Newell Rubbermaid (NYSE:NWL) manufacturers tough plastic goods. But how hardy were the company's Q2 earnings? Let's open its container of financial goodies.

Net sales were a bit sheepish, rising a little less than 4% to $1.7 billion. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations came in at $0.55 per share, good for a 20% increase. The adjustments account for restructuring charges and tax benefits.

Rubbermaid certainly brought in the green stuff during the six-month period. Net cash from operations went from $92 million last year to almost $173 million this year. Free cash flow also improved mightily, rising 70% to $121.9 million for the quarter, and jumping nearly 200% to $104 million for the six-month time frame.

While brands are very important, consumer goods companies need cost-effective operations to capture the value they create. Rubbermaid has this covered with something it calls Project Acceleration. That's a nifty name for an initiative meant to streamline operations, including identifying manufacturing plants that can be eliminated from the supply chain. The company plans to reinvent itself over the next few years, as Anders Bylund discussed last year. Management intends to sell off brands it no longer wants to deal with, instead focusing on products that it believes can drive future returns, such as Sharpie and Graco. (Hey, I do love those Sharpie markers.)

If the company can up its sales growth, it should be able to take advantage of its new efficient posture. Management also needs to improve the company's operations enough to increase its quarterly dividend. As Anders pointed out, that payout has remained stagnant for a long time. Yet the current yield on the stock is more than 3%, based on yesterday's closing price. That's as tempting as the infamous fruit in the Garden of Eden -- but should you take a bite out of this dividend-bearing delicacy?

If you're patient, I think you'll find that Rubbermaid will eventually hike its dividend. That glorious event might be a ways off, though. There's a lot of debt on the balance sheet compared to the cash on hand, and the company is still getting things in order. I like the brands in the company's portfolio, though -- besides the ones already mentioned, there's Rolodex, Paper Mate, and, not surprisingly, Rubbermaid.

I think the long term will be kind to the company, even in the face of competition from forces such as Tupperware (NYSE:TUP) and Avery Dennison (NYSE:AVY). And, hey, at least the stock pays generously right now, for those who don't mind waiting. Put it on your list of ideas.   

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Newell Rubbermaid and Tupperware are selections of the Motley Fool Income Investor service. Analyst James Early loves to find stocks with good yields. Oh, and he's beating the market, too. Sign up for a free, no-risk trial to check out his winning portfolio.  

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. As of this writing, he was ranked 6,776 out of more than 60,000 investors in the CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.