Chris Fleiner barely needs any extra muscle as he moves around a display of cloth-covered caskets at the Complemar West distribution center along Vista Boulevard in Sparks.
The lightweight caskets — corrugated fiberboard, covered with cloth and lined with satin — are expected to become a growing segment of business for Complemar West’s third-party logistics operations in northern Nevada.
And the Indiana-based maker of the caskets expects that Complemar’s Sparks facility will take on manufacturing in addition to distribution as sales grow throughout the West.
The cloth-covered caskets fit into a growing segment of the funeral market — families who choose cremation, but also want a public viewing, says Shaun Blake, sales manager for funeral products with Covington Box.
(For families who don’t want a public viewing, Covington also distributes a line of unadorned cremation boxes.)
Nevada ranks first in the percentage of deaths that lead to cremations — 72.2 percent in 2010 — and states in the West account for eight of the 10 states in which cremation is most common, finds a study by the Cremation Association of North America.
Driving the growth of cremation, the association says, are factors ranging from cost to religious acceptance to concerns about the environmental impact of traditional cemetery burials.
“There’s a great market out west,” says Blake.
As the market grows, he says development of manufacturing capabilities in the West will become increasingly important to control freight costs. While the fully assembled cloth-covered caskets weigh only about 50 pounds, they quickly fill a truck. It’s far more efficient to ship the components for assembly closer to the funeral homes that are the primary customers.
Complemar West, Fleiner says, is preparing to make the investment in equipment to take on manufacturing — shaping the boxes from flat sheets of corrugated fiberboard, affixing the cloth covering, installing the hardware.
The company figures a team of two workers can assemble one of the caskets in about 90 minutes, and the Complemar expects to cross-train workers in its existing staff of 19 to handle the work.
The Sparks warehouse began distributing fully assembled caskets about four months ago.