- February 01, 2003, Nsenga Byrd Thompson, Staff Editor
With a commitment to offer creative solutions to the most challenging of customer projects—plus an investment in high-quality equipment from W&H and PCMC—Tufco Technologies delivers... Satisfaction Guaranteed
“When customers think of product innovation and where to go to get help with that, they automatically think of Tufco,” says Tufco Technologies CEO Louis LeCalsey III. And rightfully so. The Wisconsin-based company has the state-of-the-art equipment, customer base, and creative strategies to back up its mission — to perform whatever project a customer may bring its way.
Tufco Technologies was founded in 1992 as a result of the acquisition of Tufco Industries, a tissue and towel converter for such big tissue industry names at that time as Scott Paper, Kimberly Clark, James River, and Fort Howard. Two years later it acquired Executive Roll Manufacturing, Dallas, TX, a manufacturer of Xerox large-volume copy machine rolls. To complete its acquisition platform, a third addition to the growing company was established in 1995 with the purchase of Hamco Industries, Newton, NC, a point-of-sale roll and business forms manufacturer.
LeCalsey joined Tufco in late 1996 after the merger of Scott Paper and Kimberly Clark. As the former worldwide VP of logistics and North American procurement for Scott Paper, LeCalsey was brought on board at Tufco to bring in larger company systems, processes, and structures, and as he describes, “essentially to get the company to a whole new level of operation.”
LeCalsey has done just that. “Tufco has moved away from the past and into totally new applications,” he says. After recently closing the Dallas site, Tufco is focusing its attention on growth at its Newton Business Imaging Plant and bringing new assets into the Green Bay facility to support expansion in contract manufacturing.
The 230-employee operation in Green Bay is housed in two facilities on 11 acres of property — a 216,000-sq-ft building for its main plant and corporate offices and a close-proximity 43,000-sq-ft facility. Tufco provides turnkey services in converting, printing, laminating, calendaring, and packaging. Products manufactured include high value-added flexo printing of table covers, gift wrap, and assorted other poly and paper-based packaging, house wrap, medical drape materials, and surface-cleaning cloths (including both wet and dry application of wiping products).
Not only dedicated to business growth, Tufco has managed to build a culture of teams on the values of employee respect and keeping employees a top priority, even providing everything from special training programs to college scholarships for children of employees.
On the plant floor, Tufco has an extensive line of equipment, much of it proprietary, that it uses to manufacture its product offerings. The company outsources its prepress, operating two Mosstype mounters (one video, one optical).
Slitting/rewinding is accomplished in-line on the calendaring and hot melt adhesives lines, as well as on the presses, with equipment from REM Mfg. Tufco uses Paper Converting Machine Company, Joa, and Elsner folder/converting lines and has a partnership with Sun Chemical to provide ink mixing and color matching onsite.
Searching for Perfection
In sculpting the Tufco of the future, several key investments, especially in the area of printing, have been made. In 1999, the company decided the Green Bay plant should undergo a major equipment overhaul and part with seven very outdated printing presses.
Michele Corrigan, VP of sales and marketing for Tufco's contract manufacturing business sector, explains, “Five years ago Tufco had seven older presses ranging from 1960 to 1972. They were inefficient, narrow, and relatively slow. Basically, we made the decision that if we were going to stay in the markets in which we had always participated and continue to service the existing key customer base, as well as grow in new printing applications to open up new customer opportunities, we had to get new printing technology. The result is we invested in a new press…a Windmoeller and Hoelscher 64-in, eight-color, central impression flexo Astraflex, and Tufco is waiting for delivery of a second press of the same model, due to arrive this April.
“One of the key strategy elements we looked at is that we specialize in short runs. We also need to have versatility in order to run multiple substrates and both short and long runs. One of the common things [you find out] when you talk to printers is they either print films or they print papers. Well, we are unique in that we print nonwovens, paper, films, and corrugated — all on the same press. So we need that flexibility,” Corrigan continues. “We always look at long-term technology partnerships when we make major asset choices, and we felt that W&H could best offer that.”
Also, in 1999 Tufco changed its market focus. “In the past we were focused primarily on industrial and consumer products, such as towels and tissue products, and tablecovers for party goods customers. Today we are servicing not only party goods customers, but also new customers in household cleaning, personal care, baby care, and the flexible packaging markets,” says Corrigan. She maintains it's been the investment in the W&H Astraflex that has allowed Tufco to do just that. And what they have been able to perform with the first press already on the plant floor is quite impressive.
