Rick Sasse, RPA Board Member, has watched the RPA become a stronger and bigger resource since its inception as the RPCC in 1999.
RPA editor: TriEnda is one of the largest heavy gauge thermoforming manufacturers in North America, and you serve multiple markets. How does the company’s large size benefit your customers?
Sasse: TriEnda is a solutions provider as well as a manufacturer. We work with people across a wide range of industries. We might be in a manufacturing plant, a food processing plant, or a distribution center all in the same week. We see the different methods companies use to move and protect their products. We use this information to help develop a better material handling solution. This could be a better designed pallet, container or dunnage that really improves efficiency and material flow.
RPA editor: You’ve been in the reusables market with TriEnda for 20 years. Has there been a common obstacle to reusables all this time?
Sasse: To me, it is still the high upfront cost of entry. We’ve done well at documenting ROI to our direct customers, but they still need to convince others internally. It takes a lot of convincing to get someone to write that first big check. Asset loss is also an issue. Unfortunately, there is a lot more press when products get lost or stolen than there is about good supply chains that are working really well.
RPA editor: What surprises end users when they first learn about reusables?
Sasse: The surprises come when you get in to a facility and walk a customer through the return on investment (ROI) on reusables. Most don’t realize how much a pallet or shipping container really affects their operation. Their focus is, “I pay x dollars for y box.” They don’t realize the additional costs tied to moving or handling that box, or having someone touch that box multiple times, or the product damage that is caused by poor protection. Often, once this is pointed out and they start to look deeper, they start to realize that there are a lot of undocumented costs.
RPA editor: What are some of the big challenges facing suppliers of reusables?
Sasse: One is material costs, and the volatility of the resin market. HDPE is the base material of many the products, and its volatility affects a lot of the suppliers. Also, the competition has really increased over the past 20 years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not all the providers are well informed about reusables. The RPA helps address this problem by shaping a unified message about reusables, and making factual data available. The association can review a claim and determine if it’s valid. Guidelines coming from the RPA carry more weight than something coming from a single supplier.
RPA editor: How else does TriEnda benefit from being a member of the RPA?
Sasse: I was involved with the association more than a decade ago when it was called the RPCC. The association got off to a rough start, but it has broadened its base since then. We’re getting a stronger cross section of end users, suppliers, and manufacturers. And the RPA has been creating more content that makes it a stronger resource. It needs to continue growing that library for all segments of the membership.
RPA editor: You are a member of the RPA’s Board of Directors. Why did you volunteer for that position?
Sasse: It’s valuable to meet with end users and other manufacturers and hear how they perceive the market and the issues they are facing. It gives me a broader perspective. I also like the opportunity to share my experiences and help advance the market.
RPA editor: You travel a lot for work. What do you do when you are home in Wisconsin?
Sasse: I enjoy bird hunting when I have the time, and I train field dogs (golden retrievers) for the sport. I also like golf and running and spending time with my wife and three grown daughters.