – 2 years ago the world began to change in a direction that requires all businesses to adjust their strategies.

Can Manufacturer for 90 YearsThis year Independent Can Company is celebrating our 90th year making specialty tins. We are proud to say that we have thrived through the good times and the tough times and today we are working hard adjusting to the current global and local challenges.

In previous articles that I have written I have noted many of the investments and projects we have taken on and I feel very positive about how many of these strategies are now beginning to come to fruition.

Some of the challenges:

    • Growth– As a company our focus was never on growth as we knew that if we took care of our customers they would take care of us. Referrals and developing a strong reputation as a reliable supplier has been our guide.
      • Several years ago, we found our growth had reached a point where we needed a full ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning system) to help manage the business as long term, talented personnel could not manage the old fashion way with the breadth of the markets and product we now serve.
      • In 2018 and early 2019 we suffered from the ERP not providing the data needed to service our customers. Now we have made huge improvements and it is functioning as an asset and not a liability.
    • Rebuilding trust and reliability – We disappointed a number of customers on service in the past 18 months. This year, we have many of the tools we need to truly begin to rebuild the quality in service and communications. We are not perfect yet, however, we are on the right track
  • The complexity of making specialty tin is enormous, with a mixture of short run custom work, seasonal demand that is unpredictable and a huge array of products.
  • Tariffs– This has been the biggest curve ball presented to us since 2008’s recession. A little background:
    • Historically we have bought nearly 100% domestic steel. Over the past 10 years the reliability and quality of the domestic mills has become significantly worse, with many quality claims, causing domestic suppliers to be disqualified for supply.
    • Domestic deliveries 10 years ago were nearly always on time have now dropped to less than 25% on time.
    • The tariffs imposed by the US Government were 25% and when this was done it did not take long for the US Mills to raise their prices to just below the cost of tariffsoverseas pricing.
    • The lead time for domestic steel for re-qualification has been much longer than expected, at times 8-10 months depending on the application, consequently returning to locally produced sheets will take a long time.
    • We would like to buy all steel domestically as we believe in Made in America and we are a domestic manufacturer. We buy based upon the following criterion: Quality, Service (on time delivery) and Price.
    • Market Pricing for cans: The economy has been strong but the pressure on pricing has also been strong: costs have increased and no one will accept higher prices: margins have suffered badly.
  • Domestic and Global Economies: Due to Nationalistic trends around the world and tariffs imposed to protect home markets, global growth is slowing.
    • What does this mean to the can industry and steel related industries?
      • Steel cost “should” moderate in 2020
      • The can companies in the USA have not recovered the higher cost the tariffs imposed, consequently, when steel moderates, can prices will not necessarily follow the downward trend in the near term.
    • What is Independent Can Company doing?
      • We have the finest lithography capability in North America and now we will have more apprenticeships to prepare for the future skills needed.
      • We have automation processes being installed in each of our 5 manufacturing plants that will reduce labor cost, speed up throughput and improve quality. Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV’s), Automatic packaging systems, the integration of processes etc.
      • Our ERP staff is coming out with new and improved reports daily for data collection that will make our plants more effective.
    • Plastic Packaging- Finally the world is recognizing that plastic are maybe our most destructive environmental disaster in the past century.As good as plastics plastic pollutionare for many applications steelbased packaging could perform equal to or better than plastics and is 100% recyclable without loosing any of its properties.
      • Plastics only have a life extension and will end up in a landfill or the oceans and they are not fully recyclable
      • Many of the global consumer product companies have committed to significantly reducing the use of plastics and returning to sustainable materials: steel and paper in the next 5-10 years.

I want to thank you for reading this article and please know we are working very hard to be your supplier of choice and earning your respect and your business through Quality, On Time Deliver and Competitive Pricing.


National Dog Day the Gilchrist Way!

President and CEO of Independent Can Company, Rick Huether, and his companion, Lexi, were featured in the Gilchrist Hospice Care National Dog Day Celebration. Lexi is a 13-month-old golden doodle and therapy dog. Rick has been volunteering with Gilchrist for some time now and this year, obtained certification for Lexi to visit patients with him.

