S2Ep04: Solutions that Work: Climax Packaging's Driving Mission with Daryll Rardon


In this episode of The Vox Verba Podcast, we sit down with Daryll Rardon of Climax Packaging.

Climax Packaging is a 100+ year old company that specializes in manufacturing packaging equipment and material handling equipment. Their driving mission is to provide customers with solutions that work for them every time. They primarily work with the beverage industry, including small breweries, medium-sized producers, and co-packers. Their main products are uncasers (machines that remove product from a case) and packaging machinery (machines that put finished products in boxes or cartons). Climax Packaging's number one strength is their customer service, as they strive to be the reliable piece of equipment in their customers' systems. They also offer additional services such as connecting customers with suppliers and helping with financing. Climax Packaging is adaptable to changing product mixes and can handle different packaging needs, such as variety packs and different can sizes. They are also open to new challenges and finding the best solutions for their customers.



00:00 - Introduction to Climax Packaging and Darryl Reardon
01:06 - A Century of Packaging Excellence
03:14 - Partnering with the Beverage Industry
06:49 - From Uncasers to Packaging Machinery
08:40 - Reliability and Customer Service
09:38 - Additional Services Offered by Climax Packaging
13:02 - Adapting to Changing Needs


  • Climax Packaging is a 100+ year old company that specializes in manufacturing packaging equipment and material handling equipment.
  • Their driving mission is to provide customers with solutions that work for them every time.
  • They primarily work with the beverage industry, including small breweries, medium-sized producers, and co-packers.
  • Their main products are uncasers (machines that remove product from a case) and packaging machinery (machines that put finished products in boxes or cartons).
  • Climax Packaging's number one strength is their customer service, as they strive to be the reliable piece of equipment in their customers' systems.
  • They also offer additional services such as connecting customers with suppliers and helping with financing.
  • Climax Packaging is adaptable to changing product mixes and can handle different packaging needs, such as variety packs and different can sizes.
  • They are open to new challenges and finding the best solutions for their customers.

episode transcript

Andrya Allen (00:00.334)
I am so excited to have Darryl Reardon with us today with Climax Packaging. We get to have a conversation about what makes them special. And so thank you for being a guest today, Darryl. How are you doing today? I'm doing great, Andrea. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your podcast today. of course. You know, I spent just a little bit of time learning about you guys before today's episode and

What you do is fascinating. It feels like watching your videos feels like an episode of How It's Made. And I'm obsessed with that show, so I'm excited to get into it. Let's start with a snapshot. Could you give me a brief introduction to yourself and into Climax Packaging, please? Well, absolutely. So a very super quick introduction of Climax. We're a 100 plus year old company.

located in the metro Cincinnati area. We've been a manufacturer for 100 years. And like most companies, our products have changed over the years, but we still make basically packaging equipment, material handling types of equipment right here in the Cincinnati area. So that's fun. I've been with Climax for about four years. I'm the owner.

The company was started as a family -owned business. It was purchased in the 30s by a large machine tool company here in Cincinnati called Lodge & Shipley. And they owned the company until 1992 when it was sold to a couple of their managers. They actually spun the packaging division off of the company. And I ended up purchasing the company in 2020.

Andrya Allen (02:04.91)
from one of the original logic and shitly managers. So it's been a fairly, you know, there's not been a lot of disruption at Climax over the years. So. Thank you for sharing that with me. That's a long history. Can you share with me, what is the driving North Star, the mission behind Climax Packaging?

Well, one of the things that, especially for that, our driving mission is really to give our customers a solution that works for them every time. If they give us a container, a rigid container, we're going to figure out a way to put it in their package. That's what we do. And there's a lot of variations of that. But at the end of the day, we're focused on customer service.

We want to give the customer the best solution that can be developed for their specific situation.

Let's talk a little bit about who you work with most. Who finds the most value in what Climax Packaging offers? Well, we're at the heart of it. We're basically an automation company. There's nothing we build that in the past hasn't been done by hand. Of course, the faster you pack stuff, the more people would have to pack by hand. But,

you know, 150 years ago, things were put in boxes by just rows of humans sitting at tables and stuff. And then, you know, as things have developed mechanically, there's better ways to do it, faster ways to do it. So we provide machines that automate part or all of that process. Okay. Are there particular...

