- October 01, 2000, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
Size does matter. At least that's what Custom Tapes Inc. discovered when it decided that its relatively small orders were getting low priority from global substrate suppliers.
Custom Tapes operates two production facilities in suburban Chicago, IL: the 120,000-sq-ft headquarters in Harwood Hts. and a 49,000-sq-ft satellite plant in Wheeling. Product development manager Gene Pomazak reports that the company cut substrate problems down to size more than three years ago when it turned to Filmquest Inc. for polyester filmstock.
Supplier Service Key to Growth
Custom Tapes was founded more than 50 years ago as a distributor of pressure-sensitive tapes and later began converting surplus materials from other tape manufacturers.
In 1980 the company expanded its offering by converting hot melt coatings and double-faced tape products, which became a main product line. Custom Tapes has grown to offer approximately 40 different specialty tape products, which include silver and gold decorative metallized films; a "pre-space tape" for the graphic arts industry that lifts and holds cut vinyl letters off of release liner for transfer to another surface; and powder-coated films used for masking in painting applications.
Custom Tapes' Wheeling facility has water- and solvent-based coating capabilities; the Harwood Hts. plant offers hot melt coatings. The combined operations house a total of 15 slitters from Ghezzi & Annoni, Lever Manufacturing, and Deacro Industries.
Pomazak says, "In addition to providing us with faster delivery times, Filmquest provides polyester film with unique properties that meet another one of our critical needs: being able to convert polyester films for high-temperature applications up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit.
"From the beginning, Filmquest gave us greatly improved service," Pomazak adds. "They worked with us to provide a very specific film that offered the low-shrinkage characteristics that our market required. Before giving them our business, we were having problems, because the big film companies were slow on deliveries or the volume couldn't justify them supplying us directly, so we had to go through distributors. Filmquest was able to work out all these problems, their quality is very consistent, and we've been quite satisfied ever since."
Pomazak notes Filmquest sales representatives work much more closely with Custom Tapes than larger film suppliers had ever done. "As a result, we can offer our own customers faster delivery and higher quality, while also reducing costs.
"Filmquest's pricing has been very competitive," says Pomazak, "which has helped us expand our sales, along with Filmquest's—obviously, it goes hand in hand. They understand the needs of our industry, so they can provide us with the proper film compound for each application and solve our problems quicker. Rather than sending us 50 product samples and having us test to determine which is going to meet our needs, we tell them what our performance requirements are, and they help us select the proper grade. Their response is very good."
The vast majority of Custom Tapes' inventory is used in industrial applications—its sole off-the-shelf film consumer product is a red film tape used to repair broken car headlight lenses temporarily. The company sells product throughout North and South America, Australia, and Europe. For example, Custom Tapes regularly ships hundreds of 24-in.-wide, 72-yd-long "logs" of converted film to Europe, where they are slit and shipped to end-users throughout the continent.
"There is a science in being able to engineer the product properly, which gives us a competitive advantage," says Pomazak. "It's a competitive area, but fortunately we have the know-how to meet our customers' unique needs."
Pomazak says that in addition to its technical expertise, Custom Tapes also offers response times of just three to seven days for any order. To assure fast turnaround, the company inventories 52-in. master rolls of paper and film and slits and coats them to customer specification.
The company itself maintains a large inventory of raw materials to meet virtually any customer tape need. Custom Tapes buys more than 5 million lb of paper annually from Kimberly-Clark and smaller suppliers, along with 5,000-10,000-lb rolls of polyester film from Filmquest every two weeks. That film represents the company's fastest growing product segment, and its second largest raw material volume behind paper products. The company buys silicone coatings from Dow Corning, GE Silicone, and Advanced Polymers.
"We cannot afford to wait to order raw materials," notes Pomazak. "Looking at our sales history on a particular item, we are able to inventory cylinder material on items that move rather fast. We know what sells well at a given time or period of the year, and we have repeat orders, so consequently we can anticipate all of these things.
"Although it [the use of polyester films] has grown at a faster rate than we could have forecast, Filmquest was able to read between the lines and supply us on time with the proper quantity and quality. They have played a major role in helping to grow the film side of our business."
Filmquest, St. Charles, IL; 630/584-0101; petfilm.com
Ghezzi & Annoni, Lainate, Italy; +39 (0) 2-935-7066-1; ghezzi-annoni.com
Lever Mfg. Co., Paterson, NJ; 973/684-5000; levercorp.com
Deacro Industries, Mississauga, Ont., Canada; 905/564-6566; deacro.com
Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX; 972/281-1484; kimberly-clark.com
Dow Corning Corp., Midland, MI; 517/496-6000; dowcorning.com
GE Silicones, Waterford, NY; 518/237-3330
Advanced Polymers, Carlstad, NJ; 201/933-0600; msphere.com