Rick joined the Board of Directors at Gilchrist in 2009 but wanted to do more – to give back. He began participating in the work of visiting with hospice patients at Gilchrist. Now that Lexi has joined him, it is an even more comforting experience for the patients at the Gilchrist Center Towson and Gilchrist Center Baltimore. “Having Lexi with me seems to make the patients and families more comfortable than if I were to walk into a room by myself as a volunteer,” Rick says. “As soon as someone lays eyes on Lexi, I’m invisible. Lexi can easily do the ‘talking’ for me. Especially when a patient is not able to communicate verbally, Lexi’s presence at their bedside is all they need.” Read the full story.

Lexi also accompanies Rick to work each day and her exuberance brightens up the sales office.  She comes prancing around to each cubical to greet everyone when she arrives in the morning. We know how great it is when you are having a stressful day interrupted by her warm and humorous antics.

Photos and article courtesy of Gilchrist Hospice Care Inc.

Celebrating National Dog Day the Gilchrist Way

Independent Can Company is Part of The Kennedy Space Center History

On July 20, 2019, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing.  Events were scheduled for this momentous occasion from the 12th to the 24th of July.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) partnered with Independent Can and Chattanooga Bakery to create a commemorative tin to be given to visitors and VIP guest at all of the week long events including the Apollo 11 Historic Launch Flashback, Giant Leaps: Past and Future, One Giant Leap Apollo Moon Landing celebration and Welcome Home Apollo 11 Splashdown Event.  They were also featured at gift shops throughout the KSCVC and at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Collectible pins were designed to celebrate the launch, landing, splash down and 50th Anniversary. Bronze statues of the Apollo 11 crew were unveiled at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. The One Giant Leap Moon Landing event featured one of the world’s largest MoonPies, decorated with the Apollo 50th logo, provided by Chattanooga Bakery of Tennessee.

Using photos and graphics provided by NASA and the MoonPie logo provided by Chattanooga Bakery, Kait Bischoff, from Independent Can’s marketing department, designed a 50th anniversary tin for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.  It is our 4-3/4 drawn X 1-1/4” drawn can and was filled with a chocolate single-decker MoonPie.

Our tins, an Apollo 11 50th Anniversary brochure and the commemorative pins were part of the gift bags given to visitors and VIP guests at all of the events. The MoonPie Apollo 50th tin will be part of The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex history.  We tout the tin can as a collectible item that may increase in value over time.  This made a decorative tin the perfect choice.

The Moon Landing, 50 years ago, was a human achievement but also an American accomplishment.  Over the years, 450,000 people have made space exploration possible and with it, advancements in science and technology.  More than 400 employees come together at Independent Can along with investments in technology to bring quality products to our customers.  It was an honor for our American company (est.1929) to work with an American bakery (est.1917), on a specialty package for the US space program’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing. We are part of history.

See the cans being made! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojKwY2WR84E&t=19s



I am writing this article as we approach the end of the second quarter ‘19. It is hard to believe that we are nearly halfway through this year.

We have a couple more weeks before we wrap up our slower time of year and enter our busiest time of the year. The first 5 months of 2019 have been better than the first half of 2018 in each of the can plants, although lithography sales have been down with our outside customers.

Our focus for 2019 is as follows:

Provide Outstanding Customer service

Being the Employer of Choice

Continuing to build long term Financial Strength

Outstanding Customer service-

2018 was a challenging year for Independent Can due in a great part as a result of our ERP (Enterprise Resource Program) not performing as we had designed and planned.  Over the past 30 years we have installed a number of systems that would be called an ERP but in reality they were glorified financial packages with a MRP (Materials Resource Planning) package.

The system that we have invested in this time, CSI (Cloud Suite Industrial), is a fully integrates system that allows total transparency from order entry to shipping the final product shipment. This system will schedule production processes so that all components are  available when needed on the can assembly lines.

We have come a long way in employee training and reporting processes. I have worked in our family business for 44 years and must say that this has been the most difficult project this company has ever undertaken.

   Why did we go this direction and why now? Very good question.

  • In 2014, we had an outstanding year except for the fact that we over sold our capacity to manage the complexity and the diversity of the products we were asked to deliver. We had plenty of machine capacity although we delivered orders late.
  • In 2013, we recognized that our most knowledgeable and tenured employees were approaching retirement and we had to back fill talent from outside of our industry. The people we have hired are talented and skilled although they needed to learn our products and our customer’s needs.
  • We now have talented associates that are learning who and what we are. We have begun giving them the electronic tools to be successful.