Andrya Allen (04:11.47)
industry segments or perhaps phases of a company's lifespan where they might come to you? Well, absolutely. Right now, probably 80 % of our sales the last few years has been in the beverage industry for a number of reasons. But yes, so a very small manufacturer, picture a small

corner brewery or brew pub, well, they're too small. They're not going to even put product in cans or bottles. Then usually their next step as they grow is they have a small line. They'll do hand fills, some bottles or cans. As they keep growing, they'll have automated filling equipment. Of course, the pandemic sped this process up because now,

people wanted to take home product, whether it be beer, wine, whatever it might be, people were simply not consuming beverages on premise, but needed to take things home. So that kind of sped up the need for canning and packaging equipment at the medium -sized producers. So that's one market segment for us.

In the last few years, a really growing segment of the beverage industry has been companies that pack and brew and bottle for other companies. So they may be a third party company that you may or may not have ever heard of that will produce product for other companies. And they need to have very, very flexible equipment.

that can run small batches of lots of different things. And that's a growing market in the beverage industry today. That's fascinating to hear about. It makes me think of the concept of machine shops for different pieces. Yep, exactly. It's really the same thing as like your classic job shop, where you take a drawing to a machine shop and they build it.

Andrya Allen (06:36.014)
And if it's a fancy enough machine shop, they can build the whole product for you. So you can kind of pick and choose how much of your product you contract out.

But you help me understand what are the primary products and services of Climax Packaging? So we talked about you guys help with automation, but what are some of the specific products or services you go through to do that? OK, so we have basically two big product segments. One is what we call an uncaser, which simply removes product from a case. So picture a.

facility with shiny new clean bottles coming in in a box and they want to put them on a filling line. So we offer machines that do that. And in fact, the very first machine Climax ever built was an uncaser that removed product from a container and put it on a line. And then the other much larger segment of our business are

packaging machinery where we take the finished product, whether it be a can of beverage or a bottle of salad dressing or a jug of motor oil and put it in a box, one way or another. And there's, we can do both vertical in a box. So picture a case of wine is a common thing we pack, you know, where we'll pick up and place the bottles of wine in a case or

A carton of canned beverage would be packed horizontally in a carton that is more like a cereal box than a corrugated box. So we make machines that do both of those things. Okay. Thank you for that. I can absolutely picture how both of those are part of the process and being able to automate those is able to really impact how you get the work done. Yes.

Andrya Allen (08:40.142)
And then some things, for example, if you go in a store, especially one of the Costco or Sam's, the warehouse clubs type stores, you'll see a lot of what we call variety packs. In other words, there might be two, three, four flavors of a customer's product all in one package. That's really a specialty of ours. And that lends itself.

greatly to that co -packers space that we were talking about a minute ago as well. They like to have the flexibility to do that. And a lot of times even the big beverage people will still sub out the co -packing for variety packs because it's not convenient for them to package it extremely high speed. So they'll send it away to be put into cartons. And that's where our

kind of the heart of our customer base falls. Okay, very cool. I know that around my house we often buy the variety packs. That's one that I'm commonly aware of and I can see how it can expand diversity of product offerings and what one could do with their bundling packages, bundling products together and how they offer their

kind of inherent product mix to their customers. Absolutely. Yeah. So we encourage that. Yeah. That's a nice niche that we really have kind of specialized in over the past few years. In the past few years, if you think back to a moment that you just felt really proud and engaged, a big achievement, what comes to mind for you?

Well, you know, sometimes it's the little things too. I had a customer, he actually, Copacker customer, we delivered the first machine to them maybe a year and a half ago and installed it. Then late last year, they ordered and received two more machines. So now they're running three of our machines. And I stopped by their facility the last time I was in Florida, just to say hi and see how they were doing.