“The two unique features of our W&H presses are the long repeat and the large unwind/rewind roll size capabilities. That gives us the versatility to handle multiple substrates. We can move from a linerboard over to an LDPE, straight over to PE metallized films,” Corrigan comments. “Another difference between the old technology and new W&H technology was we formerly were only able to print at an average of 500 feet per minute. Now our average speeds are 1,000 to 1,200 feet per minute on the W&H press.”
Changeovers, which in the past could take up to one shift, have decreased to a fraction of that time. As the company sees remarkable results in its printing efficiency, it eagerly awaits the second Astraflex to handle its rapidly growing printing business. The current press runs solvent-based inks and the second press will run water-based inks.
LeCalsey adds, “Our strategy was to move upscale in technology, and this was the way we were able to do it. When you offer high quality, but your cost is out of line, you're not going to get the business. But if you can offer high quality and can do more for less in terms of purchase price, that's very attractive.”
LeCalsey and Corrigan both agree the Astraflex allows them to do that.
Wet wipes are made from disposable nonwovens and are a booming business, even in a challenged economy. Tufco is keeping up with the rising growth in wipes with its recent purchase of the PCMC Clipper Series.
The Clipper Series is said to have the capability to convert nonwovens by adding solutions to make a variety of wet wipe folded products. The new line is modular, with the ability to run both short and long production runs at high speeds with quick changeovers. Its versatility includes variable sheet counts as well as an allowance for different types of folded wipes.
Tufco stayed on top of the stunning growth trends in wet wipe applications by making — what it feels — a critical investment in the Clipper Series wipes converter. “Wipes are the new, smart, easy way to clean, and everyone's looking for a simpler way of doing things. Anything in an aerosol can or a spray bottle is now going to be in a disposable wipe,” Corrigan predicts.
The Clipper offers many benefits and special features, she adds. For Tufco, the most attractive was the machine's hygienic wetting system. “It allows for quick and easy sanitization. So, for example, if you have product A going through there, you have to clean that all out before you put through product B. You wouldn't want to mix lemon with orange. So you can go through and filter the whole system out instead of taking the machine apart piece by piece.”
Corrigan is confident that the addition of the PCMC Clipper to its array of production assets will be another success for the company. “This new equipment will enhance our capabilities across a number of markets and will allow us to bid competitively for business previously not available to us. It is particularly supportive of the ever-growing disposable nonwovens markets.”
Bringing It All Together
With the sizeable investments the company has made recently, it's in a position to focus on its No. 1 priority — its customers.
Tufco offers customers three very different programs. The first — “contract production,” which involves Tufco-owned assets — allows a customer to come in and have Tufco review their asset systems, validate the manufacturing process, and begin commercial production.
The second is described as “dedicated component production,” in which Tufco builds and engineers a full turnkey asset package and then does the commercial production for the customer and the project.
The third program is referred to as “outsource process management.” In that program, Tufco takes equipment already engineered by the customer and moves the equipment onto Tufco's plant floor, where they perform toll production for the customer.
Tufco believes it is its ability to provide customers with “one stop” for a wide choice of services, its versatility/responsiveness, and unique skills at providing innovative solutions that keeps the company ahead of relevant competition. “We are known as a converter of choice when you are looking into converting innovations. So we will grab those projects for which others would say, ‘No, that is out of our core competency.’ We'll adapt existing assets or find exactly the right technology, if necessary,” says Corrigan.
With Tufco's proven commitment to its customers and its investments in new technologies, the company states its goal quite simply: “To continue growing based on the outstanding service reputation we've established and continue our quest to be the industry's benchmark for highly reliable and predictable manufacturing. We think we can respond in ways that our relevant competitors can't, both in terms of speed of reacting and level of cost, technical capability, and product quality,” declares LeCalsey.
Windmoeller & Hoelscher, Lincoln, RI; 401/333-2770; whcorp.com
Paper Converting Machine Co., Green Bay, WI; 920/491-6637; pcmc.com
Mosstype, Waldwick, NJ; 201/444-8000; mosstype.com
REM Mfg., Long Valley, NJ; 908/852-1814; remmfg.com
Curt G. Joa, Sheboygan Falls, WI; 920/467-6136; joa.com
Elsner Engineering Works, Hanover, PA; 717/637-5991; elsnereng.com
Sun Chemical Inks, Fort Lee, NJ; 201/224-4600; sunchemical.com