I sat with Gerald Davis, President of Vandor Corporation, to ask a few questions in order to learn more about its new line of Vision solid hardwood caskets. Here’s what I learned…
Why are you producing this new Vision Casket solid hardwood product line in Richmond, Indiana instead of the CJ Boots Casket plant in Anderson, Indiana?
Let’s start by first pointing out that to meet its growing sales, the CJ Boots Casket facility has more than doubled its production capabilities over the past year. In order to support that growth, Vision Casket set up a rough mill operation in the Richmond plant to supply hardwood lumber and casket components to Anderson. This allows the seasoned and experienced staff at CJ Boots to focus on producing and delivering more volume of their quality hardwood caskets, such as their very popular line of Craft Caskets. At the same time, Vision Casket will use the rough mill to meet its parts needs for making Vision low cost solid hardwood caskets. All of the Vision solid hardwood caskets are priced to maximize funeral home sales and margins.
With the other casket companies moving to veneers and other composite wood materials, why do you use solid hardwood in this line?
Two reasons…. First, Vision Casket believes all caskets marketed as ‘wood’ should be solid wood… making them better suited for burial or cremation. Caskets made using veneers typically have thin wood veneer pressure laminated to particleboard or medium density fiberboard. As a result, these caskets take longer to burn, consume more fuel, and leave more residue than do solid wood caskets. Second, Vision Casket’s new wider and longer hardwood casket dimensions allow for more design possibilities than do veneers while improving productivity and reducing costs. The secret to Vision’s solid hardwood caskets is its chalice shaped body allowing for a myriad of design variations using a variety of side/end carvings, handles, interiors, and head panels. The new design is perfectly suited to maximize the production throughput of Vision solid hardwood caskets. Although counterintuitive, this standardization actually allows Vision Casket to produce a virtually unlimited variety of styles of solid hardwood caskets at the lowest possible costs. To sum it up, even though veneer may be a lower cost material on paper, Vision Casket uses solid hardwood because we believe it is efficiently cremated and the strength gives access to large oversize dimensions, add to that, Vision hardwoods will still fit in a 29-inch vault and all at a lower price point. Besides being solid hardwood, the adjustable beds are a new fully crematable design. Also, our water based paint system allows for less emissions during the finishing process. Lastly, we are pleased to report that Vision caskets require no blankets for delivery ensuring lowest possible transportation and inventory cost.
Why did you choose to invest here in the states and not in Mexico, China or even Canada?
We find it interesting that companies announce that they’re reducing costs to justify moving to Mexico, but the savings are not shared with their customers. It is shocking to tally the volume of caskets that are now imported from Mexico, Canada, China and a few other overseas locations. In 2018, our industry will import approximately 450,000 caskets into the USA (about one of every three caskets sold). Vision Casket and all of our other funeral product brands will continue to build everything in the USA. We believe this is best for our Indiana-based communities, the American public and our stakeholders since we believe capital invested in the USA can provide equal or better returns over capital invested in foreign countries. Since the owners of Vision Casket look long term and are not beholden to meeting quarterly earnings projections to keep our jobs. Instead, we apply our capital to maximize creativity and productivity.
How is it that you are planning to grow sales of burial caskets in the face of the rising cremation rate?
Those of us at Vision Casket have been fortunate to have also created Starmark Cremation Products in 2003 with the express purpose of providing products that can boost cremation revenues. We believe that as the rate of cremation approaches 75% in the US, showrooms and product assortments will look much different. Funeral directors will want hardwood caskets that have larger dimensions and can handle larger bodies, yet at considerably lower costs than the current products offered. We know that today very few hardwood caskets are actually cremated. However, we believe that some families will want a hardwood casket suitable for cremation or burial that allows for maximum creativity in design and customization while costing less than what is presently offered. Older, established casket manufacturers have massive amounts of capital tied up in preserving their status quo involving designs, species of materials, manufacturing/distributing methods and pricing. Vision Casket’s greatest asset is that it has few, if any rules or limitations.
What key selling points should funeral directors use when presenting these caskets to families?
Price, appealing design, oversize dimensions while still fitting into a standard vault, solid hardwood, eco~friendly finish and crematable beds so it will burn cleaner than caskets made from veneer and medium density fiberboard. Also, when used for burial, families can learn to appreciate the elegant simplicity, low cost and appreciate a funeral service they never imagined they could afford.
Can you explain a little bit about Vandor’s various brands?
As background, the Vandor brand was established in 1972 by Bruce Elder. His parents were Vance and Doris: hence Vandor. Today Vandor Corporation has two divisions. The Plastics Division manufactures millions of plastic automotive components and many millions more reels for wire, cable packaging and electrical connectors. Vandor Plastics also makes casket hardware and more than 400,000 Starmark Sure~Lock temporary plastic urns annually for cremated remains. Vandor’s Funeral Products Division includes four segments: 1) Precision die cut interior casket components that are purchased by nearly every casket company in the USA: 2) Starmark Cremation Products: 3) CJ Boots Casket Company (premium and craft hardwood caskets) and 4) Vision Casket, that also produces Elderlite cloth-covered caskets, engineered wood veneers, as well as our latest addition of solid hardwood caskets – all environmentally responsible and suitable for cremation or burial.
What’s next for the company?
Expect many new products coming to the market over the next few years. Our goal remains to be the low cost producer of high volume products in all the industries we serve. Here’s one hint of our future funeral products. Nearly 10 years ago, we discovered an amazing new concept for the manufacturing of caskets but we believed it was much too early for market acceptance, now it is time. We are also developing a second even, lower-cost line of wood based caskets that are suitable for cremation and burial, that will reduce funeral home costs.
The new Vision Casket solid hardwood line will be introduced in October and initially will include cherry, oak and select hardwood species. Every Vision casket is manufactured to adhere to the rigorous quality standards of all Vandor products. With the Vision expansion into valued-priced solid hardwoods, customers can now receive a wide variety of funeral and cremation products on the same truck, without the need for protective blankets, which helps to greatly reduce cost per unit and shrink inventory stocking levels. Contact Vision Casket at 888-366-7335 or visit their website at www.visionfuneralproducts.com for more information.
Gerald Davis is the President of Vandor Corporation in Richmond, IN. Gerald has been involved with Indiana based casket manufacturing since 1977; first at Spartan Casket in Lynn, IN, JM Hutton in Richmond and Affiliated Funeral Supply Central in Fountain City, IN. In 1989, he was one of three founders of Elder Davis, Inc. that later was sold to the York Group (now Matthews International) in 1997. Vandor’s Funeral Products Division manufactures casket interior components as well as products marketed under the Vision Casket, CJ Boots Casket & Starmark Cremation Products brands. He can be reached at [email protected] or 1-888-366-7335 ext. 245.