Andrya Allen (11:07.534)
And the two top managers of the facility came out, actually one walked out of a meeting to see me and said, make sure if you have any customers that want to see your equipment running, please don't hesitate to have them call us. We'd be happy to show them your equipment running in our facility. I mean, what a great feeling, you know, not to just sell something, which is fun. And obviously that's our, you know, what we need to do to

to remain in business, but to have people actually unsolicited say, we really wanna help you with any customers you have that wanna see your equipment. That's a small but really powerful thing that makes you feel good about what you're doing. Definitely, thank you for sharing that with me. I know that when you are really excited about...

something that's happening in your business and you want to share it with others, that means that it's making a massive impact in your team and your own customers' lives. And people want to share that. Other business owners want to share that with other business owners. Well, and you know, it's funny, that's how we met was through Cole. You know, she's a new addition to our team, relatively new. And, you know, one of the things that we've kind of had to think about is, you know, we don't want to

become like that old fuddy -duddy company, we have to remain current, make sure that we are in social media, making sure we're reaching the right people, going to the right trade shows. And Cole and our sales team have really done a good job, sort of, I don't want to call it reinventing climax, but keeping us current, keeping things fresh. So.

It's kind of fun, you know, and we're always going to try something new and different too. Yeah, and you know, even if a company like yours that's 100 years old, and you've been doing things that are the need for them is centuries or decades old, what you do is something that people need every day. So it's very current and fresh and necessary.

Andrya Allen (13:27.534)
So we have to be seeing it on places like social media in the news at trade show conferences And so i'm glad you guys are out there doing that and you made time for today's conversation. This is great. Yeah, this is really fun But it is like, you know things change I mean, you know the not so much for us In that, you know, we'll always be able to put put the product, you know package the product and and supply other other related things for

for that to customers. But even in the last couple of years, the product mixes have changed dramatically. We're seeing, again, all within our capabilities easily. But for example, a lot of your craft tours, the common package today is a four pack, not a six pack. And I think some of that is due to inflation. They're trying to keep the price of a package

you know, say under $10 or whatever the number is. We ran our first nine -pack for a customer last year. Wow. Yeah, which is one, you know, whoever heard of a nine -pack, right? But this was, I'm sure, a customer that probably would have normally just run 12 -packs and is, well, now running nine -packs. So that's a, that's,

one of those things that we see out there that's kind of fun. We can easily adapt our machines to do that. Also, a new thing, relatively new, are big cans, 19 .2 ounce cans. For a long time, it was just one energy drink brand. And now we're seeing that format is becoming more and more popular with a whole variety of

of beverage companies. So it's so fascinating to hear about it makes me think of an onslaught of beverage brands I know and love and the different sizes I like to buy as a consumer. And then, you know, we as an agency and at Vox Ferbo, we work with different companies. And what I'm seeing in this market is that especially consumer facing brands are

Andrya Allen (15:51.246)
experimenting with new product offerings, different bundles in order to keep the market engaged, but also reach pricing demands or supply chain demands. So it's incredible that you guys are able to offer that agility really, it sounds like in being able to automate part of the packaging process. Absolutely, because the only alternative for the people that are

responsible for getting the product to the retailers would be to just throw many, many people at it. And in years past, you could do that easily. Today, you always hear about how hard it is to find people and stuff. And I hear that when I'm out at customers. So we fill a need there. It's also easier. I mean, that's sort of a

not a particularly fun job hand packing cartons, but it also, you know, sometimes you couldn't find enough people even if you wanted to, to meet your requirements for getting product shipped to the retailers. Absolutely. That brings me to another question I have.

Let's say that someone's engaging in a conversation with Climax Packaging and they feel like you guys can solve a need that they have, but they have a big concern or big question about if it will work or not. What are some of these early questions that people might have? that's very common. You know, that's especially if it's someone fairly new to automating their processes. You know, these are not inexpensive machines.

so understandably, they want to make sure that it'll work. you know, first, of course you want it to work. You know, you want your car to start every morning, you know, that type of thing. But, that, that is usually a very real concern. They want to see how you integrate it into their system. So normally what we try to do is we've got lots and lots of videos of machines running it, doing different things.

Andrya Allen (18:09.39)
We'll try to work with them on that. Many times the concerns are less on will it do the job if it's something common, like packaging beverage in six -packs. They know we can do that. But sometimes it's outside of that. Maybe we need to connect them with a supplier of cartons. Maybe we need to help them find financing for the machine.

