- June 01, 2002, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
Not all tapes are created equal. And, adds Annette Carroll, marketing communications manager for tesa tape inc., neither are the companies that manufacture them.
A sub. of Beiersdorf AG, tesa AG describes its company as one of the world's largest tape manufactures, second only to 3M. And the company owns more that 840 patents involving adhesive tape technology. Its first patent, acquired more than 120 years ago, was for a unique method of manufacturing medical adhesive dressings. This innovative spirit has been, and continues to be, the driving force behind tesa's business. In fact, 38% of tesa's worldwide sales in 2001 were generated from product innovations introduced between 1999 and 2001 (tesa tape inc. is the North American sub. of tesa AG).
Says Carroll, “tesa first developed adhesive technology in 1882. Today, we manufacture more than 300 varieties of tape, and it still sounds good if you can say your company's been around for over 100 years.”
The company operates two manufacturing facilities in the US: an 87,000-sq-ft site in Sparta, MI, and a 100,000-sq-ft facility in Middletown, NY. Together, the two facilities employ an average of 200 people. The Middletown plant is considered the company's “general-purpose” facility, primarily supplying paper masking and duct tapes.
The Sparta facility, which was the first North American operation established by tesa in 1980, was built specifically to produce tensilized polypropylene (TPP/MOPP). Today, that facility operates Guzzetti and CMC Cevenini slitters, a film extruder, and an adhesive coater, and includes advanced spool-winding capability (proprietary equipment). Approximately 70 people work at the 25,000-sq-ft headquarters in Charlotte, NC, with an additional 35 field sales and market specialist representatives located throughout North America.
“One of the things that makes us unique in the Sparta plant is that we are the only fully integrated manufacturer of TPP/MOPP,” notes Ron Miaskiewicz, market manager, distribution — North America. “We do all aspects of film production — extruding, coating, and slitting — in-house. That gives us greater flexibility and the ability to offer superior service from one facility.”
The company's broad assortment of products efficiently service customers worldwide through the vast tesa supply network. Most of the company's facilities around the world are specialized in what they produce. For example, many of tesa's automotive tapes and all of its double-sided tapes are manufactured solely in Germany. Duct tape is produced only by tesa in the US; all of its soft polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tape is produced and converted in Singapore, and the majority of its unplasticized PVC (UPVC) tape is made and converted in Italy.
“Because we're a worldwide company, we're able to draw on the resources of a lot of different facilities that specialize in a lot of different products,” says Brad Boelkins, market manager — paper, film, and electronics. “What draws people to us is the fact that we're able to simplify their processes, improve their efficiency, and at the end of the day, increase their profits.”
Offering a variety of tapes in configurations for today's converter, tesa counts among its products both single- and double-sided tapes. The company is expanding its assortment for converters continually. Recently, the company launched a number of double-sided, polyester-backed acrylic adhesive tapes, bringing the number of available PET-backed tapes to more than 15. Tesa offers a robust liner assortment to complement its broad line of PET tapes, including polyethyene-coated paper, glassine paper, and PP film.
And, while company officials acknowledge 3M may have a more recognizable name in the marketplace, tesa enjoys a solid reputation for quality and service among those who matter most: their customers.
“There are companies out there that offer specialty tapes, others that offer general-purpose products,” notes Boelkins. “I think we're probably looked at more as a specialty tape company, but we've probably got a line of tapes second only to 3M.”
“We don't compete with 3M in every market they're in, and vice versa,” explains Miaskiewicz. “We have chosen our market segments carefully and offer a competitive assortment combined with dedicated services.”
Broad Customer Base
A variety of fastening (double-sided), masking, and packaging tapes ranging from general-purpose grades to high-performance products are manufactured by tesa. Value-added applications include paint masking tapes in transportation and temporary holding TPP tapes for the appliance manufacturing and metal finishing industries. Other end products include temperature-resistant tapes, fine line masking tapes, general-purpose/painters'-grade masking tapes, TPP/MOPP strapping tapes, tear tapes, carton sealing tapes, filament tapes, duct tapes, and specialty tapes.
Notes Carroll, “Basically, we're making pressure-sensitive tape for anything you can stick it to.”
Boelkins says the company's primary customer base is composed of relatively few — but high-volume — industries. For example, several of the country's largest overnight shipping services use its tapes as tear strips that provide easy envelope opening, the company reports.
“Our ‘target audience’ is relatively limited in scope, but we see an opportunity for some substantial pieces of business within the given customers that make up our market segment,” Boelkins says. “And we've got a fairly structured way of going about addressing those markets. We know what we have to offer, and generally we find a receptive ear.”
Carroll adds because the company targets such narrow market segments, its direct sales people are “chartered” to become experts in their fields. “They are not going to be a jack of all trades,” she insists. “They want to be the master of their specific focus area, and I think that distinguishes tesa in its market segments.”
The company does operate through an extensive network of distributors that have access to the broad tesa product line. And, while tesa's internal sales force works directly with many end-users in a given market, tesa utilizes its extensive distribution network to service even the largest pieces of business, such as the three major automotive manufacturers.
Placing the highest value on the relationship it has with its converter partners, tesa's intention is to drive specification of tesa products at the end-user level, and in turn, provide those leads to its converting network.
Miaskiewicz says tesa's end-use customers use tesa tapes in critical aspects of their production processes. Many products are for short-term use, such as specialty tapes that protect the finishes of various parts of an automobile while it is on the assembly line. Those tapes are ultimately discarded before the cars reach the showroom floor.
Reports Carroll, “A lot of our business is not for what would be considered ‘drive-away.’ It's not part of the final product but tends to be more ‘process’ related and removed before reaching the customer.”
Aiding Customer Efficiency, Profits
A number of tesa's products at first glance would hardly appear “high tech,” but they actually perform critically demanding functions. For example, tesa recently introduced a line of tapes used for splicing applications in the paper, commercial printing, and newspaper printing industries. The EasySplice™ family of products is used by paper mills, printers, and web converters to join rolls of material in-line on web presses for continuous production. The properties of that tape have been developed to improve ease of application while delivering a secure roll, says tesa.
“The faster the mills can do that, the more efficient and more profitable they can become,” says Miaskiewicz, “and we have some products that allow them to do that very well. Then, we just follow the process downstream to the printer, who follows basically the same process but on a smaller scale, and we have another product line for that.”
“At tesa tape, we offer our customers more than just a roll of tape,” stresses Carroll. “We work with customers to develop products to improve their operations today and tomorrow. Our customers think of us as a solutions-oriented company, more than just a company that sells tape.”
tesa tape inc.
5825 Carnegie Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28209; 704/553-4668; tesatape.com