Employer of Choice-

Today, our economy is operating at full employment which means anyone that wants a job has a job. We provide all employees a track with many options and career paths. Through apprenticeships for electricians, mechanics, printing press operators, etc., we have significant number of high paying jobs available today.

  • Having a defined career path
  • Having apprenticeships in various disciplines
  • Living in the part of the country in which a person desires to locate (5 Manufacturing locations)
  • Having state-of-the-art technology at their finger tips
  • Being employed in a business where one can make a difference and not just be a number

We have employee engagement surveys and have had open discussions with them about what they want in their work day world and we are striving to deliver their requests.

From the data we have collected, turnover has slowed and the hiring of talent has become less difficult. People want to work where investments are being made in technology throughout the business.

Long Term Financial Strength-

Independent Can Company has always invested in equipment and talent with a long term view of the business.

Today, it is very difficult to forecast the future with our government changing the rules on globalization and the free flow of goods around the world. TARIFFS: I will not go into all of the challenges tariffs have caused although the administration has force steel costs up 25%. To service our customers well, we will continue to buy our steel based on the following this criterion: Quality, Service (on time delivery), and Price.

To offset increased costs of steel, we are investing in more manufacturing automation: robots, centralized production, centers of excellence and more effective processing plans which the new ERP is designed to provide.

The Environment

Unless you live in a cave, you have heard about all of the plastic ending up in our oceans and landfills. To date, I have not heard of a plastic material that is truly biodegradable and those that claim that they are biodegradable require a special process.  Additionally, the “biodegradable” plastics cannot go into the single stream recycling process as they contaminate other plastics, therefore end up in the landfill. Plastics companies claim their products can be recycled and what they are really saying is that there are applications for second and third uses of plastics. In reality, 100% of plastic material will either end up in a furnace (causing damage to the atmosphere), landfill (covers our natural land with garbage) or in the oceans  (into our food chain through seafood).

plastic pollution

Cans, whether they are steel or aluminum, are recycled at an ever-increasing rate and are reprocessed into new first-quality materials.  This happens with no loss of material properties.  If metal cans do end up in a landfill or in the ocean, they will rust away back into the environment in years, not hundreds of years.

Please think of our environment first and choose products that are packaged responsibly.  #MetalPackagingNow


Independent Can Participates in Grand Re-Opening of Port Discovery

Port Discovery children’s Museum had its Grand Re-Opening on June 14, 2019

Commemorative Tin Cans Decorative Tins

On June 14, 2019, Port Discovery’s children’s museum had its Grand Re-Opening.  It was a special day of fun for families as they explored 3 floors of amazing and fun attractions for children.  Port Discovery’s mission is to educate children and inspire life-long curiosity. They create a safe environment for “child-driven, playful learning”.

Independent Can was thrilled to participate in this event by creating the commemorative tins for the occasion. Our digital printing capabilities allow for a fully customized, printed can without placing a large order.

Independent Can owners, Mac and Cathy McClelland, attended the press event.  We are thrilled to be a part of these kinds of commemorations. The tins were used as part of the centerpieces at each table! Having a printed can as part of the celebration makes a lasting memory.

Independent Can Company Captures Print Excellence Awards

Independent Can Company has again been recognized for excellence in print quality by the International Metal Decorating and Packaging Association (IMDPA) at its annual conference in May.  Each year the IMDPA recognizes the skillful achievements of metal decorators.  Independent Can Company, for many consecutive years, has won the prestigious “Award of Excellence” and “Best of Category” in Specialty Packaging, as well as Signs and Displays.

This year’s award for “Best of Category” was ICC’s first in Digital Printing.  The design, “Bundled Up”, is from ICC’s year-round stock decorative tin program.  High quality digital printing enables extension of current programs and speed to market for branding opportunities.

Independent Can Digital Printing

In the fall of 2016 Independent Can added to its printing and can making capabilities with the acquisition of The Ball Corporation’s specialty can division in Baltimore, MD, Steeltin. This acquisition was a continuation of the strategic growth initiatives that have made ICC successful for 90 years.

What’s New at Independent Can – Winter 2019

As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2019, we have had time to reflect on the past year and to establish goals and plans for 2019.

