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Batesville Casket Co.

The nation's largest casket manufacturer

From corporate headquarters in Batesville--where its first casket plant was located--Batesville Casket Co. has been crafting caskets for funeral homes since the late 19th century.

Batesville Casket is the nation's largest casket manufacturer. It's one of about 200 U.S. casket makers, and controls 47 percent of the adult casket market.

In the early days, Batesville Casket was a small producer, employing many German immigrant artisans, such as wood-workers, carvers and cabinet makers. Generation after generation of skilled craftsmen have produced caskets in the Batesville plant, where both wood and metal caskets are made. Since its founding, the company has expanded its offerings to more than 400 products, and now serves some 16,000 U.S. funeral directors.

Batesville Casket makes metal caskets in its hometown as well as at plants in Kentucky and Tennessee. Its Campbellsburg, Ky., plant makes heavy use of robotics and is one of the world's most automated metal casket plants. The company makes hardwood caskets in Batesville, as well as at plants in New Hampshire and Mississippi, and it operates a dimension mill and dry kiln facility in Mississippi.

While the company considers all of its employees craftspeople, not as many woodworkers are needed these days. Hardwood caskets--including cherry, walnut, oak and mahogany models--make up only about 15 percent of casket purchases worldwide. The rest of the caskets purchased are metal.

Batesville Casket was a leader of this trend. Back in 1940, the company pioneered mass production of metal caskets, which require considerably less labor than wood caskets. Metals typically used on Batesville caskets today include stainless and protected steels, high-end bronzes and copper.

These caskets are built to last. Some of the bronze models are warranted for 75 years (bronze doesn't rust, and neither does copper), while some of the steel models carry 20-year warranties.

These days, the hardwoods that go into Batesville caskets come from government-monitored forests in North and South America, rather than those around Batesville. But the company is involved in launching new forests with its Living Memorial program, through which a memorial seedling is planted in a national forest for each person buried in a Batesville casket. And the company is focusing on the health of younger Americans through an anti-drug program it launched last year in cooperation with its client funeral directors.

Batesville Casket--a subsidiary of Batesville-based Hillenbrand Industries--continues to grow, even though it already resides at the top of the industry. Its growth was boosted most recently by the acquisition of a 30-year-old Canadian manufacturer.
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Author:Faris, Charlene
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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