Last week’s Converting Influence meeting in Appleton, WI, offered a panel discussion with American Custom Converting, Optima USA and Tailored Label. These three firms provided evidence of why “The Converting Corridor” (the area along Lake Michigan from Green Bay on the north to Chicago on the south) is showing an unemployment rate 2% lower than the national average. It’s the strength of the converting and package-manufacturing industries that is helping lead the US out of the recession.
Here are some of the impressions and opinions of these businesses into why successful converting companies are expanding now.
Twelve-year-old American Custom Converting (Green Bay) is a contract converter providing slitting/rewinding, adhesive-lamination and folding capabilities from its 90,000-sq-ft plant. Mark Kyles, managing member-operations, says it’s important to build a trust factor with customers.
“Over the years, we’ve worked so closely with customers that some ask about prices only after delivering their materials to us for work,” he says. “Be willing to do short runs. Don’t be limited. You need to respond NOW. We’re in constant changeover mode.”
How does ACC do it? “We take used equipment, then upgrade it to adapt it to convert the materials our customers need, increasing our responsiveness.”
Mark Steinbrecher spoke on behalf of Optima Machinery Corp. USA, a supplier of form-fill-seal machinery serving global nonwovens, consumer-product and pharmaceutical markets. Among other services, the 25-year-old Green Bay location provides packaging trials for fill/seal integrity and compression tests of materials. Steinbrecher brought up the current sustainability trend and its importance to customers.
“Customers want thinner substrates, even moving from just 2.5 to 2.0 mils,” he says, “but all aspects have to be looked at. How does it affect graphics and packaging integrity? How do thinner nonwovens, thinner outer packaging wraps affect products such as the anti-microbial action?”
Jim Brown of Menomonee Falls, WI-based Tailored Label Products, Inc., keyed into customer responsiveness and equipment flexibility as vital to success today. Tailored Label converts photo-quality, short-run industrial and domed labels. It expects its 2010 sales of about $14 million to be up 25% over last year.
“We have a highly cross-trained staff; employees shift jobs based on need,” he says. “In the equipment area, we bought a standard flexo press to do standard work but modified it for UV printing and inline laminating. That $300,000 investment is now worth $1 million.”
Tailored Label stays on the cutting edge. It brought digital printing in-house through an acquisition, and offers digital diecutting for fast product prototyping. “About 10% of our orders are turned around in the same day.
“We truly listen to customers; it’s resulted in our growth. It starts with your sales force; they need to know equipment and the technicalities of producing a job. Our ‘Touching the Lives Of People’ program reacts to customers immediately.”
My Thoughts: At the risk of being redundant, it comes down to listening to (not talking at) your customers, having the right equipment capabilities, and having a versatile staff that responds immediately. Not just for converters, these are lessons ANY successful company must learn, no matter its size or industry.