2018 was a challenging year with many issues that were very rare occurrences:

  • Import tariffs on Steel and Aluminum
  • The installation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP)
  • An economy that provides the quality worker an opportunity to change jobs easily

Another challenge for our country is an aging work force leading to a high level of very skilled workers retiring and a population of young people coming out of high school looking to work in technology and not in manufacturing as a career path.

The challenge for manufacturers is that the United States has a tremendous opportunity to grow manufacturing domestically which is the first time in nearly 25 years.

We want you know what we are doing to address these challenges and how we believe we will thrive in the future.

  • Tariffs: We are working through the Administration’s policies, to a great extent, although we have been very vocal advocates publicly in the press.
    1. As a company we testified before Ways and Means Committee in Congress and have received 11 exemptions from the import duties. This has helped to average the impact of the higher costs down however costs still have increased.
    2. Pricing globally has stabilized although at a higher cost.
    3. Global supply is also stable which has resulted in Tin Plate being readily available.
    4. We have brought in additional inventories of steel allowing for more flexibility in responding to customer needs.
  • Installation of a new ERP System: Independent Can has a very diverse product offering manufactured in 5 plants strategically located in the USA. We needed a sophisticated system to help schedule processes and to keep track of work in process.
  • The system was installed over a 24 month period and the last plant to go live was Belcamp. When this was done, the overall complexity of the largest plant caused huge problems in both scheduling and transparency of work in process. We failed to service our most important customers and we know it.
    • Today we have a new team managing the system and are absolutely focused on correcting the issues that plagued us in 2018.
    • Why did we install this system? Our company has been successful because we have had for many years very skilled, dedicated long term can makers that grew up with the business although they are now retiring. We have lost many individuals that had, in their brains, all of our tribal knowledge which made the business work without a complex computer system’s assistance. To grow and thrive we need systems to help the newer employees.
  1. Manufacturing slip cover tins for both stock designs and custom –

11 – round diameters and 6 tapered

45 – irregular shapes (square, octagon, rectangle, oval, cut corner ETC)

35 – 2 piece drawn slip cover and continuous threaded and interrupted thread

40+ – different closures and nozzles for various applications

Military tins

  • 2. Lithography –

Belcamp – 2 Metalstar lines (4 and 6 color), 1 Crabtree (2 color) and 3 thermal coaters

Vandalia – 1 Metalstar line (6 color) and 1 thermal coater

  • The economy has been growing since 2010 and now almost everyone that wants to work is working. Along with this, if there are any exceptional workers in your business they are being recruited.
  • What are we doing to help retain and hire the culturally aligned Associates?
    • Employer of Choice-
      • Flexible work schedules are offered in most plants and are also being developed where there are more challenging customer demands
      • Improved a 401K match program
      • Evaluated all wage rates to make sure we are competitive in all skills
      • Career path development along with apprentice programs
    • Technology-
      • Today most young people coming to manufacturing directly from High School or College do not want to get their hands dirty. Associates are managing more systems then manual labor.
        • CAD – systems
        • CNC – mills and lathes
        • Robotic packaging system
        • Computer skills training

We have a lot of challenges although we have even more opportunities for new and exciting metal packaging options today than we have had in many years.

I want to thank all of our very important customers and also to apologize for our performance in 2018 and assure everyone that we are razor focused on every customer, every day.

Thank you and never hesitate to call any of our sales personnel, or even me, if you have a problem or an opportunity.

Rick Huether

President and CEO

Packaging Innovation

Packaging Suppliers Are the Innovators

Recently, I was in a restaurant, famous for crabs and casual dining. It was an average crab house but their presentation of food was memorable. The french fries were in miniature deep fryer baskets. The crab cakes were served in crab shell shaped dishes. Everyone at the table took pictures of the food. Their containers created a buzz and made the visit memorable. It was a topic of conversation when others asked what we thought of the experience.

