Ingus Lasinskis, Operations Director at 5 Star Cases, sits down with TPi to share how the company has developed in recent years, his thoughts on emerging trends in the sector and 5 Star’s sustainable approach to flight case manufacturing.
How have the past few years been for 5 Star Cases?
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the entertainment industry was hit very hard, which in turn impacted 5 Star and our business but, because we also serve other industry sectors such as medical, we were able to survive. For a while, the whole factory had to close, and when we did come in, we went from having 80 staff to only having three or four people in the building. It presented us with challenges, as it did for other companies but the welfare of our staff was paramount. The staff that were coming in were senior, multi-skilled workers, which meant they could do everything needed to manufacture a case from laminating, through to CNC machining, aluminium, finishing, screen printing and sometimes also delivering.
“Although we made use of the available furlough schemes, it was still a challenge and, unfortunately, we did have to make some redundancies. We went from 80 staff to 36 at our lowest point. However, since early last year, business has increased significantly, and we have also seen an increase in the number of orders coming from the UK post-Brexit. We believe that this is due to the increased costs for companies to import and export from Europe. In addition, we have also increased our staff levels again, with a number of new appointments recently, enabling us to keep up with demand across each of our divisions within 5 Star, as well as outside our traditional flight case business for Mossman Cases, ProTect Bags and Covers and our new range of wooden crates.”
How have the demands from clients changed in the past few years?
“We have seen some aspects change with lightweight cases becoming a popular request. However, we have also seen an increase in demand for our ProTect Bags, as they offer an alternative to traditional flight cases to protect products. One trend we have seen is that if the products have a high value, then the investment in the protection of the product is also higher. However, the key thing is that the protection of their equipment is always paramount.
“What also happened during the pandemic was that unfortunately some of the other flight case manufacturers didn’t survive, so the choice of suppliers has decreased. The range of products and delivery times are also important. When choosing a flight case manufacturer there are considerations to bear in mind other than price such as the ability to deliver large quantity orders on a short time scale. 5 Star, we may not be the cheapest on the market, but we will ensure that the quality of our products is upheld without compromise. This includes using 100% birch plywood, and we won’t compromise on our hand-built craftsmanship.”
How has 5 Star dealt with the global shortage of raw materials?
“As 5 Star is a large facility, we also have capacity for storage of raw materials. We have made sure we’ve invested in raw materials, so we have enough stock to last us several months. This has allowed us to eliminate, as much as possible, any delays due to material shortages. When it comes to larger orders, before committing to a delivery date, we always ensure that we can meet the timescales required. Post-COVID, however, if there is a slight delay, our customers have become much more tolerant and understanding.”
Would you be able to touch on some of the sustainable practices you’ve started implementing?
“There are several things that 5 Star does to make its practices as sustainable as possible. We offer our clients a repair and recycle scheme for our cases, which often means that cases outlive the products they were designed to protect! We have a dedicated person in-house that is responsible for this service, which ensures a swift turnaround, so the cases can go back out on use again ASAP.
“We are in the process of switching all our lighting to LED, this will be completed by the end of the year. Around 99% of our waste is recycled by us or the waste management companies we use. In-house, we recycle cardboard, aluminium, steel wood and chemical waste. In addition to this, we are currently monitoring our carbon footprint. We are now monitoring power usage at the factory, which includes looking at the usage of energy by machinery. This will enable us to get a greater insight into where we are doing well and improvements that can be made.”
What does the rest of the year look like for 5 Star Cases?
“We have a lot happening internally this year as we are currently working towards ISO 9001 certification. We are also rolling out new software that has been three years in development which will streamline our technical design process, and training with relevant staff is in full swing. Many of our customers will have already noticed the change in appearance of the drawings provided for our cases, which is now delivered as a two-scale drawing plus a 3D image of the final product. With anything customised, there is always a higher chance of error. The new software will not only allow us to continue to reduce our turnaround times, but we believe it will amplify customer satisfaction on bespoke built cases as there is less room for error, increasing first-time right rates.”