Turning Standard into Specialty

For Budnick Converting Inc., “turning standard into specialty” is more than just a catchy slogan. It's been a virtual business plan for the past 50 years. In fact, marketing manager Gary Smith notes somewhat proudly that Budnick has “no true market segment or a true product, for that matter.”

What the Columbia, IL, company does offer is specialized converting services, including water jet cutting, narrow width slitting, die-cutting, printing, coating, laminating, spooling, and in-line digital laser cutting. These services turn a standard mill roll into a specialty substrate for industries including industrial, electronics, medical, and automotive applications. Budnick also offers most of these services as a contract converter of many specialty materials.

“Everything is customized,” Smith explains of Budnick's product mix, “and we go across just about any industry out there. I think it's a combination of the technologies we bring to the market, particularly the laser, that makes us attractive to the end-user.”

Start to Finish
Budnick Converting was founded in 1952 by Ed “Bud” Schwartz and Nick Cutlich as a distributor of tools and accessories. The product line grew to include adhesive tapes. In 1982 Schwartz's daughter Ann Wegmann and her husband Mark took over the operations of the company. In 1986 Budnick officially entered the converting arena when it purchased its first 60-in. lathe slitter to cut log rolls of adhesive tape.

Today, Budnick employs more than 100 people in its 48,000-sq-ft facility in Columbia and operates sales offices in St. Louis and Kansas City, MO; Chicago, IL; Oklahoma City, OK; Denver, CO; and Phoenix, AZ. In the first quarter of 2003, Budnick plans to open a new 100,000 sq-ft converting facility in Columbia.

Project Manager Jan Cleveland says the company's broad converting capabilities and range of equipment allow Budnick to offer customers the best options for product performance and economy.

“In some cases, our competitors have to put a square peg into a round hole because of their equipment limitations,” notes Mark Wegmann. “We have a wide array of technologies, so we always have the ability to put a round peg into a round hole.”

The company's converting facility houses an impressive assortment of equipment, including two 24-in. Preco flatbed die-cutters; a 72-in. REM slitter/rewinder; a 72-in. Shanks rewind/slitter; two Flow International water jet cutters; five Cevenini single-roll slitters; a 12-head spooler; one in-line digital laser cutter; and four Mark Andy three-color, flexographic presses: one 13-in model, one 10-in. model, and two 7¼ in. models. The Mark Andy presses perform most of the company's printing, coating, and rotary die-cutting.

Wegmann notes Budnick's broad range of converting processes allows the company to serve as a “one-stop shop” for end-users, from initial product development to full-scale production runs.

“When most customers begin a project, they need a few prototypes, then they want to take it to a pilot run, then into production. Our combination of water jet, laser, flatbed, and rotary die-cutting allows us the flexibility to give customers the best available process for the application. We can take the project from testing to high-volume production and deliver finished product — all in-house — in the volumes they require.”

Laser Cutting Means Flexibility
One of the driving forces behind Budnick's recent success, which has seen the company grow its revenue an average of $1.5 million per year over the last ten years, was the installation of the proprietary laser die-cutting system. The addition of that system, says Wegmann, gave Budnick the widest range of custom converting options available.

“Laser technology offers the ability to convert any shape, in any volume, with no design drawbacks,” explains Wegmann. “It really allows the user tremendous freedom in designing a part.”

“It's generally volume-and tolerance-driven,” Cleveland says of the equipment Budnick uses to finish a particular job. “But the nice thing is, we have so many different converting capabilities, we almost certainly have the most cost efficient method to convert the products our customers need.”

The servo-controlled, laser die-cutting system combines motion control and laser technologies and reportedly can cut most configurations in-line at speeds to 100 fpm. The press is computer numerically controlled (CNC) and combines laser cutting, die-cutting slots, and lamination rollers in-line for one-pass processing. Laser cutting can be used to convert both adhesive and non-adhesive coated materials. The unit can hold in-line tolerances of ±0.005 in. When using traditional tooling with two or more converting processes, the scrap rate can reach 50%. Wegmann says this fact makes advanced converting technology critical to many applications. “The customer may need four holes die-cut,” he says, “but if they're only twenty-thousandths of an inch in diameter, twenty-thousandths of an inch apart, and specified to plus or minus five-thousandths, the laser can hold the tolerance with minimal waste.”

Wegmann adds that water jet cutting isn't the most common converting technology, but it can be critical to meeting customers' exacting specifications. Water jet primarily is used to cut through rigid or thick materials without distorting the edge of the material or causing thermal stress. “With a water jet, you eliminate these issues,” reports Wegmann. “If you flatbed die-cut on a ⅛-in. or thicker foam, you're going to have concavity. So water jet does lend itself to some different markets.”

Mastering Intricacies
As a specialty converter, Budnick processes mostly high-end, pressure-sensitive coated materials, not commodity label stock. The company inventories adhesive tapes from every major manufacturer, including 3M, Tesa Tape, and Permacel. Budnick utilizes one, or a combination of, the previously mentioned processes to convert materials to the customer's exact requirements. Occasionally the converter even will act as a job shop for those very same manufacturers.

“Permacel may come to us when they have a customer who requires their material in a more ‘user-friendly’ format,” explains Smith. “We design it to a particular form that can be converted in a manner that's going to help speed up the user's processes and, hopefully, help with the automatic dispensing of our end product.”

He adds, “If you get into the intricacies of die-cutting, printing, and narrow web slitting, the manufacturers themselves would not be as efficient and effective as we are.”

In fact, Wegmann says, the degree of difficulty in converting standard goods versus specialty stocks, where multiple die-cutting and tight tolerances are required, might increase from a two (out of ten) in the standard area to nine or ten in the specialty area. “We deal primarily with the specialty coated materials,” Wegmann says. “If somebody wants a product that can resist high temperatures, go through a variety of chemical baths, endure long-term exposure or meet other difficult specifications, we would get involved.”

“The manufacturers know we have all these capabilities under one roof, and they don't have to be die-cutting and dispensing experts when they look at a project,” adds Wegmann. “They simply have to call us and say, ‘Here are the specifications. How do you recommend converting and dispensing the material?’”

In fact, many major tape manufacturers are forming strategic partnerships with Budnick. Due to the combination of adhesive tape manufacturing expertise and Budnick's broad converting capabilities, OEMs and end-users in many market segments are benefiting from increased productivity in their use of Budnick's adhesive tapes and dispensing expertise.

“We've invested millions of dollars into the facilities, computer technologies, equipment, and personnel to allow us to continue to push the envelope and fuel our growth,” explains Wegmann. “That's why we are doing what others say can't be done.”

CONVERTER INFO
Budnick Converting Inc.
Box 197, Columbia, IL 62236; 618/281-8090; budnickconverting.com

SUPPLIER INFO
Preco Industries, Lenexa, KS; 920/865-7775; precoindustries.com

REM Mfg. Inc., Long Valley, NJ; 908/852-1814; remmfg.com

Shanks Converting Equipment Corp., Newark, NJ; 973/824-0236; shanksconverting.com

Flow Intl., Kent, Washington; 253-850-3500; flowcorp.com

CMC Cevenini USA LLC, Elkridge, MD; 410/796-7944; cmccevenini.com

Mark Andy, Chesterfield, MO; 636/532-4433; 800/700-MARK; markandy.com

3M, St. Paul, MN; 651/737-6501; 3m.com

Tesa Tape, Charlotte, NC; 704/554-0707; tesatape.com

Permacel, New Brunswick, NJ; 732/418-2753; permacel.com


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