It benefits a company to come across with a presentation that is seen as clever or creative.  It shows thought about the customer experience.  In this visual and social media world, people want to see something different.

coffee canA recent article in Packaging World Magazine entitled Cracking Open Packaging Innovation, stated that most packaging innovation comes from the packaging suppliers.  “With probable bias, I’ve learned over the years that Consumer Packaged Goods innovations often originate at the packaging supplier. CPG brands have serious struggles innovating. If they change up their product, it’s no longer the same product. Change Heineken’s formula, and it’s no longer Heineken. Since CPGs can’t necessarily change the product, their packaging is prime for makeover after makeover. When brands don’t have a stream of new packaging ideas coming their way, they start to beat down on price. And you can’t blame them; if they can’t implement fresh ideas, they’ll spend their time pounding on costs. Feed them great ideas, and you’ll get to drive that part of the discussion,” writes 

“Some of the best examples of packaging innovation are those that address unarticulated consumer needs by offering greater functionality and enjoyment of existing products.” 

Packaging mittens in a coffee can, with a graphic showing mittens holding a coffee mug, could be just different enough to prompt a purchase. The marriage of two ordinary, existing products create this packaging innovation. Independent Can has partnered with our customers in developing creative packaging solutions for nearly 90 years.

Independent Can Company Headquarters SQF2 Certified

Independent Can is pleased to announce the operation of its second SQF2 certified facility by The Safe Quality Food Institute.  The Belcamp, Maryland headquarters and main manufacturing facility received its certification on July 27th, 2018. The Vandalia, Ohio facility was certified earlier this year.

The SQFI verifies that our systems have been properly validated and demonstrate continuous monitoring procedures. SQF is globally recognized by retailers and foodservice providers. SQF benefits extend to our customers that are pursuing their own certification.

Level 2 SQF Certification, known as the “Certified HACCP-Based Food Safety Plan”, incorporates all of the Level 1 requirements, including Good Manufacturing and Distribution Practices as well as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points risk assessment and implementation. SQF Certification is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).  It guarantees a higher level of trust and acceptance in our global marketplace.

In 2018, Independent Can is on track to meet its goal of SQF2 Certification for all facilities in which food-contact packaging is manufactured, including our Fort Madison, IA facility. For decades, Independent Can, through its own best practices, has met the high standards for food-contact packaging including food-safe materials, inks and coatings, as well as safe handling practices.  This Certification will provide us with additional documentation of our efforts for the assurance of our customers.

View Certificate



Plastic and Steel in the News

Enough Plastic Bashing?

Almost weekly, there is a new story about plastic pollution.  Most recently, we have read about the war on plastic straws. Enough plastic bashing, right?  

Since plastic first became part of the American landscape, people have valued it for its light weight durability and affordability.  It still has its place.  Temporary or secondary plastic packaging may have one additional life after recycling before its final destination – the landfill or the ocean.

Being a manufacturer of 100% recyclable steel packaging, we thought we knew all of the facts about competitive packaging such as glass, paper and plastic.  Just this week, CBS News featured a report called Piling Up; Drowning in a Sea of Plastic, regarding the current crisis in plastic recycling. The plastic industry is working to make plastics more recyclable or biodegradable but public education and access to commercial recycling facilities for the new plastics may take many years.

Here is what we learned:

  1. US recycling centers will only process plastics with few contaminants.
  2. Contaminated plastic (labeled or containing foreign materials) was purchased by China but as of January, 2018, the Chinese government stopped taking it
  3. Small US recycling centers are closing due to slowing down their production and increasing processing to remove contaminants.

Many US companies are touting their conversion from other packaging to plastic as a sustainability move.  There are so many factors considered when claiming to be “green”, that a company can convert to a plastic or combination plastic item and claim a carbon footprint reduction. This is due to shipping material that is lighter in weight.  That doesn’t mean less plastics in oceans and landfills.  Watch the CBS report and learn more.

plastic pollution
Although steel has been in the news because of tariffs recently imposed, it is a great value in all categories. Steel is promotional, collectible, recyclable, reusable and biodegradable.


Tariffs on Steel:

I want to begin my comments on the tariffs that the United States Commerce Department have imposed to let every reader know that I am passionate about this topic and have a strong personal and a professional opinion.

Over the years technology and communications have moved global and at this point we have no chance to slow down this process. Those that try to change the path towards globalization are fighting the tide, wind and weather, which is an impossible task.

As a country we may have negotiated poor deals with many other countries, and I believe that most people would agree with this. It is easy to understand that any agreement made between any two parties need to be revised, over time, due to unexpected consequences as a result of changes in technology, demographics and economic dynamics.

