For nearly four decades, products from Maxco Supply Inc. have been fixtures in California’s fresh fruit industry.

At the helm from inception has been Max Flaming, president and chief executive officer of the Parlier, Calif.-based manufacturer. “You’re talking to an owner who cares, who’s serious about your problem,” said Harold McClarty, owner of HMC Farms and The HMC Group Marketing Inc., Kingsburg, Calif.

“He is really involved in our industry, and he’s always been progressive, always been a bit ahead.”

Innovation has long been an earmark of Maxco. Among its many firsts, the company introduced taped boxes — rather than hot melt-glued top flaps — to the fruit growing industry. Maxco’s 20 by 16 cartons revolutionized the shipping of fresh fruit. The company’s water jet end is unique to Maxco.

Next year, the company plans to unveil a new box for table grapes.

“It’s a box that will, we believe, eliminate the problem of bottom sag,” Flaming said.

Few of the company’s breakthrough products have been patented — by design.

“If you’re going to be part of an industry, I think you have to innovate and bring things to the industry that others can use,” Flaming said.

A strong work ethic and his affinity for growers come naturally to Flaming, 70. Reared in Paxton, Neb., he remembers vividly starting his days on the family farm at 5 a.m. Flaming’s mother died when he was 5. The woman he describes as “my second mother” is indirectly responsible for Maxco Supply. Flaming traveled to California to meet her family and ended up staying. He graduated from then-Fresno State College and began selling wood boxes to growers.

He founded Maxco Supply in 1972. Wood boxes were the only items in the inventory.

“We were making as many as 28 million wood boxes a year,” he said.

But then came environmental restrictions that eliminated West Coast lumber supplies, and there were roadblocks to importing lumber. Still the company continued to make limited supplies of wood boxes as late as 2005.

Maxco Supply in the late ’80s installed its first die cutter to manufacture corrugated cartons, Flaming said. Since then, three more die cutters, a corrugater, two water jets and 400 employees have been added to a company known for its problem solving.

“If you put 100% of your focus on listening to your customer and his problems and you resolve those issues, you can’t help but grow,” Flaming said.

Though he remains actively involved in the problem solving at Maxco Supply, Flaming is not a micro-manager. Nearly a dozen of his staff make scores of decisions daily.

“I never even hear about them,” Flaming said.

“A vertically integrated company that doesn’t allow people to make decisions on the fly without going through committee makes it very difficult for them to compete.”

Quick decisions, too, are a staple at Maxco Supply.

“An independent provider going against big national companies and being successful says a lot about the quality of his products and the service,” Dennis Parnagian, co-owner and president of Fowler Packing Co. Inc., Fowler, Calif.

“I really respect the company he’s built, and I have nothing but admiration for him and his family and the services they have provided, not just to us, but to the entire industry.”

Flaming’s contributions are not limited to business. Maxco Supply has donated thousands of dollars to causes benefiting youth. Marty Flaming, his wife of 46 years, has been active for decades with Children’s Hospital Central California.