And these are all things that probably 10 years ago, I'm guessing, they didn't even think about. Today, we're sometimes bringing in other helpful things or necessary things to help the customer get to where they want to be. Definitely. That's so helpful to hear. So people know that if they're sitting here listening to this, thinking, this might be right for me,

there are additional options in terms of things like financing or customizing your needs. absolutely. Yeah. And every application is a little different. You know, some people are in shiny new building, some are in 150 year old buildings. And, you know, there's always some education to be done at both sides, you know, to make sure that what we supply will work for their application.

What would you say is Climax Packaging's number one strength? absolutely our customer service. We take very good care of our people, our customers, well, our employees too. But we want to make sure that if they call, we get them taken care of. Whether it be a simple question or

upgrades or whatever the situation may be. And that's very important to us. What kind of this is a follow up question to that. I'm curious, what impact does your customer service have on your customers?

Andrya Allen (20:28.11)
Well, I think we try to be, you know, if you think about a customer that maybe has a lot of different equipment in their facility, you know, they may be a beverage manufacturer that has fillers and all kinds of other washers, you know, just lots of equipment. We want to be the piece of equipment that causes them the least amount of concern. In other words, we don't want them to say, darn it, we're down again because of

of this machine is not working. We don't want to be that machine. We do everything we can to make sure that our piece of their system is the reliable piece. And in our experience, that's normally the case. That's great to hear. It's about reliability and uptime. Absolutely. Right.

Beautiful. I'm curious. You know, we've talked about a lot of different things today. As we close our conversation, is there anything that I might have missed or we didn't discuss that you feel is important that we cover today? Well, I think that, you know, it's kind of fun to look back and see, you know, even though, well, here's a fun little story for you that maybe your listeners will find interesting. So,

Our very first machine we built in 1916, I said was an uncaser. And the product it uncased was glass milk bottles that the milk men brought back to the dairy. And they had to be washed because they were reusable. Okay. So we built a machine to pull the bottles off of the, out of the, out of the container and put them into the washing machine. Well,

Interestingly, just in the last month or two, we got a call from a dairy out in California that only packages their product in reusable glass bottles. And right now they're doing everything by hand. And they're returnable. So it may be a 108 -year cycle in that we may end up building a machine to pull glass milk bottles out of the

Andrya Allen (22:51.214)
out of the cartons and put them into the bottle washer again. Wow. So it's, you know, there's sometimes where we think everything's new, sometimes the concepts remain the same. And, and we want to be be there, even though we haven't done that for, you know, 50, 60, 70 years, we were ready and able to say, yes, we can do this. Absolutely. And,

So it could be a really fun project. They're still trying to see if they can justify the automation, but that will be an interesting application for Climax. So that's what we like. Give us something, give us a challenge, and we'll take a look at it and see how we can offer the best solution possible. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. I am.

We have different clients in manufacturing and the conversations, all these podcasts conversations, repeatedly a topic comes up of sustainability and recycling. And so I, I just find it fascinating that in 1916 out of I'm sure reason for profitability, not due to, you know, climate change or greenhouse gases, they were reusing these bottles and you guys were part of that process. So that's super cool.

Yes, so and I think we'll see more of that. We see glass versus cans in terms of beverage is sort of cyclical and we handle both. We're happy to provide machine solutions that'll do either. But, you know, I think right now we may see glass coming back a little more and if so, we're ready for it. But if cans...

remain the future. That's fine too. We're good either way. Wonderful. I'm so thankful for today's conversation. It's been very interesting to listen to you on a topic that I love. And thank you for being so open. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we close out today? No, that's great. Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time to listen to what I had to say about Climax packaging. This is absolutely. Yeah.

Andrya Allen (25:12.302)
Well, listeners, if you're listening and Climax Packaging offers things that you are curious about, or perhaps they fit into your community program this year and you want to learn more about them, connect with them, go to climaxpackaging .com. There'll be a link in the show notes and on the website page that you can go to and connect with Daryl's team. So thank you for listening today and I will see you on the next episode. Thanks, Daryl.