Tariffs on imported Steel- I want to be clear. I am specifically interested in Tinplate. Tinplate is very thin gauge flat rolled steel with an electro coated surface of tin. Tinplate was developed as a corrosion resistant surface for cans used for the preservation of food products.

Steel is 100% recyclable and can be used in any steel application without losing its strength or characteristics.

Today the can industry has evolved in many directions:

  • Beer & Beverage Cans- Almost all containers for these products are made from aluminum
  • General Line Cans- (Paints, Chemical, Aerosol) These cans are mostly made from tinplate with surface coatings and printed surfaces
  • Sanitary Cans- {fruit and many vegetables (corn, peas, soups etc.)} These cans are made from Tinplate and a steel called TFS (tin free steel).
  • Specialty Cans- (popcorn, candy, coffee, tea, cosmetics etc.) Nearly 100% of these cans are made with tinplate.

General Line and Sanitary cans use tinplate because it is required for the long term protection and security of the products packaged. There is no better package to secure these products than steel.

  • Plastics are making inroads although this generally is a price driven issue and not the long term security of the product packaged.
  • Plastics ultimately end up in landfills or the oceans posing environmental problems.

Specialty Cans- It is truly hard to define a specialty can other than it is a can that the largest can makers tend to no longer want to manufacture. The reason that the large can companies do not want to make them is that the volume or market demand is small requiring short runs and many changeovers.


Tinplate Steel

Tinplate Globally: Steel companies around the world make tinplate. Tinplate as a product line is only about 3% of global steel production. No integrated steel company has tinplate as their primary product nor could they survive producing only tinplate.

  • In the United States, currently, as a country we only produce approximately 57% of the tinplate required by all can makers in the USA.
    • If all can companies in the USA bought from domestic steel companies and they had the capacity to produce the quality, coil sizes needed and could deliver on time, this would only add about 2% to the primary steel production.

Would Independent Can Company like to buy 100% domestic Tinplate? The answer is absolutely YES.

  • Why don’t we buy 100% domestic?
    • Up until about 2007 we bought 90% domestic- why did we go overseas?
      • We buy on the following basis:
        • Quality- We need steel that performs through our processes as well as the surface appearance.
        • Service- We need to have delivery of ordered steel to arrive on time, as promised by our suppliers
        • Price- We need globally competitive raw materials to compete in a global market place
      • Domestic Steel supply:
        • Quality: Due to lack of investment the US steel companies have not kept up with the demands of the latest equipment requirements for steel performance: coil width, temper control, surface quality
        • Service: on time delivery: 2016 18% on time, 2017 12% on time and 2018 year to date 18% on time
        • Price: We have been able to purchase from Europe at a slight price advantage with steel arriving on time and the quality has been near perfection.

Independent Can has submitted about 40 requests for exemptions for the tin plate we need to manage our business. As of the writing of this article we have no disposition for or against these exemption requests.

  • The USA steel producers need 1-2 years to upgrade their facilities to be competitive and this is information from our domestic suppliers.
    • We have asked our domestic steel suppliers to support a 2 year exemption while they prepare to be competitive so we do not lose domestic users of tin cans. Once we lose a customer to overseas production, they may never come back and that may result in a permanent loss of jobs. The steel companies have refused to support any exemption. Very short term thinking.
    • We have joined forces with CMI (Can Manufacturer Institute) and are participating in many organized lobbying efforts as well as individual outreach to local governmental officials who have been very supportive.

As a specialty can maker we are proud that we have been able to thrive in a very competitive market place. Many of our competitors have closed their plants and have moved to the importation of tins. We remain focused on Made in the USA solutions as being demanded by many of our year round customers that are supportive of investment. We have great employees that are both talented and skilled. We have invested in the finest equipment that will allow us to meet our customers’ needs and demands for quality containers at globally competitive prices.

We thank our customers for their loyalty and their understanding in these trying times. Please call and ask questions.

We are working hard to get the message out: (Please see the video interviews)

Voice of American – Impact of Steel Tariffs




Independent Can Wins IMDA Award of Excellence

Independent Can Company Captures Print Excellence Awards

custom tin signsIndependent Can Company was again recognized for excellence in print quality by the International Metal Decorator’s Association (IMDA).  The award was presented to Independent Can Company at their annual conference held this May.  Each year the IMDA conducts a quality contest with entries from around the world, to recognize the skillful achievements of metal lithographers.  Independent Can Company, for many consecutive years, has won the prestigious “Award of Excellence” and “Best of Category” in Specialty Packaging, as well as Signs and Displays.

