“Corrugated—Not Cardboard—101” arose out of a new sales rep’s learnings about the corrugated packaging industry and helping purchasing and marketing departments. Here’s what purchasing agents and product marketers need to know about the corrugated packaging industry.


First, corrugated packaging is not cardboard packaging.

Often, you’ll hear someone refer to a sturdy shipping box as a “cardboard box.” Similarly, they may decide to have a “cardboard” retail display. Neither of these is correct. The correct term is corrugate.

We don’t use cardboard and corrugate interchangeably in the packaging industry.

Cardboard and Chipboard

On the one hand, “cardboard” is any single board made from thick paper pulp. This includes everything from a birthday card to what the packaging industry calls chipboard. Chipboard is the type of paper board used to build, for instance, shoe boxes, or thin folding cartons, such as cereal boxes. Chipboard’s purpose is to contain lightweight items.

However, you would never ship your products in a cardboard (or chipboard) box. That role is reserved for corrugated shippers.

Corrugated Shippers and Other Corrugated Boxes

Corrugated shippers are the strong, sturdy boxes that hold, for example, 25 cereal boxes (folding cartons) for shipment to the grocery store.

But chipboard boxes aren’t the only types of boxes that travel in shippers. Shippers may also hold multiple corrugated boxes or other packaged (or nonpackaged items) within them.

Corrugated boxes (including shipping boxes) are made of (at least) three sheets of container board, thick paperboards. On the outside are two flat liner sheets, the “bread” of the sandwich. The middle sheet or medium (the “meat” of the sandwich) contains the classic fluted, wavy shape. A starchy glue holds these three boards together for added strength.

The same principle that applies to a bundle of sticks is relevant here. You can easily snap one stick or twig, but if you tie (or in this case, glue) them together they are much more durable.

These three glued together paperboard sheets are called corrugated sheets.


Second, shipping boxes (or “shippers”) aren’t the only use of corrugated sheets.

Our clients enjoy recyclable point-of-purchase (pop) display cases made of corrugate. Additionally, we sometimes ship items directly in the pop display as we did for a mustard manufacturer.

Likewise, many items will sell off the shelves in branded corrugated packaging that was designed specifically for that product. Several factors are at play here.

First, the brand colors, look and feel can be created. Corrugate can be ANY color, including bright white and sophisticated black. Plus, we can print directly on the corrugate, adding to the branding and messaging.

Furthermore, the packaging can be designed (often with interior packaging such as pads, tubes, or partitions). With the custom design and interior packing, the product fits snugly in the box, protecting it from damage.


Third, it’s helpful to understand how the process of making corrugated packaging works.

As mentioned earlier, the corrugated sheets are typically made of three boards that are glued together.

Corrugated Boards

We have our own corrugator, so we can produce these boards relatively quickly.

In fact, we can do any board grade you need.

The most common is a 32 ECT. ECT stands for edge crush test. ECT is a measure of how strong the corrugate is.

A slightly stronger board is a 44 ECT. A 44 ECT could hold heavy items, such as juice bottles, for example. The flat liner boards (the bread) use a heavier, thicker paper than a 32 ECT.

We also offer double-wall corrugate. Double wall consists of two layers of corrugated medium glued together.

Learn more about single face, double face, double wall, and triple wall corrugated boards with these frequently asked questions (FAQs) about corrugate. Our FAQs also address different flute sizes.

Printing on Corrugate

After the boards come off the corrugator, we use a print plate to overprint on the board. The print plate can be used over and over again.

Cutting, or Tooling

The next step is cutting the box, or tooling. However, not all boxes require tooling. For example, an RSC (regular slotted container) is a standard box that does not require tooling.

For tooling, we use a cutting die to cut the exact box or display size and shape. Similar to the print plate, we’ll be able to use the cutting die repeatedly.

We’ve created dies that cut boxes used to ship very large household appliances and those as small as ring boxes. The die shape can also vary. It might include various angles or air holes, for example. Alternatively, it may have slots and notches to turn into a POP display. We even create flat boxes to house a single poster at a time.

Once you’re set up with your print plate and die, you’re good to go. Therefore, we have a one-time set-up fee for the dies and print plates that our structural designers create for you. In fact, we keep an extensive library of customers’ dies and print plates, all catalogued and ready to be reused.

Folding and Gluing

After being printed and cut, the boards are folded and glued. At Wertheimer Box, we have machines that rapidly print, cut, fold and glue all on the same machine.


Fourth, it’s best to avoid “fire drills.”

It’s stressful for both the buyer and Wertheimer Box when a client needs a STAT completion.

The Multi-step Process Typically Takes Time

While we’re known for our quick turnaround times, the corrugated packaging process generally does take, at minimum, a few days. That’s because we need to:

  • Receive the paper
  • Make the boards
  • Apply the branding (if dies and print plates aren’t already created)
  • Print, cut, fold, glue, and
  • Transport the boxes (or pop displays)

Use the Proper Box From the Correct Skid

One way to avoid running out of boxes is to ensure that production line workers always use the right box for the right product. Criss-crossing boxes from different skids can cause problems.

This is one reason a customer may run out of a box too soon. Criss-crossing is when packing workers pull a box from the wrong skid to ship the product.

To illustrate, if workers pull from the wrong box skid and place a small product “A” into a larger Box “B,” it will fit just fine. A small product can fit in a too-large box.

However, the company will run out of Box B.

What’s left? More of Box A.

But what happens when the larger product “B” needs to be shipped? It cannot fit in small Box A. It’s too big.

The product manufacturing line is at risk of going down. So, crisscrossing can be an issue.

Stay on Top of Inventory

Furthermore, the time to report running out of a box is as soon as possible. It’s important to know approximate usages and manage your inventory.

Preventing Inventory Management Problems

One solution we offer our customers is to warehouse and manage packaging inventory for you. By warehousing and managing your inventory, we can help ensure that your boxes are available when you need them.

Why We’re Typically Fast

Overall, we can show you just how fast we CAN make packaging. Afterall, Wertheimer Box has been doing this for more than 80 years. What’s more, we own our own:

  • Trucks
  • Corrugator
  • Machines


Finally, at Wertheimer Box, no job is too small or too large.

We can get ‘er done.  Reach out to me or one of my colleagues. We’ll help you achieve your brand’s goals.

Doug Wertheimer

Since 2004, Doug Wertheimer has been the owner and president of Wertheimer Box, Corp. Under his tenure, the company has more than tripled in size. Doug grew up in the corrugated packaging industry and has 40+ years of experience in packaging solutions. He majored in history at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Wertheimer Box manufactures custom, printed corrugated boxes and corrugated point of purchase displays as well as standard boxes and packaging.

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