The “Award of Excellence” was in the Miscellaneous category for Signs and Displays for the printing of the “Great Retrievers” metal sign, by Ducks Unlimited, produced for Desperate Enterprises.

Over the past decade Independent Can has invested heavily in the latest printing equipment specifically designed for high definition printing on metal.  The company has two strategically located metal decorating facilities and technical experts to direct these highly specialized print operations.  “No specialty packaging company in North America can match our quality or capacity in metal lithography,” said President and CEO, Rick Huether.

Independent Can Operating SQF2 Certified Plant

Independent Can is pleased to announce that its Vandalia, Ohio facility has now been SQF2 certified by The Safe Quality Food Institute. The SQFI verifies that our systems have been properly validated and demonstrate continuous monitoring procedures. SQF is globally recognized by retailers and foodservice providers. SQF benefits extend to our customers that are pursuing their own certification.

Level 2 SQF Certification, known as the “Certified HACCP-Based Food Safety Plan”, incorporates all of the Level 1 requirements, including Good Manufacturing and Distribution Practices as well as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points risk assessment and implementation. SQF Certification is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).  It guarantees a higher level of trust and acceptance in our global marketplace.

In 2018, Independent Can is pursuing SQF2 Certification for all facilities in which food-contact packaging is manufactured. That will be followed by our Conneaut facility in early 2019.  For decades, Independent Can, through its own best practices, has met the high standards for food-contact packaging including food-safe materials, inks and coatings, as well as safe handling practices.  This Certification will provide us with additional documentation of our efforts for the assurance of our customers.

Plastic Pollution is a Global Problem – Think Tin!

Plastic Last Forever – Tin Recycles Infinitely

Koh Kong, Cambodia – January 3, 2017: Floating garbage in the sea on the waterfront of the Koh Kong city.

The image above is not all that uncommon – plastic pollution. As a matter of fact, there is an island of floating plastic named Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) that is approximately 600,000 square miles according to a recent study.  It is 3 times the size of the State of Texas.  Read more

Plastic, if recyclable at all, is down-cycled, with its second life being the last before the landfill.  Every piece of plastic that has ever been made is still here in some form or another. Although the plastic industry is working hard on bio-plastics and bio-polymers, they cannot be combined with curb-side recycling and they contaminate the existing plastic recycling stream.  There are not enough commercial facilities nor is there consumer education. While everyone is familiar with #1, #2 and #5, what do you do with a #7?  Plastic can only broadly claim an extended life cycle and reduction in fossil fuels due to their light weight.

Steel, on the other hand, can be recycled, time and time again, to make new steel for reuse without loss of quality.  Steel is also biodegradable.  It separates from the waste stream by a magnet. Cans made from steel never have to end up in the ocean or landfill.

There is more to the sustainability story of the steel can.  It extends our food harvest time and keeps food fresh and free of contaminants for a year without refrigeration. Canned food, coffee, nuts and other items are packed at the peak of freshness so they also is packed at their nutrient peaks. Making food portable and in a container that is heat and fracture resistant has helped to feed people throughout the world!  Choose tin!

 Nostalgic Tin Cans

Collectible Tin CansEverything Old is New Again

So many new package designs are reaching back to previous eras to create a nostalgic or vintage look.  Real vintage tins can bring a hefty price but people and businesses love them for their homes and establishments. Collectible package with a nostalgic image is appealing to all ages. Our CEO likes to call this trend “contemporary nostalgia”.

Recently, Virginia Diner teamed up with Curtis Publishing and offered their peanuts in a tin decorated with Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post artwork, featuring among others Rockwell’s famous “Runaway” and “Soda Jerk” images. In 2017, The Virginia Diner partnered with the Norman Rockwell Family Agency in honoring our American heroes. They sponsored Fisher House Foundation and donated 10% of the sales of their Americana Snack Mix.

Watch how it call comes together at the Virginia Diner. The peanuts are baked fresh right in the restaurant!

The Importance of Digital Printing in Package Design Testing

Often, a brand will introduce a new package design and their sales will increase. The redesign makes they product look as if it has improved or is more attention-getting.  There are also times when a package design can alienate a loyal customer because the brand identity has become synonymous with the product. How can companies avoid the risks without missing opportunities to increase sales?  Digital printing is the answer.

Online marketers need to select the right key words in order to rank in digital advertising.  Using a number of different key words and text ads to see which perform better, is key to spending your budget efficiently while learning of the best way to get your customer’s attention.  If buyers had the opportunity to introduce several new package designs into the marketplace at the same time, it would be easier to gauge customer impact.   Digital printing allows for smaller minimums and speed to market.  If an item is taking off, reruns can be done quickly while the decision to introduce the new packaging on a larger scale is in the works.

Brand Packaging Magazine recently wrote about this topic. “A product packaging is essentially the “face” of the product, it’s critical to test the packaging with consumers before the product launch to ensure it fits with their needs and aspirations.” Read the full article.

A limited edition would also be a great test, while at the same time, a promotional opportunity. Hoopers Island Oyster Company used a digitally printed decorative pail as a Limited Edition Heritage Tin to promote their delectable oysters. Ask your sales representative about our new digital capabilities.

What’s New at Independent Can – Fall 2017

September 2017

2017 is flying by. As we enter September we are now in the busiest time of the year for decorative tins both promotional and gift and I can assure you that we have been preparing for this busy season since January of this year.

What’s going on?

  • Decorative tins: This is a very seasonal business.
    • Lithography is working very long hours to make sure that we are able to meet the expectations of our customers.
    • 3 of our manufacturing plants produce decorative tins (Belcamp, MD, Vandalia, OH and Ft Madison, IA) and they are all working long hours and weekends to fulfill the orders that are on the books
    • It appears that the retail markets are working later this year then we have experienced in the past consequently we are required to produce orders with shorter lead times.
    • The good news is that we have added more lines in all 3 plants for flexibility and on two lines; we have doubled our through put (units per hour). These investments are a direct result of the acquisition of the Ball Corp plant in Baltimore, MD.
  • Industrial tins: This is a very level business throughout the year.
    • 2017 has been a good year as the economy has been strong and the products that we supply to these markets are absolutely tied to how strong business is in America, Canada and Mexico.
    • The acquisition of the Ball Corp Plant in Baltimore has also added significant capacity and new capabilities for our open top Hermetic tins.
  • 2 Piece Drawn tins: This is very level business throughout the year.
    • This has been an outstanding year for 2 piece seamless tins. Combining the capabilities in our “new” Baltimore and our Belcamp plants has permitted significant efficiency and growth opportunities.seamless tins

The biggest challenge today:

As we all have heard on the news and read in the papers manufacturing is coming back strong in the United States. Manufacturing in the USA can be competitive globally:

  • Quality: Through our Quality Assurance program we are working through Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), documentation and specification design to provide the finest cans available globally.
  • Environmentally responsible: The tins we make are all made with first class steel which is infinitely recyclable.
  • Safe Food Quality (SQF): We are committed to achieving the SQF II certification in all of our plants that produce tins for food. Vandalia, OH will be first and then Belcamp, MD.
  • Training: The Manufacturing sector in the USA is so strong that finding good mechanics, electricians, machinists ETC. is a real struggle. We are working on training for nearly every skilled position to develop the next generation of can makers.
  • Real time electronic systems: In my What’s New posted in May 2017, I mentioned that we are installing a computer system that will ultimately provide real time data from order entry through accounts payable. The update is as follows:
  • We have now installed the system in two manufacturing plants with a 3rd going live November 1, 2017.
  • The entire system will be fully installed by May 2018.
  • With the complexity of business today and the need for real time information we believe this is an investment that will allow our customers the transparency and flow of information required: Bar coding, bin locations, inventory release at the dock when shipped, traceability, etc.I want to thank all of our customers for their loyalty and support as without customers we do not have a business. We now have nearly 400 employees that are fully committed to manufacturing the finest specialty can made in the world.As the President and CEO of our family business I would like to say we are perfect in everything we do although this would not be true. I can say we are working very hard to professionalize all aspects of the company and are installing the skills training and automated systems to provide the resources and data we need to meet and or exceed our customer’s expectations. We are a sales and customer driven company- who happens to be a manufacturer.

Thank you again for your support.

Richard Huether
President and CEO